Workplace culture is a continually evolving concept as new generations enter the workforce, further studies into productivity are conducted, and as contemporary values shift and develop over the years. The idea of coaching in the workplace isn’t a new one: specific references to coaching have appeared in human resources journals at least as far back as the 1960s. What is new for today’s workplace is the idea that coaching shouldn’t be limited to a few elements applied in specific situations; instead, the entire culture of an organization should be transformed into one of coaching to achieve top results.

Coaching in the Workplace

If a company is simply a group of people who are working together to achieve a goal, it makes sense that developing the skills of each individual will benefit the entire group. Training and development opportunities are common in many companies, but coaching is meant to take a more personal and structured approach to this type of improvement. Coaches in the workplace tend to meet with individuals regularly to define and refine goals, identify roadblocks to success and generally work toward improving that person’s performance. The coach should have an understanding of where the employee wants his or her career to go while also having visibility into the company’s goals and how that employee contributes to that goal. The objective is to bring the two together to improve day-to-day performance while also developing long-term growth plans for future success of the employee and the organization.

Most employees embrace this type of development rather than the more common annual review cycle. According to one survey of millennial employees, 74 percent felt “in the dark” about how their managers think they are performing, and 62 percent felt “blindsided” by a performance review. Almost 85 percent said they would feel more confident if they had more frequent conversations with their managers. Managers as coaches in the workplace certainly address these needs as the feedback tends to be ongoing and continual rather than once-per-year events. Plus, coaches get results as their teams are more self-reliant, have more job satisfaction, contribute more effectively and work more productively with others. On a one-to-one basis, coaching has been proven to have positive results. What happens, then, when that approach is scaled up into a company-wide transformation?

Culture Shift: A Foundation Built on Coaching

A coaching culture is an entirely different proposition than adding elements of coaching to an existing management style and employee development strategy. A coaching culture happens when the organization commits to supporting employees as they learn new skills and grow to become more significant assets to the company. It is demonstrated when training, feedback and learning opportunities are part of the norm, and when coaching becomes embedded in HR systems.

The shift in focus from managing subordinates to development, empowerment, and encouragement is deliberate. In some scenarios, particularly those where safety and security are paramount or where very inexperienced employees are just starting out, a hierarchical management style may make more sense. But in a workplace that comprises the best and the brightest in the industry – or at least a company that hopes to attract such talent – it can be assumed that your employees want to work hard and to succeed so there’s no need for such tight management. Instead, a culture of coaching lays the groundwork for these bright stars to reach their highest potential while also building trust and job satisfaction, so they continue providing value to your company for the long haul.

Coaching Culture is Empowering

One of the hallmarks of a productive coaching culture are employees who have a deeper self-awareness in their positions and the ability to find their own solutions, strategies and plans. When the entire organization has been transformed, those in leadership positions are no longer meant to be the ones with all the answers, plans or ideas. Instead, leadership is there to guide their teams into learning how to problem-solve and empowering individuals to take action and make decisions rather than wait for instructions.

The transformation relies on a foundation of trust, respect, accountability and transparency between leadership and employees – all elements that modern employees want from their employers. Considering that top industry talent places company culture at the top of the list of needs when choosing for whom to work, it becomes clear that creating an environment where workers feel empowered, informed, educated and valued will have a long-lasting impact on a company’s ability to attract and retain talented individuals. 

A Culture of Coaching Works

For organizations that have made the shift to a culture of coaching, the results have been impressive. One of the biggest effects is in employee engagement, often one of the most difficult metrics to improve and arguably one of the most important as it drives both business success for the company and job satisfaction for employees. According to one report, 80 percent of those surveyed who have experienced a culture of coaching found a positive impact on performance, productivity, communication skills and overall well-being. Of those working in a culture of coaching, 65 percent were highly engaged. Another report found that coaching cultures have the power to strengthen organizations, especially in terms of the relationship between managers and their employees. Better working relationships lead to more successful development, greater achievement of business goals and overall higher performance. 

Another critical success for coaching cultures is the natural building of talent pipelines. 

When the entire organization has an eye on learning, growing and development, the natural result is a workforce that is better prepared for the future. As each person is encouraged and empowered to reach their highest potential, leadership skills become easier to spot and specific areas for development become more apparent. The result is an educated, skilled, experienced and prepared talent pipeline, and one report found that organizations with a formal culture of coaching are able to fill 23 percent more critical roles immediately than those without.

A Rewarding Challenge

Making the transformation is not without its challenges. Changing the entire culture of the workplace is more than just implementing a few good ideas into your current structure. Instead, it requires time, trust in the process and patience as people make adjustments to their daily routines and acquire the necessary coaching skills to be successful. However, for those organizations who have put in the hard work, the long-term benefits provide a substantial return on that investment. Learn more about how to create and implement a coaching culture in your workplace by downloading our free whitepaper, Cultivating a Coaching Culture for Business Success.