A Research Paper By Mofoluwaso Afolakemi Ilevbare, Executive & Life Coach, AUSTRALIA
Coaching: A Powerful Tool for Improving Employee
Organizations today are under immense pressure to tap into their human resources, propelled by the rapid pace of technological advancement, stiff competition, and cost reduction. Employee performance on the job is critical to achieving organizational goals and priorities (Mok & Leong, 2021). High-performing employees are a competitive advantage for business growth and survival (Cesario & Chambel, 2017; Diamantidis & Chatzoglou, 2018). Improved employee performance management processes can cause better employee innovation and positive work culture (Audenaert et al., 2019). In a constantly changing external environment, business leaders must manage and empower the workforce in a way that improves job performance and business growth. Poor employee performance is a threat to achieving business goals and targets (Ameen & Baharom, 2019). Organization leaders in the United States of America (U.S.A.) spend on average $164 billion annually to improve human performance (Abaci & Pershing, 2017). Poor employee performance can lead to a decline in business performance and competitive advantage.
Leaders carry the weight of their team’s inspiration in uncertain times. As both a strategist and people coach, they make difficult decisions that shape the future of the organization. Performing this dua role effectively requires staying focused amid being pulled in multiple directions
Strategies For Improving Employee Performance
Researchers have identified the following as strategies to improve employee performance:
The first strategy is employee engagement. Leaders must carry employees along when formulating performance management metrics and ensure these metrics are properly communicated and cascaded across the organization. Engaged employees are more likely to demonstrate a higher level of commitment and willingness to deliver better performance while disengaged employees are a threat to business performance (Allam, 2017).
Measuring Employee Performance
The second strategy is leveraging tools for measuring employee performance. Performance is the measure of the quality and quantity of effort an individual puts into an assigned task (Kusuma, 2021). There are several tools used for measuring performance such as the balanced scorecard (BSC), KPIs, predictive analytics, one-on-one manager feedback, and routine performance reviews. Overall business performance is the total value and output from all employees and therefore, defining KPIs at the beginning of the year, reviewing mid-year performance in the middle and towards the end of the year, are strategies to improve performance.
Leadership Commitment to Performance Management
The third strategy is leadership commitment. Organizations need effective leaders who can foster and shape the positive behaviors of their teams to deliver organizational goals (Masri, 2020). If leaders are not committed to the objectives they set, not walking the talk, or sometimes bend the rules to favor a particular team or employee, it is difficult to manage performance in a consistent and unbiased way. Leaders play a very critical role in creating an enabling environment for better performance. Failure on the part of leaders to motivate, set clear performance objectives, or give regular feedback to employees, can result in low employee performance and poor business output.
Monetary and Non-Monetary Based Rewards and Recognition
The fourth strategy is centered around monetary and non-monetary-based rewards. Many organizations use cash rewards, non-cash rewards, career incentives, performance-based incentives, and benefits to improve employee performance. Some organizations establish the use of competitive pay and performance-based bonuses while others use non-monetary incentives such as recognition and team engagement to foster the right behaviors. Business leaders who understand what motivates employees and design the right rewards that create intrinsic motivation can meet the challenges of today’s labor market (Landry et al., 2017).
Setting Clear Expectations
The fifth strategy is setting expectations. Setting clear expectations makes employees understand what needs to be done in the right way and at the right time. Supervisors who engage in open conversations with direct reports, give goal-based feedback, and help clarify objectives, can improve employee performance ratings (Vu et al. 2019). When you set employee expectations and performance metrics, and establish clear job descriptions, daily tasks, and KPIs, employees are better equipped and motivated to carry out their assigned responsibilities.
The Power of Coaching
The sixth strategy is leveraging the power of coaching. Coaching is proving to be an essential leadership strategy for businesses, to foster talent development and business success. Coaching provides an invaluable opportunity for self-development and enhanced awareness. Through a safe, empathetic space of acceptance and reflection, a coachee can explore their own identity in order to bring about transformative change (Grant 2003). Developing the ability among managers to facilitate coaching conversations can pay huge dividends regarding employee performance and overall organizational productivity. Employee performance coaching is an essential component in efficiently managing employee growth; it provides employees with a sense of purpose while simultaneously helping them to meet goals. Coaching stands out as one successful training method that encourages continual improvement within any organization’s workforce. A coach who abides by the guidelines of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) can cultivate trust and safety – creating a secure haven that encourages open dialogue between coach and coachee while nurturing an atmosphere of respect.
Leveraging Coaching for Performance Management
Performance coaching is an invaluable practice that can increase productivity, help managers evaluate employee performance, and develop trust-based relationships (Bakhshandeh,2023). It starts with establishing rapport, building trust, listening empathetically, and giving constructive feedback. Powerful questions should be asked during this process as inquiries are necessary for evaluating progress. These are key components of successful performance management reviews that drive improved results. Constructive criticism allows growth opportunities while positive reinforcement builds morale. Coaching has been associated with lower levels of turnover intent, as employees who received coaching were more likely to feel valued and supported by their organization. In a research study by Barry et al. (2020), eight managers from diverse organizations were gathered to uncover the core elements of successful coaching by analyzing top competencies in managerial coaching literature. After considering ten suggested coaching competencies, all managers concluded that a supportive environment combined with effective communication and listening, were at the heart of their success – each reporting an impressive 80% improvement rate for coached direct reports.
Application of the ICF Core Competencies to Performance Management Coaching:
The International Coach Federation (ICF) Core Competencies provide coaches with a set of standards and practices that they can utilize to become better coaches. Coaching is an “ongoing process for supporting client development through targeted guidance and feedback”. This approach emphasizes the importance of understanding an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in order to help them reach their goals more effectively. The ICF Core Competencies provide coaches with a structure for doing this by outlining 11 specific skills that are essential for successful coaching practice. The first two competencies – Establishing Trust & Intimacy and Co-creating the Relationship – focus on creating a safe space in which clients feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. Coaches must actively listen and genuinely engage with their clients in order to foster trust and openness between them. By taking the time to get to know each client on a deeper level, it becomes easier for the coach to understand where their client is coming from and what kind of support, they need in order to reach their goals. The other nine competencies focus on helping coaches hone specific skills such as goal setting, powerful questioning, group facilitation, active listening, direct communication, self-management, managing progress & accountability, designing action plans, and ethical practice & professionalism. The ICF Core Competencies provide coaches and managers with an invaluable framework for improving their practice when it comes to performance management coaching. Here are some of the applications of coaching techniques in practice:
- The Coaching Agreement – To ensure a successful coaching relationship, both the manager and employee should collaborate to identify clearly defined goals. Establishing ways of measuring progress enables everyone involved to measure success while agreeing on things like confidentiality from the start will help maintain trust between all parties.
- Coaching Presence – Great managers possess a unique skill set: the ability to foster an atmosphere of inclusivity and inspiration within their teams. With this, they can nurture positivity and collaboration toward achieving team goals.
- Active Listening – Great managers are good listeners. Good managerial coaching requires a variety of competencies. This includes the ability to actively listen, show empathy towards employees and ask meaningful questions that can help guide the improvement process. Setting realistic goals is also important as it encourages an action-oriented approach while providing timely feedback helps support growth in each employee’s development journey.
- Powerful Questioning – Skilled coaches know how to probe beneath the surface, asking thought-provoking questions with the aim of helping their coachee make meaningful progress. By exploring new ideas and angles, managers can help employees spark extraordinary insight for even greater success.
- Creating Awareness – Coaching is an invaluable tool that can drive workplace success. It provides employees with the opportunity to reflect on themselves and hone their skills, such as emotional intelligence and collaboration, resulting in improved decision-making capabilities as well as increased productivity. This kind of development fosters an enhanced level of self-awareness.
- Actions, Goals, and Accountability – In coaching, the manager can work with the employees to be accountable for their goals, actions, and learnings. Through regular reviews, the employee can get a chance to clarify and report progress made in delivering desired behaviors and expectations. Leaders know that effective performance is more than a one-time coaching session. An in-depth plan must be implemented to successfully utilize feedback and new tactics, ensuring sustained growth over time.
- Direct Communication – Coaching can be an essential tool in helping employees achieve their fullest potential. Through regular feedback, clear expectations, and collaboration with the manager on a plan of action focused on development needs, coaching can help employees identify strengths as well as areas for improvement beyond normal performance goals.
Effective Use of Coaching Styles
Now more than ever, businesses are realizing the importance of fostering a team-oriented atmosphere that values collaboration over authority. This shift is providing outstanding results for those who take it on. Coaching can be a powerful tool to help employees build strong relationships with their managers and make good leaders become even better leaders. Coaching can bring about greater self-awareness, increased understanding of the motivations behind others’ actions, improved communication skills, and better performance. Effective use of coaching styles in performance management can bring about increased job satisfaction and employee engagement.
Bakhshandeh, B. (2023). Performance Coaching. In High-Performance Coaching for Managers. 31-73. Productivity Press.
Barry, K. D., Gloeckner, G., & Kaiser, L. M. R. (2020). Managerial Coaching Competencies Used by Managers for Performance Improvement.performance Improvement Quarterly, 34(2), 195-217.
Grant, A. M. (2003). The Impact of Life Coaching on Goal Attainment, Metacognition, and Mental Health. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 31(3), 253–263.
International Coaching Federation. (N.D).