Coaching - the perfect way to help organisations with their post-recessional 'spring clean'

Written by
Changeboard Team

08 Mar 2013

08 Mar 2013 • by Changeboard Team

Organisations realise it's time for change

Hiding among the management echelons of many companies lurk employees who have lost their way. The reduced job pool caused by the recession has left many dissatisfied employees riding out the downturn in their current roles, preventing businesses from performing at their best. In this situation, everybody loses out the organisation, its employees and the prospective talent and candidates waiting on the sidelines for their opportunity to shine.

The rules of business have changed forever. No organisation can afford to carry people who arent committed to its plans for growth, and this can often mean shedding employees. A 2009 survey found that 67% of HR professionals were planning to reduce their head count. But weeding out the less motivated workforce, who may be affecting other successful staff, doesnt have to be a one-sided number crunching exercise. This is where coaching comes into its element.

How can coaching help attract & retain talent?

One of the biggest Challenges for the recruitment sector is attracting and retaining talent. Four cultural factors help them do this effectively achievement, recognition, participation and growth. Coaching can help foster all of these and help organisations to get the best out of their workforce.

Coaching helps boost morale, increase employee engagement and weed out negativity. In times of change, when the damocles sword of redundancy looms, its essential to alter the collective mindset to gear staff up for a more successful road ahead. Introducing a shared vision works well, setting out a blueprint for success that all members of the firm can work towards.

This shared vision paints a picture of what kind of organisation you want to be. Its a blueprint that helps many staff members, often for the first time, see an optimistic future for the business and a clear strategy of how to achieve it.

Critically, it highlights the behaviours a company expects from its staff. A coach can ensure all employees are either on board, or conversely, the process makes people realise it's time to move on.

Communication - key to a successful workforce

From our research, trust, communication and accountability are the three biggest cultural issues affecting morale and performance in the workplace. When it comes to building or breaking morale, employees fall into three camps.

There are people who exert a positive influence on others, the positive advocates of the firm, who I like to call the cultural architects. Then there are those who are coasting, who work just hard enough to remain under the redundancy radar, but dont engage fully with the companys vision. These cultural assassins are capable of de-motivating the third type of employee - the floating voter that sits in the middle, vulnerable to influence from either side.

How can coaching help disengaged employees?

To be successful, a company needs an engaged workforce, including more architects than assassins, or better still, no assassins at all. But how do you help the employees that are holding the organisation back the cultural assassins to change their ways, or leave the organisation without disrupting the morale of the team?

The Challenge is twofold: to keep the valuable members of staff happy and encourage those who are leaving to feel they have made the decision for themselves. This reduces the negative word of mouth that can hinder recruiters in attracting the best staff in the future.

Internal versus external coaching

Budgets are under massive pressure at present, meaning a DIY-approach to coaching prevails. But if organisations want to ease unproductive staff out without hindering growth and productivity, outside help is indispensable.

The majority of internal coaching is carried out by the HR function and line managers. Yet in my experience, staff find it difficult to trust other colleagues. If a senior member of staff tells an internal manager or coach they have issues performing their role, its hard for them to dispel that negative perception later. For example, an employee who has recently been promoted will find it difficult to confide in their manager that they are feeling overwhelmed in their new position.

In life, people perform many roles that of a spouse or friend as well as an employee. Yet internal coaches find it difficult to go beyond the remit of work when considering performance and satisfaction, creating a tunnel-vision rather than a holistic approach.

In contrast, an external coach is impartial and comes without baggage theres no politics or judgment involved. They can help the workforce understand they dont have to excel at every role and that they are not a failure for admitting that they arent happy in their work life. When it comes to easing out dissatisfied or unproductive employees we find that this approach works.

How can coaches assess organisational strength?

Some companies use external coaches to carry out this very personal task of getting to the bottom of performance problems. Over 20% of my time is spent listening to the concerns of employees of all levels about whether their aspirations are aligned with their employers vision.

Everything is up for discussion, such as whether they might be happier or more fulfilled elsewhere be it in another industry, a different company or self-employed. To get the best out of them, these discussions are completely confidential and designed to Challenge worries staff are afraid to voice to their internal peers.

Often disillusioned staff dont realise there are other options available to them, so they stagnate and fail to deliver in the workplace. External coaching encourages them to acknowledge this for themselves in an amicable way that Benefits both sides.

How can coaching help clean up negative feelings?

When redundancies are made, the morale and productivity of remaining staff can really suffer. Often they feel guilty about retaining their jobs while others have been forced out. Its vital that those who are left behind are performing at their best for the business to grow. You cant afford to let negative feeling fester, allowing staff to be dragged to the dark side by cultural assassins.

North-west firm Spectus made 30% of its workforce redundant and there was much talk of survivor guilt. Involving their people in the blueprint for success process has changed all that, focusing staffs energies on pulling together to make Spectus a more fulfilling place to work.

At times like this, members of staff need to feel involved in change and employers must be seen to be listening to their concerns. Thats when I would recommend an external coach conducts a confidential survey to collect employee feedback. Staff should feel as though their firm is acting on this data, addressing the workforces issues and looking towards a more positive future.

How do you know you need a business coach?

So how do you know if your business could benefit from a coach? There are a couple of obvious clues. If you want to grow your company but middle management seems averse or apathetic towards change, then you know its time to reach out. Or when senior management meetings are constantly rehashing the same conversations but arent able to move forward, this is when consulting comes in to its own and delivers real value.

But, be warned, the coaching industry is in its infancy so there are few professional standards to set the wannabes apart from those who know what they are doing. These tips will help you find a reputable coach wholl deliver value for money.

Researching coaches - top tips

Speak to the managing directors and the CEOs of the coachs previous clients. There is no better testimonial than that of a (senior) satisfied customer.

Invite the consultant to come and demonstrate to you that they understand the Challenges your business faces all companies problems are wildly different and you should expect a bespoke approach.

Get them to do some research about your firm. They should do this using their own time and resources. If they want to charge you for this, look elsewhere.

Have the coach come and meet the rest of your team. All your key personnel should get involved and feel inspired by the person youve selected.

Coaching - encouraging a fresh approach

Now more than ever, companies must ensure all members of their team are working towards the same vision.

Coaching helps managers identify the architects and assassins within their organisation and encourage the latter to languish elsewhere.

Crucially, an external coach encourages weaker staff to come to this realisation on their own; an outcome that Benefits both parties and leaves survivor morale and productivity on a high.