Employee Retention Through Coaching in 2022
Employee Retention Through Coaching in 2022
2022 is a year about employee retention. The Great Resignation that swept over the world revealed that pay incentives have become less critical for people’s stay. Employees are increasingly engaged in work that aligns with their life purpose and allows a sense of agency. They want a safe space which provides autonomy to control, a sense of achievement, and where they can learn and grow. Recently it has been more common for organisations to provide coaching for improving their Employee Experience (EX). Concretely, more organisations are getting interested in training leaders as coaches, providing 1-on-1 coaching to employees of all levels, or even starting the discussion of building an internal coaching community. If you are considering an investment in coaching or expanding the scale of coaching in your organisation, what should you do? In this article, we bring in three expert perspectives on utilising your coaching initiatives for improving your employee retention in the long run.
- Shaping an employee support system with coaching
The pandemic has accelerated the change in how work, workplace and working contract “should be” defined. It has become increasingly clear that meaningful work, autonomy and social connectedness are what people truly value at work. As represented by the Great Resignation, the significant shift in power dynamics between the organisation and suggests that leaders have to take much better care of their employees today. During this time when hybrid working has become the new normal, keeping talents engaged and connected, entails extra creativity and effort from leaders.
A recent study on employee retention revealed positive associations between employees’ stay, organisational identification and proactive performance. That is, employees are more likely to stay if they identify with their organisational membership and are more willing to perform organisational citizenship behaviours (behaviours that are outside their formal job description) and adaptive behaviours during uncertainty. Organisational identification is more likely to increase if leaders can collaboratively craft with followers a sense of who they are, what they aspire to do and support their career goals. Today, leaders’ duties are not only to manage people well but also to empower them to achieve their best self, who can eventually produce the next great leader. To lead well is to create an inspiring workplace for your followers to “own” themselves and teams well.
One way to engage talents is to build an internal coaching support system. A system with a network of people that can provide employees with practical and emotional support. In an organisation where coaching is embedded, leaders are either trained as certified coaches or received training on fundamental coaching skills. With more leaders trained in coaching, they are more likely to listen and communicate well. People in their social network can benefit from more genuine, deep conversations about their work, life goals, and challenges. As we are working more independently, being able to receive coaching support–either a formal session or just informally a coffee chat–will be valuable for employees to foster a greater sense of identity and belonging. An example of building a coaching support system can be a combination of mentoring and coaching, in which internally trained coaches are matched to coachees based on their chemistry. If organisations are considering providing long-term coaching for employees, enriching their internal coaching capacity should be a long-term investment that organisations should aim for to sustain excellent EX and, therefore, people’s likelihood to stay.
- Embedding coaching mindset in the talent management system
As we discussed above, it gets more complex to lead people and organisations today. We have to acknowledge that “leadership” is a process shared by a group of people rather than something that a leader has or has to do. As the term implies, it is the so-called “leaders” and “followers” that collaboratively define the “leader-ship”. The ship cannot sail far without the support of all group members. The context and environment in which the leadership happens also matter. Coaching is similar. It is the coaching process between the coach and coachee that defines coaching. A coach with a “right” mindset is essential for a great coaching session. The same is true for an organisation to have outstanding leadership.
Riding on this analogy, leaders need to have the “right” mindset to lead an organisation. In the context of this article, we refer this “right” mindset as a coaching mindset. At team level, leaders with a coaching mindset tend to minimise their advice, listen more, and more openly support innovative trials, which allow followers to have more room for experimentation and to make sense of their own challenges. In addition, they also provide more frequent and more constructive feedback in performance appraisals. The leader can help followers connect their development needs to the business strategy, making their learning more related to the business outcomes. By then they will be more motivated to learn. These leaders also encourage the followers to take ownership of their issues and to formulate effective plans for the desired change. At the organisational level, fostering a coaching mindset enables people to be more agile and innovative, which lays a favourable foundation for more unique services and products. Employees tend to have a better experience and greater satisfaction since now they are more able to contribute to the success and grow together with the organisation.
What is meant by a “right” mindset is subjective, though, but we can make it objective and measurable by embedding it into the talent management system. It would be more motivating for leaders to learn coaching if they understand the benefits and if the coaching behaviours are included in the organisation’s leadership competency model. Furthermore, leaders who can demonstrate coaching behaviours and frequently coach their followers should be appropriately rewarded. This can help sustain the coaching behaviours in the long run. To track the growth of a leader on coaching mindset and leadership, psychometrics tools like the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) is commonly used and can be insightful for leaders to reflect on their learning process along the journey. Boldly speaking, for leaders to lead well today, coaching skills are almost a “can’t-live-without” thing.
- Achieving inclusiveness by making coaching accessible at all levels
A less discussed yet critical topic in 2022, is inclusion. Fairness and equal opportunities are essential drivers of modern day employees’ decisions to stay in the organisation. Since coaching is not a cheap investment, many organisations only offer it to senior management or high potential talents for development purposes. But we all want to be included. Expanding the pie by making coaching accessible to everyone can show that the organisation cares. By having more people receiving coaching training or coaching support, more people have the ability and chance to compete for higher positions. Although it might be costly to make it available for all levels, organisations can be flexible on cost allocation. For example, coaches are usually charged based on their expertise and experience. They can be offered by matching talents of different seniorities and needs. And in fact, many customisable solutions are available bringing coaching into the organisation in a cost-effective and budget friendly way. The emphasis on DE&I today reflects that we cannot evaluate the return from coaching same way as we did before. Something contributing to the EX and branding might not be immediately measurable, yet it is critical for the organisation in attracting, engaging and retaining outstanding talents in the long run.
In summary, the importance of individual identity has grown within organisations. Employers who act on improving EX will be those who outlive the competition. The hierarchical legitimacy of leaders, systems, entrenched procedures and other societal pressures have a diminishing effect on employees’ stay today. If organisation wants to increase employee retention, coaching support will be a secret sauce to a remarkable EX that differentiates an organisation from its rivals. If 2021 was all about sense-making and change adaptation, 2022 would be the year of putting the pieces together for a better EX. If you wish to sail further with your people, it is the time to consider how to strengthen your internal coaching system today.