By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The old way of being a manager is over. No longer can managers drop orders from their place of position and expect people to obey. Command and control methods of leading teams can no longer ensure highly motivated and productive teams and are not conducive to employee engagement as well. 

Organizations also have experienced a structural shift in the way work is conducted owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world of work embraced remote work and is now moving towards a hybrid environment, we are looking down the barrel of a long-term shift on how managers keep their teams performing optimally.

This shift has also made the manager and employee relationship asynchronous. With managers getting lesser visibility into the everyday activities of their team members, the role of the managers must shift from being directive and outcome-driven to being more pastoral and collaborative. 

The Motivation Crisis 

Along with all sorts of crises, the pandemic also brought in the motivation crisis at work. 

Recent research revealed that 44% of employees were struggling at working because of a lack of motivation. A lack of communication or connection with others impacted 21% and had a direct impact on their performance and productivity. 

While the early days of the pandemic were spent in figuring out how to keep the lights on, the attention now needs to turn towards identifying ways to help employees remain invested and motivated at work and connected with the organization. The role of the manager is of critical importance here since they are the bridges connecting the organization with the employee. 

The Technology Acceleration

Organizations invested in technology to monitor employees during the pandemic to accommodate the shifts that emerged because of the pandemic. Digital solutions made it easier to collaborate while scheduling software, AI-enabled auditing tools, and automation were leveraged to deliver enablement at work in a location-agnostic manner. 

The acceptance of technology and the pace of technology development has accelerated rapidly. With this acceleration, organizations are becoming more open to automating traditional tasks such as assigning work or nudging productivity…tasks that were historically done by managers.

Shifting Employee Expectations 

Employees expect their managers to help them with their workplace activities. But, they also want to know that their managers are available to provide the support needed to have an elevated life experience, not just employee experience, since work and life are now seamlessly integrated.

The Culture of Empathy 

Building empathy in managers is also becoming an organizational prerogative as it is now considered ‘the’ skill needed to lead successfully in the new work environment. However, according to a 2021 Gartner survey of 4,787 global employees assessing the evolving role of management, only 47% of managers were ready to lead with empathy.

Leading with empathy in the hybrid workplace also becomes an essential managerial trait as it helps managers contextualize performance better. Empathy helps managers transcend understanding and helps them walk in the shoes of their team members. With empathy, managers can build high-performing, engaged, and inclusive teams – something that is the need of the hour. 

The Evolution of Managers

The role of managers has evolved and involves more than just winning the numbers game and managing workflows. This new work environment demands evolved managers whose primary role is that of an enabler. Both new and experienced managers need to bring about a strategic shift in the way they manage people, lead with empathy, and build trust bridges across the organization. 

Experienced managers need to now understand and identify new ways to connect and effectively communicate with their team members, identify their needs proactively and help them progress along their career paths. They need to become the enablers of productivity, rather than be the keepers of productivity. They have to help their team members remain on the path of growth by enabling contextual coaching and helping them build a network in the virtual environment. At the same time, they also must enable the same for themselves. Experienced managers need to proactively identify their critical skill gaps and work on closing them.

New managers need help to settle into their new roles. It can be infinitely hard to build networks and connections in a virtual environment. Along with this, many new managers need a little hand-holding to manage responsibilities such as developing people, creating accountability, driving execution, and applying their EQ to lead with empathy. 

Additionally, both new and experienced managers need to develop individual and team resilience to contribute towards building organizational resilience. 

 

The Road Ahead

Organizations realize that the training and development needs of their managers have evolved. Just like how organizations accommodated the shift from the physical to the virtual, they need to accommodate the shift their learning and development programs offer. 

Along with formal training sessions, organizations need to equip managers with informal learning networks to help them seek guidance and help proactively. Peer coaching emerges as a valuable tool to bring about a step-change in manager development and helps managers mold winning behaviors and mindsets that drive better outcomes. 

Peer coaching helps managers achieve their goals by establishing rapport, identifying goals and the gaps that impede achieving this goal. Peer coaching is highly contextual and is an informal and non-judgmental space, which makes it more effective in driving behavioral change by reinforcing learning. 

Both new and experienced managers need peer coaching to succeed in today’s digitally transformed work paradigm. Only with peer coaching managers will be able to navigate the evolved demands of their job roles, learn new skills and imbibe a growth mindset. It helps them become more adaptive and iterative towards success, both of their teams and their own. 

With peer coaching, managers stay on the path of continuous learning. They get to move away from the traditional command and control form of leadership towards identifying their unique styles by building their self-awareness. 

In today’s competitive business environment organizations have to ensure that their new and experienced managers have the tools they need to succeed in the workplace and help others succeed as well. Peer coaching adopts a human-centric learning path that contributes to a culture of continuous learning by addressing their individual needs with clarity and context. Better manager performance, highly motivated teams, and engaged employees emerge as consequences of these actions.

Connect with us to learn how our AI-powered coaching platform can transform your learning and development initiatives and build a thriving peer coaching network within your organization to drive continuous learning. 

By Ashley Henderson, Guest

The numbers don’t lie—employee peer coaching is in demand and is very good for business. CNBC reported that a LinkedIn’s study found that 94% of employees will stay longer at a company invested in their learning. Meanwhile, millennial and Gen Z workers—who are steadily populating the workforce—have said that engagement with leadership is an important factor for their longevity and productivity. But despite all this, companies have not always encouraged leaders to transcend into coaches.

Only in the last decade have companies begun to see employee peer coaching as an investment rather than an option. LinkedIn also reported that over 82% of professionals now say that their bosses support employee engagement and upskilling. However, the real benefit of peer coaching is not just its ability to increase company profit.

When properly rolled out, peer coaching can create lasting paradigm shifts that will better the company, the culture, and the employee personally. But just how can this be done?

1. Identify Pain Points

Even the most professional worker cannot help but carry some personal baggage every so often. If an employee is experiencing personal issues, purely professional and objective advice will only provide them a bandage solution. Through peer coaching, you can work together to identify specific pain points that may be hindering progress.

For example, if a single father is struggling to meet the quota, it is better to coach him on how to schedule his day rather than provide short-term solutions. Not only will this get him back on track, but it will also help him keep these good habits going in the long-term. Keep a macro-awareness of how everything plays into each other. Depending on your relationship, you could set up team goals (that include numerical and behavioral) or you could meet one-on-one to do this.

2. Break Unconscious Biases

Unfortunately, generations of ingrained biases affect how we look at ourselves and others. In the workplace, this is often seen in the form of sexism and racism. In fact, in our ‘Workplace Racial Bias is Real’ post, Shalini Ramakrishnan notes that 42% of American employees have experienced racism.

She also states that racial biases are impossible to change through outright admonishments—especially if they’re subtle microaggressions and microinvalidations. Instead, by providing holistic understanding, employees are better able to grasp the need for acceptance and respect at the most fundamental level of thought. Through effective peer coaching techniques, employees  can be approached in a personalized and contextual way that is sustainable too.

3. Develop a Growth Mindset

Marcus article on developing resilience states that trying times can be a way to develop a growth mindset. This mindset allows you to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than problems waiting to be solved. A growth mindset can also promote positivity, patience, and happiness that can lead to a 31% increase in productivity.

Coaching your employees to believe in their abilities, while also making sure to acknowledge hard work is one way to develop their growth mindset. There is a fine line between nitpicking and honing. Constantly pointing out an employee’s “difficulties” can lead to disengagement and demotivation. Instead, approach them from a place of improvement and trust. Show them that their “weaker” attributes are works-in-progress. This is a prime chance to re-angle their outlook and help provide insightful feedback through peer coaching.

4. Foster Regular Dialogue

Effective peer coaching should have a constant flow of communication between everyone involved. This not only establishes a clearer baseline for training programs, but it also instills a sense of accountability and recognition that employees thrive off. In fact, an entry from Medium on employee recognition states that 82% of employees prefer getting recognition over other incentives. When employees feel valued and recognized, they are more likely to be effective and loyal workers who are inspired to pass on this mindset to others. This type of coaching helps promote a team, rather than solo, approach to problem-solving and productivity.

The biggest mistake that many employers make is to put behavioral training behind hard skills. But this old-school approach only widens the skills gap and creates an impersonal environment that can dampen even the hardest worker. This is because a small company in the US can lose up to $3 million a year due to disengagement. While the pandemic has pushed many companies to cut corners, the investment into proper employee peer coaching should not be one of them.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

The disruption introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic continues well into 2021. 

Organizations have to retool to navigate this new world of work and need to identify what makes their employees tick. While most staff are working remotely, some are working on-premises while following the government guidelines and mandates of social distancing and lower occupancy. The days of relying on water cooler conversation to drive ideas exchange, innovation, or even camaraderie seem to be behind us. 

The Hybrid Workplace Needs Peer Coaching

Given the tectonic shifts in the workplace, HR teams and organizational leadership have to adopt a more strategic and creative approach to ensure the holistic development of their people resources and help them remain relevant, efficient, and productive in the new era of work. 

This hybrid work environment has been a struggle for most organizations. The lack of conversations for early-career employees, the change in managerial strategies to manage remote teams, the networking challenges for new managers in this remote setup, and the leadership crisis are some battles that need winning. 

On the organizational side, 

  • There is the task to build and support diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Help employees stay aligned with organizational purpose
  • Prevent burnout 
  • Provide a platform to help employees build professional relationships and skills critical for survival and advancement 
  • Then there is the resilience chasm to bridge by building trust bridges, closing the skills gaps, and delivering enablement at work.

All this and more can be achieved with Peer Coaching, a great management strategy that improves motivation and patience, closes the skills gap, and builds organizational resilience. 

However, not all peer coaching programs are created equal. Here are a few strategies to adopt to make sure that your peer coaching programs are effective as they are efficient and help in building a culture of continuous learning within the organization.

Confidentiality is crucial 

While peer coaching is an informal coaching approach, it needs to establish the same level of confidentiality as formal coaching. In peer coaching the coach and the learner work together to reflect upon existing practices and identify ways to expand, improve and build new skills. It involves sharing ideas and impressions, reflections, and attitudes and adopts a holistic attitude towards employee development. 

Peer coaching exposes employees to a bigger range of workplace skills and disseminates knowledge, skills, and competencies by dialogue and observation as well. However, the learner here needs to be assured that her queries and areas of improvement, thoughts, and beliefs, and communication remain confidential and free from judgment. 

By establishing a confidential process and defining the rules of engagement for both parties, the coach and the learner, peer coaching programs eliminate the fear of judgment, help in building trust bridges, and ensure that the initiative is effective and efficient. 

Personalization should be a priority 

In the age of personalization, why should peer coaching lag behind? Coaching outcomes can only be successful when they are contextual to the learner. Only by establishing context can organizations expect better coaching outcomes – it is only by understanding why change is needed that change is executed

Data-backed assessments help organizations identify the exact coaching needs of employees and help them connect with peer coaches who can help them plug these holes that impact performance and growth. 

Using tests such as 16-personality factor assessment or behavioral analysis tests, peer coaching can take a more data-driven approach and establish context with the learner. With data, it also becomes easier to personalize the learning plan and ensure the best learning outcomes. 

Assessment-based learning

While peer coaching is a great tool that allows employees to validate, activate, and accrue knowledge, it is essential to remember that we can only manage what we can measure. 

Just like organizations need data to drive contextual and personalized peer coaching programs, they need data to understand the effectiveness and improvement areas of these programs. As such peer coaching programs also need to have an assessment-based model. Making peer coaching assessment-based provides the data needed to evaluate the learning curve and understand the depth of knowledge gained versus the gaps.

Feedback-driven 

Processes to provide honest, clear, and timely feedback are also necessary to design effective and outcome-driven peer coaching programs. As such, while the program follows an informal and conversational format, feedback for the same cannot be so. 

Peer coaching programs are effective since they are known to drive behavioral change. Behavioral change only takes place when there is a constant reiteration and targeted and timely information. Providing real-time feedback and having established two-way feedback mechanisms hence becomes essential to drive the success of peer coaching programs. 

Driving Trackability 

Tying in with the mantra ‘you can only manage what you can measure’, is the need to make peer coaching trackable as other learning and development initiatives. Having the systems in place to gain deep and actionable insights from skill and attrition dashboards and performance management analytics provides the data to measure the success of these programs. 

These analytics can then be used to identify existing and emerging needs of the workforce, close existing gaps in the coaching, evaluate ways to make the coaching program more effective, and design steps to close the learning gaps. It also makes sure that this activity helps in cultivating trust and long-term relationships with employees, increases employee job satisfaction, improves employee engagement, and lowers employee attrition rates. 

Peer coaching gives employees a platform to address their challenges, stresses, fears, and hopes, and provides support to their vulnerability. In today’s context, this becomes essential as the conversation around work from home burnout increases as does the need to drive diversity and inclusion strategies. Peer coaching helps employees unlock their potential to maximize their own performance by helping them learn rather than by teaching them. 

The transition to this new world of work has been tough on many. To make it smooth, organizations are looking towards reorganizing their priorities, workforce strategies & re-mapping the skill requirements to match the demands of the hybrid future. Success in this new world of work demands that we work towards fundamentally improving how people work, wherever they are. And peer coaching is the silver bullet that makes this happen.

Connect with our team of experts to design peer coaching programs that drive organizational resilience and success. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Research shows that those organizations that establish a culture of continuous learning are 46% more likely to be first to market, experience 37% higher productivity, and are 92% more likely to innovate. Given the increasing competition and rising disruption owing to technological developments as well as changes brought about by the pandemic, learning has to extend beyond technical skills and over to critical skills as well. 

For organizations to succeed and emerge from the impact of the pandemic, it is essential to create an environment that supports an open mindset, encourages an independent quest for knowledge, and helps people develop shared purpose – irrespective of whether they are working in-premise, working remotely, or using a hybrid work model. 

While organizations are supposed to provide formal learning opportunities, peer coaching. when encouraged across the organization can be immensely helpful to drive this cultural transformation where learning becomes a part of the organizational DNA. 

This is an important point of consideration mainly because culture shifts happen only when people own and drive the learning process. Peer coaching facilitates continuous learning and helps organizations boost employee engagement and experience, drive performance, reduce work-from-home burnout, and develop a healthy leadership pipeline. 

However, taking the right approach to peer coaching determines the likelihood of its success. Having a people-first and a data-driven approach are essential for this. 

‘People-first’ or fail 

Peer coaching has to be, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ 

It is perhaps the most democratized form of coaching and, hence, it experiences a high success rate. This is also because people change or become accepting towards change and growth when it is not forced, is relevant and contextual to their narrative, and is proactive. Since people are creatures of habit, change only takes place when certain actions are reaffirmed regularly. Constant reaffirmation of learnings becomes critical towards driving the behavioral changes needed to bring about a shift in actions. 

But what does a ‘people-first’ approach entail?

Different people, different needs

Not all employees are the same and neither are their coaching needs. As an organization to create a coaching culture to drive continuous learning, it is imperative to identify the exact learning needs of the people. Not all your employees need to improve their communication skills. Not all need coaching on strategic thinking. Get the drift? 

To develop a successful peer coaching program, it thus is essential to identify the different needs of the people at work and pair them with the right coaches and help them achieve their goals. Peer coaching programs have to recognize the different needs of people and capably serve only what is relevant and contextual to individual needs. A new recruit, for example, will have different coaching needs than the seasoned employee. 

Driving contextual peer coaching is important also because now we have more demographic diversity in the workforce than ever before. With Gen Z and millennials overtaking Gen X and baby boomers, accounting for their learning and development needs becomes imperative to drive employee engagement. 

Account for the manager’s ecosystem 

We were delivered to the Future of Work as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. There has been immense pressure on managers to ensure their teams remain high-performing, motivated, and productive. They have had to rework their management strategies to drive remote work while ensuring that the trust barometer and the engagement index remain unaltered. 

For new managers, the challenge has been to build trust bridges without getting the opportunity to leverage everyday physical interactions. And along with this, they have to achieve and deliver everything that the seasoned manager is delivering. 

Peer coaching can address the challenges, both every day and unique, to these managers and give them the tools to lead their teams and themselves efficiently. With constant dialogue, action is more proactive than reactive, building trust bridges with teams (especially remote teams) becomes easier, and decision-making is more confident. Peer coaching also helps new managers immensely as it helps them build their network and make the right connections essential for navigating the organization.  

Diversity and inclusion 

A ‘people-first’ approach also amplifies the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the organization. Today, a serious attitude towards diversity and inclusion is not just important for social value and perception, it is essential for profitability too. 

Peer coaching presents the perfect solution to assist diversity and inclusion initiatives as it helps people recognize both conscious and unconscious bias and helps them understand how their actions impact those unlike them. Since peer coaching is a continuous process, it can bring about the shift in behaviors that drive the change in actions. 

With peer coaching, those falling under the diversity and inclusion umbrella also get a fair chance to overcome their fears and perceived notions that impede success. Having a thriving peer coaching environment helps these people develop the networks and bridges they need to navigate their careers successfully without fear or judgment. 

Data-driven peer coaching – what is that?

The ‘gut feel’ and ‘intuition’ are two highly romanticized words in modern life. We hear geniuses of our generation like Einstein saying “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift”. We have Steve Jobs propounding “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition; they somehow already know what you want to become.” In this romanticizing, we tend to forget that intuition can be and is a very valuable ‘tool’. But it would be a mistake to base decisions on intuition or gut alone. 

Things are no different for peer coaching. A successful peer coaching program will be based on data and will try and leverage data wherever it can be employed for better decision-making and improved outcomes. 

But how can we apply a data-driven mindset to peer coaching?

Data to identify the coaching needs 

Identifying what needs to change comes before how it needs to change. Instead of jumping on the next coaching trend, develop the capacity to exactly identify the learning needs of the employees, especially for critical skills like strategic thinking, leadership, communication, etc. 

A people-first approach has to thus be complemented with a data-driven approach to drive contextual and relevant peer coaching programs. Data-backed assessments like Behavioral Assessment tests or 16-Personality Factor Assessments provide accurate insights on the exact learning needs of the employees. This data-backed approach thereby contributes towards creating relevant, contextual, and consequently, successful coaching programs. 

Tracking program impact 

You can only manage what you can measure. Coaching initiatives are no different. 

How can organizations understand the impact of their coaching programs and understand their effectiveness if they do not have access to granular data on the same? How can they assess if their initiatives are bringing about the shift in behaviors that they want? How can they identify if the organizational skill sets have expanded as desired? 

The answer to these and other such associated questions lies in data. Thus, it becomes essential to have the right tracking mechanisms in place. Using an AI-enabled coaching platform, organizations can capture feedback, track the impact of the peer coaching program by measuring the change brought about in organizational skill sets, and improve program structures when needed. 

Data to drive organizational resilience  

A data-driven peer coaching program becomes the enabler of continuous learning in an organization. Using data and technologies such as AI, a peer coaching platform can help people remain on the path of continuous learning. 

AI-powered nudges delivered at the right time can help people proactively identify their learning needs and keep them on the path of continuous learning. This approach also builds organizational resilience as when learning becomes proactive and continuous, people are more prepared to handle and manage change and disruption. All of this contributes towards employee resilience which contributes towards organizational resilience. 

While culture change starts at the top, you know your organization has made a successful transition towards the culture of continuous learning when employees drive their independent quests for knowledge. This will only happen when organizations make it easier for people to connect with the right resources who can help them without judgment, and help them eliminate their reservations against feedback, and provide growth opportunities. Having a thriving peer coaching network within the organization makes this a reality. 

Connect with us to know how NumlyEngage™ can help your organization develop a culture of continuous learning and drive organizational resilience by taking the people-first and data-driven approach. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Human beings, by our very nature, are cooperative individuals. We also constantly strive to become the best versions of ourselves. When you combine these two traits, it’s easy to see why a concept like peer coaching is beneficial for so many people. It gives co-workers a chance to work together towards self-development. This makes it a good foundation for many productive business processes. 

Let’s explore the top reasons why now is the right time for organizations to adopt peer coaching:

 

Peer coaching combats a lack of trust in peers outside the function and/or an over-reliance on familiar faces

We, humans, are susceptible to a phenomenon called tribalism. Simply put, this is what creates that strong feeling of loyalty towards one’s tribe or social group. While this is useful for building bonds within one’s function, this is also what creates distrust or feelings of unease towards those we feel are not a part of our tribe or group. Since peer coaching brings individuals from different functions together, it helps eliminate this tribalism within the company. It helps foster trust and bonhomie amongst different processes. 

Peer coaching co-creates shared goals and priorities and reinforces them with metrics and accountability

Making a time-bound schedule with goals for oneself is easy, but when you have a partner co-creating one with you – more reliability gets added to the mix. While it’s true that there are many people out there who can be accountable to themselves, most others would prefer a partner to keep them in check. Peer coaching is exactly that – it’s a way to have someone you trust to help you reach your goals, without compromising on your normal daily work. 

Peer coaching helps create forums that build competence and interpersonal trust that establish the value of group goals

Do you know what a trust fall is? It’s a game that many children play as well, albeit the trust-building benefits may not be their motivation. A trust fall is when a person deliberately falls, believing someone from their group will catch them. Similarly, one’s peer coaching partner is expected to catch them when they fall off their schedule or goals. Now, can your partner catch you if they don’t know the rules of the exercise? The trust fall has the same end, no matter who plays it. That’s why one would prefer a partner who has experienced a structured peer coaching session before to help guide them. Peer coaching creates a platform where all the different partners or groups can create peer-coaching goals, both personal and organizational, along with rules and guidelines.

Peer coaching helps break down employee clusters of like-minded teammates

Another tendency of ours is to build an echo chamber around us. This is when everyone just agrees with each other when a conflicting or difficult matter is being discussed. In an echo chamber, everyone has the same opinions. While it is comforting and helps avoid conflict, it’s toxic behavior that hampers growth. This leads to group-think and even groupism, which can lead to creative rot. If no one is challenging each other, then why would anyone push for innovation? Peer coaching helps diversify such groups.

Peer coaching combats distrust or competition amongst team members

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that competition is useful up to a certain point, but cooperation is what we must strive for today. What he meant was that competition, while an agent of action in many, has destructive tendencies. Especially when it’s between members of the same team. But peer coaching fosters understanding and builds mutual goals. This creates a cooperative and collaborative environment, which creates trust and promotes healthy and creative work.

Peer coaching helps teams focus on outcomes from a customer and stakeholder perspective

As peer coaching involves more than one person, it’s easier for those involved to start thinking from outside their perspective. This helps in considering situations from the POV of a customer or even an internal stakeholder. This is because the team goals that are created are ultimately beneficial for the company’s most important relationships. Every action becomes more meaningful and has the interests of the customer in mind.

Peer coaching helps everyone to get transparent about workloads and competing priorities collectively

Sometimes, it’s tough to stay on routine but employees feel obligated to put their best face forward. This can lead to creating unrealistic goals for themselves or being dishonest about how much they’ve completed. As peer coaching creates a safe space, it’s much easier for employees to be honest about their workload. They can then create a new schedule to reach their goals. This is much better than waiting for everything to snowball at the last minute and doing substandard work.

Peer coaching helps reconfigure, re-optimize your pitfalls, strengths, and spikes in the workforce behavior and skill landscape

The best part of this process is the feedback loop. This is what encourages honest feedback and constructive comments from one employee to another. It helps refine plans and ideas, as well as skill sets and choice of tools. Peer coaching keeps each process fresh and constantly updating itself, thus ensuring no team is left with outdated skills or plans that simply don’t grow along with changing situations. This also helps create a safe space to evaluate and grow from failures.

Peer coaching helps craft tangible “measures of success” and quantified impact across your Learning and Development budgets

This process requires interactions and actions whose success and effectiveness are measured by benchmarks. The success or failure of these can be viewed by those responsible for creating learning and development programs. This is much better than paying exorbitant amounts on sessions and coaches who may not have any impact whatsoever. It’s more reliable as it’s been tried and tested. It’s also easier to break down the processes and assign a cost of training to each section.

Peer coaching helps combat the lack of norms/policies to guide WFH/remote work

Although WFH/remote working isn’t a new practice, many companies are unprepared for a framework to help navigate through this structure. But peer coaching creates an environment where norms and policies can be created collaboratively. This is because those on the same team will be in constant touch with each other. They will share the challenges they’re facing and brainstorm a possible solution together. Collaboration such as this will help create the foundation for a formal framework.

These are the reasons why it’s time to embrace peer coaching in your working place. Get in touch with us and take this step to make your office a more collaborative place.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Everyone needs an ally. Be it in your personal life or the professional space, having allies always makes the job easier. But who is an ally? An ally is a person who takes on another’s struggle as their own. They stand up for you even when you don’t. An ally is a person committed to progress, one who proactively shares growth opportunities, identifies and mitigates micro-inequalities, and transfers the benefit of privilege to those who don’t have it. 

Having a workforce that functions as allies of each other automatically helps in building and strengthening a culture of trust and mutual respect within the organization.

Why allyship matters

We need to talk about allyship as diversity and inclusion and organizational resilience have become important topics of conversation. 

The concept of allyship figures quite strongly to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Allyship can fuel diversity and inclusion initiatives as allies bring attention to those unheard voices that struggle to be heard. The concept of allyship is about using individual power and privilege to elevate co-workers, team members, and colleagues and move towards a more inclusive and diverse workplace that is well aware of all bias – both conscious and unconscious.

While all this is true, research shows that while more than 80% of white women and men see themselves as allies to colleagues of other races and ethnicities, less than 50% of Blacks and Latinas feel that they have strong allies at work. If diversity and inclusion initiatives are at work then we need to be concerned about this startling gap.

Building allyship should matter to organizations today because 

  • Elements like diversity and inclusion have a crucial influence on the narrative of the workforce. With millennials and Gen Z making up a majority of the workforce, organizations need to wake up to the fact that this generation wants more than lip service to diversity and inclusion initiatives. 
  • It is vital for the inclusion of other groups as well such as those with disabilities, or mental health challenges. This aspect becomes all the more crucial as people across the world battle mental health issues with rising concerns over work from home burnout.
  • TAs we battle challenging times, organizations also realize that they need to build resilience into their DNA. Allyship can be a great driver of resilience as it helps in building trusted relationships between peers and helps them connect and care for each other. 
  • Employees and customers are both looking at organizations to become the beacons of equality and inclusion. They will not hesitate to vote with their feet if they feel that organizational values do not match their own. 

Allyship needs coaching

To build allyship, words of intent have to turn into powerful actions. 

However, words translate into action only when we truly understand the intent behind investing time in supporting and lifting others. It is consistent personal actions that work towards building an inclusive environment. If we look closely, developing allyship is about building an understanding of how systemic bias and social conditioning have influenced our belief systems and behaviors. 

Coaching can be a powerful tool to navigate the challenges that impede building allyship within the organization and help the workforce embrace the new concept and drive the necessary mind shifts to build a shared purpose towards diversity and inclusion.

Coaching works to build allyship primarily because it is:

  • Contextual and personalized  

Change only happens when people truly want to change. And people only want to change when they understand why they need to change.

For example, coaching helps people understand the underlying gaps in conditioning and how this conditioning impacts bias. Most people are unaware of their bias and need to understand how this bias affects others at work and the organizational culture. Building the understanding and context about how those different from us are not lesser than us demands a change in thoughts and learned behaviors. 

Through positive and continuous interactions, coaching establishes the context that people need to bring a shift in their behaviors. It thereby contributes towards building allyship across the enterprise.

Unlike day-long training programs aimed at improving diversity and inclusion, coaching can be highly personalized. It is targeted and specific to the challenges of an individual and helps in building the critical skills needed to build allyship.

  • Continuous 

You get a bunch of people in a room and talk to them about the importance of allyship and the benefits removing bias brings to them as individuals and to an organization. This group is greatly enthused with the talk. However, once this day-long session is over and the initial enthusiasm wears off, people go back to their old patterns.

People are creatures of habit. And changing any habit takes time and effort. The thing is, when it comes to behavioral change, this effort has to be continuous. One has to be mindful at all times to truly internalize the impact of their actions and gain the confidence to challenge behaviors that impede allyship.

Coaching is a continuous exercise. Unlike training programs, the relationship between the coach and the learner is grounded in trust and feedback. It is a non-directive method that involves inquiry and care and works with compassion and helps people understand that all beliefs are ultimately malleable. 

  • Aids growth 

Elements that impact diversity and inclusion such as unconscious bias demand that we continuously challenge ourselves and our peers to aid growth and learning. This is a process that has to be on the path of continuous evolution as well. 

The objective for developing allyship across the organization is to build the workforce such that every individual can develop the critical skills needed to become agents of change. Research shows that when we are made more aware of our behaviors, we are more likely to support issues like diversity.  

Coaching helps in building this awareness amongst people that aid intellectual growth. It keeps the right conversations going to support advocacy for issues like diversity and inclusion and traits that build resilience.

  • Builds Trust 

All employees want to feel like valued members of the organization. That is why most employee engagement initiatives focus on creating a sense of belonging, community, and connection at work. It is especially important for leaders and managers to actively demonstrate helpful and positive behaviors that build trust. 

Not giving employees a voice or being selective about it, lacking listening skills, command and control leadership, etc. are all signs of non-inclusive and untrusting behaviors. Coaching helps people identify the right behaviors that build trust and brings awareness towards behaviors and microaggressions that impede allyship. 

We have moved towards a hybrid work environment. With a certain section working remotely, it becomes all the more important to lead responsibly and help employees feel valued and trusted. Since coaching is a highly accountable process, it helps in bringing about the required change in actions and thoughts that contribute to increasing the trust quotient across the organization. 

In Conclusion 

Plato said, “Reality is created by the mind. We can change our reality by changing our minds”. For a long time, organizations have leveraged the ‘command-control’ strategy to drive productivity and profitability. But with the evolution of time and intellect, people no longer respond to these strategies. As the business landscape becomes more complex and challenging, and as workforce demographics change, organizations have to shift their workforce management strategies. Allyship is that tool that can help the workforce connect in meaningful ways and bring about real change in mindsets and behaviors. 

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can help you develop allyship in your workplace.