An enduring business cliché is that your people are your most important resource. Clichés though, often have a thread of truth running through them, and this one certainly does. If your power goes down for the day, or your phone lines, or your internet, you can find a ways to limit the damage and still achieve some successes. If not one single member of your workforce turns up for a whole day, you’re in a different, much more severe type of trouble.
Unfortunately, it often has to be put in such stark terms to remind business leaders that their most important commodity, and by a long, long way, isn’t the new MacBook Airs, or VoIP telephone system, it’s the folk who turn up every day and use them to grow the company.
Investing in the workforce then, should always occupy a prioritised place in future planning. Attractive benefit schemes, generous holidays and pay, regular appraisals, opportunities for progression, and social events are always appreciated and are proven motivators, but another, often under-resourced initiative stands as an equally, if not more potent tool; coaching.
The power of coaching
Evidence of the positive impact coaching can have on the workforce isn’t just anecdotal (although there’s plenty of it), it also exists in the format of cold, hard data. Take profits and productivity as two major yardsticks for success; research recently commissioned by the Association for Talent Development revealed that companies delivering comprehensive training programs enjoy a colossal 218% higher income – per employee – than companies without a formal approach to coaching and training. Moreover, these same companies also enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who set more miserly budgets for staff development.
You’ve also got the perennial headache of maintaining good staff retention levels. A large-scale research project undertaken by Middlesex University’s Institute for Work Based Learning found that 74% of UK workers felt they were not reaching their potential and wished they received more job training. The Canadian tourism and hospitality HR association Go2HR added further, grim detail to that picture from research of their own, revealing that around 40% of employees who do not receive adequate training end up leaving their post within a year.
Coaching, it must be appreciated, is about more than just making sure staff can use the new email system and can placate an irate customer with strategies more sophisticated than patting them on the head and offering them a Cappuccino. So, what are some of the ways you can develop your workforce with high-level coaching?
Comprehensive subject matter specific training programmes
A common complaint from recipients of coaching programmes is the lack of specificity within programmes. Take, for example, a subject like procurement. Procurement is very much an umbrella term which incorporates all kinds of critical business functions such as contract management, supplier relationships, and tender processes. It is not a subject that a professional can be adequately coached in with a series of short, general sessions.
To truly develop your workforce and imbue them with the knowledge and skills needed to make a difference to the organisation’s bottom line, subjects must be appropriately fragmented. A general approach to multi-faceted and complex subjects might reduce the number of sessions, but it will also overwhelm and frustrate the recipient.
Ongoing coaching and mentoring
A standard mistake when organising programmes of coaching and mentoring is sticking an end date on the curriculum. Without meaning to, end dates connote that by that point, recipients of the coaching will have the adequate knowledge to perform satisfactorily. Any professional knows how nonsensical this is.
The most comprehensive and intimate coaching programmes can never give a recipient everything they need. That’s why coaching and mentoring should be an organic, long-term process that doesn’t just come to an end on a set time and date.
Developing leadership skills
In a recent study by American online recruitment and careers advice company, CareerBuilder.com, it was revealed that an alarming 58% of managers claimed to have never received any management training. Reflect on that for a moment. It means that the majority of the managers they surveyed, currently occupying management positions, were promoted because they performed well at what they did, not necessarily because they were any good at making the people around them better. It’s a statistic which exposes a worrying reality. If the findings of CareerBuilder.com mirror what is happening in the UK, the bulk of our business leaders aren’t trained on how to lead.
Good leadership can make or break a company. Even non-football fans will have picked up on the change of fortunes of Manchester United since the departure of Alex Ferguson, a recognised outstanding manager. Indeed, they are yet to be crowned champions since his resignation in 2013. Coaching and mentoring then must not simply focus on how tasks can be performed more efficiently, but how on how junior members of staff can have their own potential unlocked and nurtured.
Influencing strategic thinking
By its most basic definition, strategic thinking refers to the process by which a series of decisions are made regarding the actions a company takes to achieve success.
Usually, companies go through a strategic planning process annually, creating a document that is, in essence, a guidebook for management to use for the upcoming year. Strategic thinking should be an ongoing, year-round process and at the heart of it is the ability to anticipate major shifts in the competitive marketplace and identify emerging opportunities.
It’s an ability that many managers require support with, mainly because strategic thinking involves a working knowledge of an array of issues, time management, dealing with limited resources, currency fluctuations, and the supplier landscape to name just a few of a seemingly endless list.
By coaching and mentoring managers in the art of strategic thinking, a company can not only begin to cope in hostile environments, it can flourish.