Going Beyond the Annual Review
When it comes to coaching employees, it is easy to leave them alone as long as they are staying on track and exhibiting positive work performance. This follows the popular adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, such guidance is misplaced; business leaders should coach employees on a regular basis not only to ensure steady and continued performance, but also to create long-term success and encourage workplace development.
Coaching is most often associated with sports and teaching athletes to perform better. But it is important to understand exactly what it means in the workplace. Much like a sports coach regularly works with even the best athletes, employee coaching comprises casual, day-to-day guidance, and constant feedback and direction from supervisors to those they manage. Coaching also involves collaborative goal-setting, discussion sessions, consistent training and employee recognition.
Coaching vs. Counseling
Managers can overlook or even shun coaching because they might equate it with counseling, although the two are vastly different. Supervisors who equate the terms often assume that if there is no performance issue, then there is no need for frequent, interactive feedback beyond performance reviews. Counseling involves focused guidance to correct problem performance, while coaching does not necessarily mean there is a problem, rather that the manager values employee growth.
Components to Coaching
Annual reviews are insufficient. Meeting once annually to assess objectives is not helpful or productive for ambitious employees who want to learn and grow with the company. Managers must make it a practice to meet with employees regularly to create a performance plan, review it periodically, and adjust it as appropriate. Furthermore, a good leader will provide insight into the ways in which employees can attain performance objectives, and even exceed expectations.
In many cases, training is the key to attaining objectives. It is a supervisor’s responsibility to determine with employees what kind of training is relevant. Through honing job skills and developing new ones, employees improve their performance and accelerate their career growth.
Coaching also contributes to office morale by sending a message that the company and supervisor care about an employee’s future. This is especially important during times of uncertainty, when businesses may be unable to provide tangible incentives and rewards such as pay raises and bonuses.
Positive feedback and recognition are additional components of morale building. Effective managers do not just resolve problems; they also praise employees when praise is merited. Even a simple thank you can make an employee feel appreciated and valued.
Make It a Priority
Supervisors often have to cope with problem employees who require counseling, which makes it easy to overlook the needs of top performers whom coaching can benefit. Even the best employees need regular feedback. Without it they may become complacent, unmotivated or face stalled career growth.
It is very important to coach young or inexperienced employees, especially during a time in which millions of Baby Boomers are beginning to retire, leaving a potential talent gap in the workforce. But while these workers often need – or want – a lot of coaching, it should not be limited to them. All employees should feel like they deserve coaching, and ultimately, even the most experienced or accomplished employees can improve upon their performance.
Coaching is not something extra for supervisors to do if and when they have the luxury of time; it should be a day-to-day responsibility. By prioritizing coaching, managers can support improvement in employee performance – even if that performance is already at a high level – and, in doing so, raise employee morale which contributes to the success of the business.
Brady Sweet is a district manager and Jeff Holder is a Certified Business Performance Advisor for Insperity’s Orlando office. For more information, call (800) 465-3800 or visit Insperity.com.