Employee Performance Coaching: How to Create an Effective Program that Everyone Will Love
Performance coaching can move your people from competence to mastery.
"Everyone needs a coach. It doesn't matter whether you're a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player. We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve."
These were the words of Bill Gates in a popular TED talk.
Your employees need a coach, too, to develop.
Annual performance reviews are great. But they hardly provide the insights employees need to grow and improve their performance.
They don't provide the personalized action plan employees need to develop in their flow of work and perform at their best.
Cue employee performance coaching.
With this approach, you don't just lay out the performance evaluation metrics and point out employees' shortcomings.
Quite the contrary.
Employee performance coaching focuses on helping employees know and use their talent and strengths to maximize performance outcomes.
It creates a culture where managers view their role as a "source of help" and not a "boss."
Coaches can bring out the best performance in employees and create a more human workplace where employees can thrive.
In the end, you'll have a high-performing, engaged, and loyal workforce that helps your organization achieve its strategic goals. Not too shabby.
📈 What is performance coaching?
Performance coaching is a process that helps employees improve their performance and achieve their goals.
The process involves identifying their strengths and areas that need improvement. Employees then use this knowledge to create and implement a personalized road map that helps them reach their full potential.
Performance coaching is all about helping individuals and teams reach their full potential and make positive changes in their performance.
Performance coaching typically involves:
- setting clear goals;
- giving feedback and guidance;
- helping the individuals or teams develop competencies;
- offering support as the employees work towards their goals.
The coach may use various techniques and approaches, such as goal setting, problem-solving, and action planning, to help the individual or team reach their full potential.
Components of effective performance coaching, such as 360 feedback, drive behavioral change among employees and lead to improved performance.
The principle behind performance coaching
The main principle behind performance coaching is that, with proper guidance, employees and teams can improve their performance. In other words, performance coaching empowers employees to take control of their development and achieve their goals.
Several psychological principles underlie the practice of coaching. One fundamental principle comes from the self-determination theory.
According to this theory, three psychological needs are essential for people to feel good about themselves and their lives: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
The element of autonomy is crucial here: when people feel they have control over their lives, they're more motivated and likely to succeed.
Coaches can help people identify what they want and come up with a plan to make it happen, which can boost their motivation and self-determination.
👀 5 Ways coaching improves performance
Performance coaching is an ongoing process. It involves providing employees with continuous support that helps them meet their performance goals.
The coach provides the employee with an objective point of view on their behavior, practices, and the results they're producing.
This objective employee feedback makes them aware of their professional blind spots and helps them maximize their potential.
So, instead of generic feedback, employees gain actionable insights on areas they can improve.
It helps them:
- Understand and maximize their strengths.
- Become more self-aware, which reduces workplace conflicts that cause disruptions and low morale. It creates a conducive work environment, which boosts job satisfaction.
- Identify and address their self-defeating mindsets and performance-related roadblocks.
- Establish better and more actionable goals based on their strengths and weaknesses.
- Get out of their comfort zone and become better contributors to the organization.
All these translate into improved performance.
Besides, performance coaching shows employees that you care. It makes them feel valued and pushes them to perform at their best.
🆚 Performance coaching vs. feedback
Coaching and feedback are both components of performance management, and some people use them interchangeably. But they're different.
Performance coaching focuses on improving future actions and outcomes by identifying and fixing potential issues. The coach uses their expertise to guide the employee's growth and helps them achieve their goals.
Feedback uses observations of an employee's past behavior to suggest improvements regarding their future performance.
They are both crucial to improving the performance of your workforce.
➡️ Have a look at this complete discussion on coaching vs. feedback for a more detailed comparison.
⏳ When to use performance coaching in the workplace
Effective performance coaching begins with regular observation of the staff, their behavior, and their actions.
It helps the coach identify aspects of their behavior that need improvement.
Based on the observations, the coach can develop a strategy to address specific performance issues of these employees.
Tip: It's best to bring performance issues to the employees' attention when they're still minor. You want to correct them before they snowball into a bigger problem that affects the entire team and department.
Your work does not end with underperforming employees.
Employees who are effective contributors to the company need performance coaching as well.
In this case, you'll be conducting performance coaching for continuous improvement. Here, the goal will be to make these good contributors great.
Coaching can also be a component of your feedback system. If you don't have an employee feedback system in your organization, you're missing out on an effective avenue to:
- Build your employees' confidence in their performance
- Build their commitment to showing positive behavior that aligns with their goals
Provide feedback to coach an employee toward better performance.
A great opportunity would be:
- As a project is in progress, you can hold retrospective meetings to review its progress, praise individual achievements, and anticipate upcoming issues.
- After the successful completion of a project, highlight individual accomplishments and identify any opportunities for improvement in upcoming projects.
- After a project has failed, analyze what went wrong, work out the lessons from the failure and how to apply them in the next project, and reaffirm faith in their skills.
🏆 7 Main benefits of performance coaching
Continual performance coaching is beneficial at the employee and company levels.
3 Benefits of performance coaching for employees
Coaching can improve self-confidence by 80% and work performance by 70%.
Here are the main benefits it carries for your employees.
1. They get personal, tailored advice
Every employee has different development needs.
For example, some may need help with their analytical skills. In contrast, others will need help improving their collaboration or communication skills.
You can use a skills matrix to document what each individual employee should work on.
Performance coaching addresses the unique development needs of each employee.
Unlike generalized training, the employee and coach work together on a personalized road map that addresses these needs.
2. It strengthens employee-supervisory relationships
A well-executed performance coaching program builds trust between the coach and the coachee. It leads to more productive employee-supervisory relationships.
Employees become more comfortable with their managers. They trust their managers enough to seek their help, give constructive feedback, and raise their ideas.
3. Improves job satisfaction and well-being at work
Performance coaching creates employee self-awareness—a critical personal and professional development step.
Self-awareness leads to improved job performance and reduces job-related stress. It promotes employee well-being and job satisfaction.
4 Benefits of performance coaching for your entire organization
According to research, over half of the organizations that have carried out employee coaching for at least three years experience high levels of growth.
Here are some of the ways performance coaching enables this growth.
1. Enabling a high-performance culture
Providing personalized support to employees using a suitable coaching method helps them build their self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is when employees believe they can execute the necessary behavior to accomplish a task and produce the desired outcome.
A workforce that's:
- Not afraid to take on challenging tasks.
- Confident in their ability to learn how to perform new tasks.
- Persistent when performing complex tasks.
- Quick at recovering from setbacks.
➡️ Here's a 12-step recipe to help establish a high-performance culture in your organization.
2. It builds leaders
Performance coaching helps employees become self-aware and build on their key strengths.
It makes them capable of managing a team, taking the lead in complex situations, navigating an increase in responsibilities, and coaching new employees—all these are leadership skills.
3. Higher engagement and productivity
When an organization genuinely commits to employees' professional development through personalized coaching, they feel supported.
These employees are more likely to have higher engagement and are more productive in the workplace. Plus, they feel motivated to contribute to the organization's goals.
➡️ Want to build an engaged workforce? Then, you need to stay updated with the latest employee engagement trends that'll stick around.
4. Improved retention rates
Continuous performance coaching makes employees feel valued and necessary to the organization.
They feel connected to it. This creates a sense of loyalty that boosts retention rates.
➡️ Here are some extra tips you can use to develop a practical employee retention strategy.
🪜 11 Steps for conducting employee performance coaching
It's time to begin your employee performance coaching.
1. Identify the improvement opportunities
Start by analyzing the employee's performance. Assess their latest 360 performance review. Were any specific performance issues highlighted? Note them down.
Take note of the positives as well. Employee performance coaching requires a balance of praise and criticism to keep the employee motivated.
2. Determine if any issues are limiting the employee
Have a 1:1 meeting with the employee. Let them know of the performance problem.
Use this chance to determine if any barriers limit employees from achieving their objectives.
- Do they have the necessary training?
- Are you providing access to the required tools?
- Do they have enough time to perform at their best?
- Is their temperament right for the task?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you should fix that first.
3. Establish the objectives of the performance coaching
Next, determine the purpose of the performance coaching. What do you want to help the employee accomplish?
Your objectives should encompass:
- Overcoming the employee's performance gaps.
- Dealing with the obstacles keeping the employee from achieving their goals.
- Optimizing the employee's strengths.
Tip: Put the employee's objectives into consideration as well.
- What they hope to accomplish from the performance coaching.
- Where they want to be in the future.
Tip: Ensure there's a mutual understanding of what the objectives of the performance coaching are.
4. Discuss the potential solutions to the performance issues
Giving employees step-by-step instructions on how to improve their performance may feel ideal. Still, it's not the right direction to take.
When the employee has a hand in creating the solutions, they'll have a higher commitment. So, come up with the improvement actions together.
They'll own the solutions and feel responsible for seeing them through, even when it gets challenging.
Besides, co-creating the action plan helps you strike the sweet spot where:
- The solutions push the employee to unlock their strengths and maximize their performance
- The employee feels the action plans and goals you set are achievable for them
Here is how you can work together to come up with effective solutions.
Be open-minded. As much as you know what the employee needs to do to improve their performance, what they think also matters. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their input.
Ask them for ideas on how to correct the performance problems. It'll help you align the action plans with how they work best.
Tip: For a high-performing employee, get their ideas on how to create room for continuous improvement.
Be sure to use a friendly tone and avoid finger-pointing.
Avoid criticizing the ideas they come up with to create a safe and positive environment where employees can be open about their career goals.
5. Identify measurable goals and make a goals roadmap
Just as you worked together to identify solutions, work on setting time-bound and quantifiable goals.
They'll give the performance coaching direction and provide the employee with a sense of accomplishment.
The goals should align with the employee's overall performance targets.
Tip: Be sure to consider the employee's skillset and the available resources to set attainable goals.
Be aware that unrealistic and overly ambitious goals could create frustration related to the performance coaching process.
Show the employee how their goals align with the organization's objectives and how they'll contribute to the business's success.
Don't just set goals. Instead, identify metrics that you'll use to evaluate progress.
Finally, create a performance improvement plan. These steps will help the employee achieve each goal and get the desired outcome.
6. Write down the action plan
This is the step where you summarize the action plan you've agreed upon with the employee to improve their performance.
List the key actions, goals, metrics, and time frames to help the employee attain the expected performance.
Outline the training plan you'll use to cover the skills gap leading to the performance deficiency.
For the performing employees, write down an individual development plan to facilitate continuous improvement.
Having the action plan in writing ensures that the coach and the employee are on the same page regarding the next steps and expectations.
7. Choose a type of coaching
There are various ways you can provide continual coaching.
You can coach them in the flow of work. It helps employees work with direction.
For instance, when you notice a task is moving more slowly than expected or taking the wrong direction, offer guidance to help them work their way through the muck.
But it's important not to do the work for the employee. Instead, let them learn through trial and error.
Alternatively, have dedicated sessions of coaching.
Hold future-focused conversations at critical points to discuss their actions, ongoing work priorities, role performance, and development opportunities.
You could also use a combination of both methods.
Tip: Once you fully integrate employee performance coaching into your overall culture and management strategy, check-ins and real-time feedback will naturally fit into daily conversations and activities.
8. Show your confidence in the employee
Your employees are more likely to achieve their performance goals if they feel supported.
Inspire your employees with confidence by demonstrating your belief in their ability to overcome the issues at hand and improve. Acknowledge their extra effort and robust performance.
Mistakes will happen. That's unavoidable. How you respond will either crush the employees' spirits or motivate them to strive to be effective contributors to your organization.
But this doesn't mean you should accept failure and move on to the next task. Instead, it'll create a low standard for performance expectations.
Here's how you can approach a problem without killing an employee's confidence:
- Focus on the problem, not the employee, and stay solution-oriented.
- Gather all the facts about the situation from the employee. Ask questions and listen without judgment.
- Don't rush to solve the problem yourself. You'll miss an opportunity to coach the employee. Ask the employee's opinion on what actions can solve the issue and prevent it from happening again.
- Separate the employee's actions from the final result. Taking this approach will help you identify and correct the right problem. The employee could have taken the proper steps and gotten an undesired outcome. Or they could have taken the wrong actions and reached the desired result.
- Examine the organization's system, process, and structure. Address any weaknesses that could have contributed to the mistake.
9. Set aside some time for follow-up
Once you've agreed on an action plan, setting a date for follow-up meetings is essential.
It helps the employee stay on track to meet their performance goals.
In these meetings, evaluate their performance. Here is a way you could conduct a follow-up meeting:
- Start positively by asking what has gone well since the last meeting. Work together to figure out the positive actions and improved behaviors that have led to this outcome.
- Discuss their progress towards the goals you set. Again, point out the behavior that has led to this accomplishment.
- If they've not fully met the action plan, discuss what caused it. Identify any obstacles that may be holding them back and, if necessary, come up with a new solution.
End the meeting with a review of the discussion and reiterate your expectations.
You can have a summary of the discussion and the following action steps in writing to help employees hold themselves accountable.
Be sure to set a date for the next follow-up meeting.
10. Offer support
Tell the employee they can reach out to you anytime they have an issue.
Note that the employee will find it easy to seek your support if:
- You've created a safe and positive environment where the employee can express themselves freely
- You have demonstrated your belief in their ability to improve, as we discussed earlier
Check in regularly to see how things are going. But don't overdo it or micromanage. Instead, be there to guide them and offer encouragement.
11. Collect 360 feedback
Regular feedback is essential at every stage of the coaching process.
360 feedback, in particular, provides qualitative and quantitative data that can help the employee identify their opportunities for improvement.
Unlike receiving one person's viewpoint, 360 feedback is a multi-source form of feedback. CEOs, co-workers, managers, supervisors, and even customers share their observations on an employee's performance.
It exposes the employee to different perspectives and improves their sense of self-awareness.
Use 360 feedback in the case of under-performing employees and those that need to develop their potential.
➡️ Discover 17 additional methods to improve employee performance.
💡 5 Best practices for implementing performance coaching in your organization
1. Understand the employee through open communication
Use neutral instead of leading questions. It'll lead to more thoughtful and detailed answers.
You'll get an accurate picture of how employees feel and think and determine their attitude towards work. This knowledge will lead to a more productive coaching conversation.
You can always test the neutrality of your questions with your colleagues before meeting the employee.
2. Create open forums for collaboration
We insist that collaborative coaching is the best route to take.
Work with the employee every step of the way—establishing the coaching objectives, creating solutions, setting goals, and in all other aspects.
Make them feel a part of the process.
A great way to achieve this is by creating an open forum using online collaboration and communication tools.
Here, coaches and employees can exchange ideas, give and receive feedback, and work together to solve problems. Plus, the coaches can share helpful resources with employees, and employees can ask for help when stuck.
3. Collect feedback, iterate, and improve
Feedback should be a two-way street.
So talk to your employees about the coaching program and get their feedback on the coaching activities.
Tip #1: Find out if they think you should improve the program, your communication methods, etc.
You'll identify the behaviors and components of the coaching program that are leading to positive outcomes. And those that need improvement. Use this info to refine your coaching techniques.
Tip #2: Make these feedback sessions regular. It'll create a strong coaching culture that cultivates a high level of performance in your organization.
4. Appoint exceptional employees to coach their peers
Coaching shouldn't be for managers only. Find employees to be coaches as well.
Having employees as coaches will boost leadership skills in your organization and create a feeling of team spirit.
Employees who would make great performance coaches will be:
- Knowledgeable about your company's products, policies, processes, workflows, and performance standards.
- Good communicators and active listeners.
- Equipped with emotional intelligence.
- Able to give constructive feedback.
- Respected by their peers.
Tip #1: Let these potential coaches know what you expect from them.
Tip #2: Motivate them by making them aware of the benefits they'll get from the coaching program, such as sharpening their teaching and mentoring skills.
5. Match the right coaches with the right employees
The right coach-employee match is essential for a successful employee performance coaching program.
A mismatch can make it hard for trust, respect, and open communication to exist in the coaching relationship.
Matching coaches and coaches based on skills or experience is okay, but not enough. Aspects like personalities and working styles should also come into play.
It's also important to check if their schedules work or clash.
A way to make matching easier is to create an extensive pool of qualified and available coaches and list their qualities and area of expertise.
➡️ Drive a high-performance workforce with Zavvy
The nature of work continues to change rapidly. And the focus continues to shift towards an elevated employee experience and less on HR processes.
An effective employee performance coaching program drives a high-performance workforce. Plus, it boosts company performance by involving employees in their development process.
By using Zavvy's employee development software, you can:
- Customize your development process to the talents and strengths of individual employees.
- Align employees with the most suitable coaches.
- Establish clear role competencies to help employees and coaches set relevant objectives.
- Help employees and coaches track progress toward their goals.
- Keep employees engaged through reminders, tasks, and reflections.
That's not all.
Our 360 feedback software can help you assess if there's meaningful development arising from the performance coaching program. You can gather action-oriented insights to help you make the right improvements.
Book a demo today to see how automation can make your employee performance coaching exceptional.