How to Create a Coaching Culture to Support Employee Development
November 18, 2022
If you have a coaching program in your workplace, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have a coaching culture.
A coaching culture is an effective long-term strategy to encourage employees to seek the skills necessary to thrive in their roles. It’s an opportunity to support your workers and cultivate high-potential employees—poised to succeed in future roles.
Luckily, there’s a straightforward path to building a successful coaching culture and creating a learning environment that benefits employees at all levels.
What is a coaching culture?
Rather than a coaching program—which is more of a short-term, sporadic scenario—a coaching culture is a long-term, ongoing commitment to baking coaching opportunities into the fabric of an organization.
This environment empowers managers to motivate their employees and help them develop skills they can carry throughout their careers.
Plus, your employees want it: 78 percent of employees surveyed in a recent International Coach Federation survey agree that a coaching culture is valuable for their workplace.
Why is a coaching culture important?
This culture creates a supportive environment for workers to confront roadblocks, ask questions, and develop their careers by helping them cultivate new skills.
Creating a coaching culture in your organization can make individuals and teams stronger. Coaching has many benefits, including boosting employee engagement, increasing results and ROI, and developing stronger teams and employees.
How to create a coaching culture in the workplace
There are five basic steps to building a culture of continuous improvement.
- Define the goal of coaching at your organization
- Get buy-in from your leaders
- Build a framework for learning
- Encourage knowledge sharing
- Get feedback from your workers
Define the goal of coaching at your organization
A coaching culture works best when it’s intertwined with your organization’s strategic goals.
Get clear on what you want your employees to gain from coaching. For example, is your goal to teach staff at all levels career-enhancing skills? Or do you want to retain 20 percent more of your workforce each quarter?
A proper coaching culture takes a multidisciplinary approach, so everyone benefits from learning, no matter where they are in their careers. For example, a webinar for entry-level staff won’t help your more senior employees.
Recent research shows that most organizations use coaching to support leadership development by working closely with high-potential staff. That’s because a coaching culture can upskill your workers faster, which leads to a more experienced team—which ultimately helps your bottom line.
But remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer—what works at your organization might not work at another. Being clear about what you want to accomplish as a learning and development (L&D) team is the best way to create a path toward change.
Get buy-in from your leaders
You need support from your leaders to get a coaching culture off the ground. Your leaders have direct control over budgets and can approve (or disapprove) spending for learning experiences if they don’t think they’re valuable.
To get leadership support, set up one-on-one conversations with stakeholders at all levels: managers, directors, senior administrators, etc.
Explain your goals and what it will look like in practical terms. This way, your stakeholders don’t leave the conversation feeling blindsided or like they have to say yes to something they don’t understand.
Then, take the time to ask them to identify any potential concerns or obstacles they anticipate. Finally, ask about their interest and willingness to be a coach or mentor for lower-level staff.
And coaching isn’t just for newer employees—be sure to ask your stakeholders and leadership team about competencies they want to gain. Understanding their goals can help generate interest and improve leader retention.
“Coaching can have a multiplier effect for leaders in an organization because they set the tone for everyone around them,” according to Melissa Eisler, MA, PCC an Executive Coach and Leadership Development Consultant. “If a manager or leader lacks certain competencies like emotional intelligence, listening skills, or adaptability, it can be difficult to create a trusting, collaborative culture in the workplace. So it’s important to know what your blind spots are and where you need to grow as a leader.”
Sharing the ROI of coaching can also help to get buy-in from stakeholders and leaders. According to a report from the International Coaching Federation, organizations that used coaching saw these results:
- 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence
- More than 70% of individuals experience improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills
- 86% of companies saw a positive ROI from their coaching investment
Build a framework for learning
A coaching framework requires a multi-pronged approach. It’s not enough to offer a one-off webinar course and call it a day. You need to invest in your workers’ career development. That means an always-on, continuous approach to learning.
“It’s really about learning,” Melissa says. “Learning about yourself and where you are most energized—and learning about what your organization and team need from you. How do you align better? If there’s a misalignment, what can we do about it?”
Start by asking your employees about learning opportunities that interest them. Taking the time to understand this will give you an idea of what your workers want out of coaching and will help you prioritize the most relevant experiences.
You should be able to implement multiple opportunities at the same time. For example, one-on-ones with managers and monthly skillshare sessions have minimal overlap, but both activities can be beneficial.
More than half of your workers are likely multimodal learners, meaning they prefer to use more than one channel to facilitate learning. So, it makes sense to incorporate internal learning opportunities like one-on-one conversations with a manager and external opportunities like lectures, webinars, or video-based learning.
“I’m very passionate about ensuring that there are learning and development opportunities for everyone in our company because you never know who your shining stars will be if you’re not actively working to develop everyone.”
Create an anonymous Google form and ask employees to rank the most important experiences. The top five most popular channels are your best place to start. Using this strategy ensures you can take a multimodal approach that’s aligned with your employees’ interests.
Some of the most common examples are:
- One-on-one meetings
- Skillshare sessions
- Group training
- Monthly informal conversations with leadership
- Workshops with outside professionals
You can also invite employees to add experiences that might not have made the list.
Encourage knowledge sharing
One of the most important learning experiences is also one of the most easily forgotten: knowledge sharing.
It’s estimated that 42 percent of invaluable company knowledge is locked away in the minds of individual employees. If an employee finds a new job, 42 percent of their day-to-day responsibilities aren’t being taught to their colleagues or to the next person to fill that role. That new hire now has to learn from scratch, which takes more time (and costs more money) than if they had a clear-cut training document from the start.
Knowledge sharing is crucial for remote work environments where siloes can crop up easily.
Whether your team works in an office or from home, it’s simple to set up knowledge-sharing opportunities.
Here are five easy-to-implement ideas:
- Create an internal wiki for all levels of staff to contribute to
- Start a Slack channel specifically for knowledge sharing. It’s a space for anyone and everyone to ask questions and connect with colleagues about internal or role-specific challenges
- Build a forum within your learning management platform for outgoing staff to leave notes and information for new hires
- Host a weekly Zoom session open to all staff to come prepared with role-specific questions for their colleagues
- Facilitate mentorship opportunities to complement coaching
Both mentorship and coaching are helpful in a coaching culture, but they fill different purposes. Incorporating mentorship opportunities into your workplace culture helps colleagues collaborate and improves the coaching experience for everyone.
Mentorship tends to be slightly less formal than coaching and involves a more senior employee directly influencing a lower-level worker. Coaching, on the other hand, involves a trained professional actively guiding workers toward their goals.
For example, if an employee wants to become a manager, a coach might have this team member set up goals or objectives and key results (OKRs). The coach may also advise them to participate in webinars or courses to learn the skills they need to become promoted. On the other hand, a dedicated mentor is likely a manager, and they might tell this worker about their personal experiences and what helped them get promoted.
Incorporating mentorship opportunities can also lead to better employee retention. On average, organizations with a mentorship program retain employees 2x longer than companies without one.
Ask managers to incorporate mentorship into their one-on-one meetings with their team. Mentoring could include asking employees about their career goals and working with them to develop the skills that will help them succeed in their roles.
This approach takes the pressure off L&D to build an entirely new program from scratch and ensures your workers get the attention they need to foster essential skills.
Get feedback from your workers
A strong coaching culture relies on a culture of continuous feedback. It helps you understand what’s working with your coaching efforts—and any pain points.
Understanding what’s working and taking steps to improve can lead to more satisfied workers. For example, LinkedIn Learning’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report shows employees are 10x more likely to seek a new job if their skills are not used or valued.
Remember, it’s not just managers and leaders you want to hear from; it’s everyone — down to your organization’s most recent hire.
To gather feedback, use Google forms or go directly through your learning platform to create a portal for employees to share their thoughts. Make sure they have the chance to note the kind of experience that’s challenging (or delighting) them. It’s essential to ask every employee the same questions so you can see trends in the data.
Once you’ve gathered feedback, analyze the results regularly (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, etc.). Be sure to watch out for areas that are rated poorly.
Here are some red flags to look out for:
- Employees citing lower levels of engagement
- A lack of time to fully participate in learning opportunities
- Employees who aren’t gaining the skills they need to do their jobs effectively
Any of these scenarios tell you that an employee is likely on the pathway to burnout and is either deeply unsatisfied or potentially looking for other career opportunities. Prioritize meeting with these individuals and ask them what you can do to help them be more successful in their current roles.
A coaching culture empowers your organization
An investment in a coaching culture is an investment in your best assets: your workers.
Many organizations understand the value of coaching and how it can benefit new and veteran employees and emerging leaders.
Creating a coaching culture is crucial to prioritizing long-term learning in the workplace and promoting continuous growth and a greater willingness to ask questions and gain new skills.
Want to learn more about how WorkRamp can help promote coaching and continuous learning in your organization? Contact us to schedule a free demo.
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Maile Timon is WorkRamp’s Content Strategist. She has more than 11 years of experience in content marketing and SEO and has written for several publications and industries, including B2B, marketing, lifestyle, health, and more. When she’s not writing or developing content strategies, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her family.
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