By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic broke through the technological and cultural barriers that prevented remote working and Work From Home in the past and has introduced a structural shift in where work happens. With social-distancing, quarantines, and even self-isolation pushing tens of thousands of people to work from home, the pandemic simply accelerated the workplace experiment that previously struggled to gain traction.

The benefits and challenges of remote working became clearer once we went deep into the pandemic. The learnings are quite clear – while office-based collaboration continues to remain important, it is becoming increasingly clear that remote work is here to stay. A recent Gartner poll revealed that 90% of HR leaders concur that employees would be allowed to work remotely even after COVID vaccines are available. While employees might have settled into this remote work setup and organizations have made extensive sets of technology and collaborative tools available, the workforce needs more support from the organization. 

Now, as people return to work gradually as economies reopen, we see hybrid models of remote work gaining traction.

However, there are some challenges that come with this remote setup. Research shows:  

  • Mental wellbeing is a concern with work-from-home burnout becoming a tangible reality. This makes emotional support and enablement at work valuable
  • Employees are concerned about work-life balance and productivity
  • Employees need more help with productivity and engagement
  • Employee experience surveys are dated, and employees want more open conversations to address their specific (new) needs
  • There is an explosive demand for online learning as employees look for resources to settle and succeed in the new normal

A closer look shows that these issues and challenges have a direct impact on employee engagement. Along with technology tools to bolster collaboration, it also becomes imperative that organizations have new-age coaching strategies in place to enable the employees to help them stay engaged and productive. 

Here are a few areas that organizations should focus on while revamping their coaching strategies:

Identify and alleviate work-from-home burnout

Research supports the fact that employee burnout levels in 2020 have remained consistently high, with 69% of the workforce experiencing burnout symptoms. Stress, financial anxiety, and the ‘living at work’ feeling are the most obvious contributors. Anxiety regarding career paths and growth trajectories, feelings of isolation, difficulties in communication, lack of visibility, or video fatigue (yes, those incessant zoom calls can be exhausting) have all contributed to employee burnout.

Concerns regarding perception in a world that promotes ‘survival of the fittest’ go against mental wellbeing and contribute heavily towards burnout. Organizations thus need to have the right tools in place to identify concerns that lead to burning out.

Coaching can play a pivotal role to help employees manage their work and help them develop a new vocabulary fit for this remote world of work. With coaching, employees can internalize the new rules of engagement and learn how to be visible, impactful, focused, and energetic.

Coach to drive work-life-balance

Work-life balance has taken a big hit owing to the pandemic. Most employees across organizations are struggling to establish boundaries between work and their personal lives. While work-from-home might have offered a break from the commute, office environments, and regular daily routines, it has completely dismissed the mental break needed from work and technology.

A barrage of video meetings, constant ping of the email, excessive screen time, and a less than optimal work environment can significantly increase stress and burnout levels. 

Coaching can be the antidote to burnout as coach-learner relationships are open and continuous in nature. The coach can help the learner identify their stress triggers, issues that impact work-life balance, and help them respond to these with clarity.

Coaching managers and leadership also drive work-life balance as it helps the leadership understand the challenges faced by the workforce better. Managers and leaders need to revamp their management strategies and make them fit this new world of work. Coaching can help managers and leaders build greater empathy and help them understand employee challenges and concerns. Armed with the right information, they can then build communication and collaboration strategies and help their workforce manage and maintain work-life- balance.

Read: Want to Create A Pipeline of Leaders? Train Managers to Become Better Coaches

Organizational coaches need coaching

Organizations not only have to focus on coaching their employees, but they also have to put in equal efforts to coach their coaches. With so much change disrupting the world of work, organizations have to evaluate their training and coaching strategies and give their coaches the right tools and information to build better engagement with the learners.

Read: How to Coach to Create Better Coaches

It is also important that organizations identify internal coaches from their workforce – people who have the qualities to hold space, exchange information, motivate and encourage peers and team members.

However, to get tangible results from this, organizations need to employ powerful AI-driven coaching platforms that make the right coach-learner pairing. It is equally important to identify behavioral and personality traits using behavior analysis or 16-personality factor assessment tests to identify potential coaches and their learning gaps to help them move along this path fruitfully.

The organization has changed – Establish a coaching culture

2021 is the year of strategic importance as organizations focus singularly to improve business outcomes. At the same time, business transformation, operational excellence, and skill development are essential to focus areas. 

Given the quantum of change and disruption, establishing an internal coaching culture becomes imperative to manage disruption and ease change management. Establishing such a culture helps all – employees, managers, and leadership – meet and adapt to the new rules in the world of work.

Using AI-driven coaching platforms becomes essential to create such a culture since then organizations can deliver contextual and relevant coaching programs to their workforce. Relevance and context play in as critical contributors owing to the rise of the millennials and Gen Z in the workforce who are motivated by these factors.  

Build resilience

Organizational resilience is the capacity of an organization to anticipate, prepare, respond and adapt to sudden disruptions or incremental change.

Organizational resilience is directly linked to employee resilience. Enabling employees to identify robust growth plans, acknowledging and rewarding effort, and working towards delivering an enabling working environment contribute to resilience. Coaching also plays a critical role in driving resilience by helping employees identify and address factors that impact resilience.

Whether it is identifying avenues for technical skill development or critical skills like communication, empathy, collaboration, and others, coaching can play a pivotal role to enable the workforce and thereby drive resilience. Focusing on coaching to improve working relationships – between peers and managers also contributes to organizational resilience as it helps in building trust. Trust not only drives resilience but also has a direct impact on employee engagement and drives employees to do more for the organization.

In Conclusion

Old school strategies no longer suffice in a new age world. Organizations have to internalize the fact that disruption and change will only increase. The only way to stay ahead of the curve in the face of uncertainty and change is to prepare the workforce and develop them such that they are future-ready with the right skills, both technical and critical, and can ably lead the organization to success.

Connect with us to evaluate how an AI-powered coaching platform can drive new-age coaching strategies, enhance coaching conversations, and deliver tangible results.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Organizations invest a lot in their employee engagement to keep them happy and productive at work. Adopting some of the fanciest technology solutions, setting up offices in hip locations, providing handsome perks, and lavish annual get-togethers…the list is veritably endless. 

While these elements have been lucrative draws, all or at least most, of these initiatives have been of no impact over the last year. What good was that fancy campus with no one to inhabit it? What good is that office cafeteria or game room when no one comes to it? 

The technology, yes, that has been an investment that has come of use in this age that we dwell in. Technology helped us stay connected, collaborative, efficient, and productive. As we leave 2020 behind us, we take with us great learning from it – that the world of work has changed in indelible ways, and it is time for organizations to re-evaluate what matters to their workforce.

Coaching – the best new year’s gift

2020 was the year of the unexpected…a year that compelled organizations to completely rethink and rework their business to adapt it to a global pandemic. While the embers of this disruption seem to settle a little, it is clear that disruption is going to be a trend in our lives for the foreseeable future. 

A painful lesson that the past year taught us was that even the best-laid plans can bite the dust and that the future might not unfold as we predict or want it to. 

Building organizational resilience becomes critical in this world of constant disruption, especially because the rules of engagement, of how you control and manage things and people, have changed.

When disruption reigns supreme, organizations need a new approach to do things, especially where people are concerned. In such uncertain and unpredictable times, a good people management model is not based on pre-existing guidelines or principles of accountability or even the driving cultural norms. 

It, instead, rests with coaching.

Coaching, in essence, is designed to accelerate the adoption of new competencies. 

The new world order, or should we call it chaos, demands a new approach. That apart, here are a few compelling reasons why employees need the gift of coaching now, more than ever.

The New Rules of Productivity and Collaboration

Organizations have to look at avenues to drive and cultivate collaboration given the new distributed and remote world of work. 

With no physical interaction and dynamics at play, employees need new tools to hone their critical skills that enable collaboration – critical thinking, communication, strategic thinking, ownership, accountability, empathy, and the like become essential skills for productivity and collaboration.

Sticking to yesterday’s playbook to drive collaboration is not going to work today. As the rules of the game change, employees need constant guidance and proactive feedback based on data-backed insights into their critical skills. With contextual, timely, and relevant guidance, they can ably navigate this complex world-of-work, where collaboration boosts innovation.

The added advantage of coaching is that employees can ask for help, address queries, get feedback, and determine solutions without fear or judgment.

Rise of the Gig Economy

The ‘gig economy’ has been on an incremental rise for some time now. 2020, perhaps gave it the push that it needed to transform into a serious trend that organizations across the world are accepting and using. The need for specialized and niche skills such as new-age digital skills are on an upswing. This is especially true as the world is more software-defined and remote working and distributed work environments are the new normal. These influencers have further legitimized the gig economy and accelerated its adoption.

Research shows that 81% of companies have used gig workers. 29.7% of the organizations used gig workers for project-based work. 24.4% hired freelance workers or independent contractors for work that did not need 8-hour work shifts and 26.5% employed them as substitutes to absent full-time workers. 

While the employment status of these gig workers remains challenged, organizations are often found wondering if these workers should be a part of their coaching plan or not? An E&Y study revealed that “52% of contingent workers don’t receive training from their employer”.

This gig economy trend is going to continue on its upward trajectory especially as the need for niche skills grows incrementally. And while organizations have to work out whether they treat these workers as ‘employees’ or ‘external resources’, taking into account their learning and growth needs and enabling them with the right coach will lead to engaged and well-utilized gig workers.

From Employee Engagement to Enablement

What’s the buzzword for 2021? EMPOWERMENT!!

  • Organizations now have to focus on creating individual and group behavioral transformation to drive business outcomes. 
  • Employees need coaching to scale performance blockers, remain engaged, and self-motivated. They need to build their future skills or upskill themselves to meet the business needs. 
  • New managers need empowerment with the right set of skills to manage this remote workforce. 
  • Old-time managers need to reset their beliefs and adopt new tools and strategies to manage the new dynamics of the workforce. 
  • Leadership training also has to change to help leaders adapt and drive positive organizational outcomes in an extremely challenging business environment. 

There is a lot of work at hand, clearly!

The cue to alleviate all these challenges and navigate them lies with coaching. Given its continuous nature, coaching effectively helps in bringing about the behavioral change needed to become more adaptable and agile. It also provides employees the right support and direction to enhance their performance by addressing the hurdles they face. Coaching enables the workforce by providing guided direction which brings clarity to thought and thereby drives enablement.   

Transform Change Management 

New ways of working and new types of interactions became normal in 2020. 

Managers were challenged to maintain the motivation and employee engagement levels of their team members and avoid Work from Home burnout. Leadership styles have had to adapt to meet the requirements of this new world order. Performance management and employee experience have reached an inflection point and are ushering in the age of HR 3.0.  

Coaching emerges as a central theme to help organizations, managers, leaders, and employees become more responsible and agile towards change. Leveraging contextual coaching organizations can enable better change management and help employees remain motivated and engaged. They can help managers become better coaches and drive leaders to become more empathetic without sacrificing innovation.

The new decade dawns amidst challenges and struggles. As such, organizations have to go back to the drawing board and evaluate how to improve the processes and workflows and fine-tune them to meet the needs of this new year. At the same time, they have to understand and identify new ways to take their team to victory. 

This journey becomes far more outcome-driven and productive with an effective coach on their side… guiding, teaching, and helping employees, managers and leaders navigate the challenges they face by providing frequent, contextual, and timely feedback. It also helps employees feel more connected to the workplace as coaching looks at employees as whole ‘people’ and not as drones carrying on everyday tasks mechanically with little thought. 

Coaching considers an individual’s inner game and helps them overcome all habits of the mind that inhibit performance. It creates strong bonds and connections that bring behavioral change that drive performance. 

It, hence, becomes an incredibly powerful tool to motivate and engage the millennial worker, the rising and the most dominant generation in our workforce presently.

Connect with us to understand how to create a robust internal coaching culture leveraging a powerful, AI-enabled coaching platform. Give your employee engagement and learning and development initiatives the jumpstart they need to sail through 2021.

From "Remote Boss" To "Virtual Leader" - How to Make the Transition

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Leadership is under fire. The rules that worked in the past seem broken as we move into a normal characterized by large scale remote working owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Leaders who thrived within the portals of traditional offices are having to navigate new territory. This unchartered territory of having to lead both virtually and remotely demands the emergence of a new leader – one who is no longer a ‘remote boss’ but is instead a ‘virtual leader’.

Read: How Has the Role of Leadership Changed with COVID-19?

Leadership during crisis 

When it comes to a crisis, most assume that what a leader must deliver is a robust response plan. While this is true, what happens when a crisis continues? 

We saw how COVID-19 upended the world of work, turned the economy upside down, and ballooned into a crisis of an unprecedented scale. In these times, instead of looking for predefined response plans, leaders need to develop their mindsets and behaviors that will help them look ahead and adapt. And while leaders might come under undue pressure from stakeholders and might need to come up with strategies to alleviate the financial implications of the pandemic, they need to focus on developing their empathy so that these pressures do not get placed on their employees. 

During crisis and uncertain times, compassion and empathy are two invaluable traits for leaders to develop since it is the job of the leader to placate the fears of their employees.

As the dust begins to settle on the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the workforce adapts to their remote work setting, leaders have to make sure that they not only ensure business continuity but also drive engagement and performance of their workforce. 

Leadership has to move from its traditional avatar where the leader was the boss. Consequently, leadership styles also have to move from the traditional direction-driven style and adopt a more guidance-driven approach – one that is focused on guiding employees to excel by enabling and facilitation. 

The biggest reset in the role of the leader is perhaps the shift from a ‘command and control’ approach to one that ‘inspires and coaches’. 

Leaders have to quickly adapt to new leadership styles to remain effective in this new world of work. Quite naturally this demands a shift from being the conventional and traditional boss to becoming leaders who enable and empower. 

Virtual leaders thus need to be more empathetic and greater at communicating with their employees. They need to capably guide, develop, empower, enable, and coach their teams to build authentic connections.

Leaders are now coaches

In the post-COVID world, leaders will not only have to give direction and purpose to the organization but have to also coach the employees to adapt to this new world of work. 

  • Coach to build shared purpose: Along with ensuring that the employees are achieving their goals, they have to assume the responsibility to drive employee wellbeing and drive a feeling of ‘shared purpose’. It is only when employees connect with the shared purpose that they become more invested in the organization’s growth story. And it is when employees resonate with this shared purpose that they put in discretionary effort – it is this effort that shows the quality of your employee engagement levels. 
  • Coach to develop the leadership pipeline: One of the key responsibilities of leaders is that of creating a robust leadership and succession pipeline. In the absence of physical connections, leaders also have to now become actively invested in coaching their employees to move further along their career paths. 

In this virtual setting, leaders have to also ensure that this pipeline is filled with the right candidates. In this new normal, leaders have to now leverage data to identify the right candidates to plug into the pipeline. While the high-performing employees do rank higher in the eligibility criteria, leaders have to dig deeper and assess if they have the skills to lead. Leveraging tests like 16-Personality Factor tests or behavioral skills assessments, leaders can gain insights into the skill gaps and give them the tools to navigate the chasm via coaching.

  • Coach to become self-motivated and action-oriented: In this virtual environment, leaders also have to coach employees to map expectations and outcomes. Helping employees to look at the big picture, understanding how they contribute to this picture and how they make a difference helps the employees remain motivated and connected with the organization. 

Unlike a physical office where news on the latest developments gets around easily, in remote environments, leaders have to help employees understand and manage their goals and expectations and help them become more action-oriented instead of instruction-driven.

  • Coach to drive agility and responsiveness to change: Leaders have to coach their teams to become more agile to change and drive adaptability as they settle into this new world of work. Empowering them with the right tools, technologies, platforms, and coaching resources will play an important role in driving engagement and consequent organizational success. They need to help employees devise ways to become more visible, help them drive impactful work, and ensure their career progression. 
  • Coach to make the workforce more independent: Leaders have to coach employees and team members to improve their planning and communication skills to ensure the right expectation setting. For this, helping remote workers identify the correct mechanisms to set the right deadlines, margins and expectations go a long way to make the workforce more independent in their work without resorting to micromanaging. Helping employees become better decision-makers gives them more autonomy in their work.

Leaders need coaching to coach right 

Even a cursory glance at the above makes it clear that leaders now need to develop a new vocabulary – one that is authentic and is rooted in empathy. Organizations thus need to take a close look at their leadership coaching strategies so that leaders can foster employee and organizational growth by helping their teams manage their work better. 

Read: Want to Create A Pipeline of Leaders? Train Managers to Become Better Coaches

Day-long leadership coaching sessions are unlikely to help leaders, especially because the rules of the game have changed completely. Virtual leaders need to focus on driving authenticity. They need to become more observant, trusting, caring, and empathetic in their leadership styles and build the right connections with their employees. To achieve all this, there has to be a change in the mindsets and behaviors of leaders. 

As leaders also become coaches to their teams, they have to learn to communicate more clearly and with empathy. They have to demonstrate that they are not only interested in employee performance but are equally invested in employee well-being. This brand of leadership becomes all the more essential as in a remote setting, leaders have to guide work relationships with clarity so that others are inspired to become deeply invested in their work. 

One of the most important things virtual leaders have to build is trust. They can build and enjoy this trust when they learn to trust themselves. Hence, they have to learn to let go of the art of micromanaging and inspiring the team to become more accountable towards their work. Along with this, leaders have to adopt a growth mindset and enable the same for their employees. They also have to learn new methods to individualize interactions and empower employees to work with autonomy to drive accountability and ownership in a virtual setting. 

It is thus essential to coach leaders to mobilize their existing environments to enable new competencies in their workforce by using data. They have to develop their emotional intelligence to build resilient teams. Leaders also have to be coached to drive a sense of shared purpose across the organization’s value chain and become more authentic and intentional in their leadership styles. 

Connect with us to evaluate how our AI-powered coaching platform can help your organization leaders prepare to lead the workforce in the new world of work and develop their leadership vocabulary to lead the employees and the organization to success. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

If 2020 was a test of resilience, the year ahead is going to be a test of growth in the face of adversity. 

As the world and global markets gradually resume the journey back to normalcy, organizations have to put on their thinking caps and identify growth strategies that will help them bounce back from the 2020-infused business and profit doldrum. 

For HR leaders, the year ahead is a crucial one – HR strategies have to build resilience into the organizational DNA and create a culture that enables, empowers, and drives organizational and employee agility.

2021 – A year of strategic importance

Building critical skills and competencies are going to be of strategic importance in the coming year. 

  • From improving business results, executing business transformation, and achieving operational excellence, HR has to design strategic initiatives that will help in achieving these outcomes. 
  • Along with this, skill development initiatives have to also become dynamic and future-forward to match the pace of change and ensure that employees accrue the right skills that benefit the organization tangibly. 
  • Additionally, addressing change fatigue and identifying factors that lead to work friction becomes essential as work from home burnout becomes an unignorable reality. 
  • HR strategies have to be focused on building a robust leadership pipeline by focusing heavily on diversity initiatives and recalibrating leadership training programs. The tumultuous past year and the overhaul it has brought about in the world of work demands that leadership coaching is relevant to meet the needs of the COVID era. 

Even a cursory glance at this list makes it clear that HR has a tall order to fill. However, the cure to most of the ills plaguing the organization (and consequently HR) lies with coaching. And while organizations can leverage external coaches to drive their coaching initiatives, creating an internal coaching culture becomes imperative to drive sustainable change.  

Why do organizations need an internal coaching culture?

Coaching is more than an antidote for fixing performance issues or a perk to attract and retain employees. 

Many organizations are turning to coaching to develop a more robust leadership pipeline, develop managers who can also function as coaches and guide their team members, and help employees navigate and develop their career paths. 

Coaching has also emerged as a viable alternative to close the skills gaps, the labor shortage, and low productivity chasm – especially as VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) demands organizations, and hence employees, to become more agile than ever before. 

But how can organizations create an internal coaching culture? The devil here lies in the details. 

  • Coaching has to be integrated into the workplace culture 

The primary objective of coaching is to drive lasting change. Coaching can achieve this lasting change because it is continuous, enhances skills, and enables behavioral change. 

To create the right coaching culture, it is essential to integrate it into the workplace culture so that the organization and employees can proactively identify challenges and opportunities for growth and have robust development-oriented, relevant coaching conversations. 

  • Eliminate guesswork and replace it with data

HR teams have to improve their capability and pace to map skill requirements with skill development initiatives. Banking on the end-of-the-year assessment or review to identify skilling, reskilling or upskilling needs of the workforce is a reactive strategy that can no longer contribute to organizational agility. 

HR has to focus on adopting a more proactive approach that helps the organization become more responsive to change. 

According to Gartner TalentNeuron™ data, “the total number of skills required for a single job is increasing by 10% year over year, and one-third of the skills present in an average 2017 job posting won’t be needed by 2021.”

However, to achieve this, HR has to move away from the traditional approach that employs guesswork to identify workforce needs. They, instead, have to adopt more data-backed strategies that proactively identify the current needs of the employees and ensure that the skill gap is duly closed by aligning skill development initiatives with organizational goals. 

Creating such an internal coaching culture demands that organizations use tests and assessments such as the 16 Personality Factor Tests, behavioral skill development tests, and the like, which can help organizations identify the exact coaching needs of the employees and replace the guesswork with data. 

  • Develop an army of internal coaches

Creating an internal coaching culture demands developing an army of internal coaches. Identifying high-potential employees who are interested in coaching their peers is a good starting point. 

Managers can contribute heavily to coaching, especially since they are well aware of team dynamics, where their business unit needs help, and where employees need coaching. However, they have to master the art of coaching as well so that they can coach effectively and build healthy mentor-mentee relationships. 

Organizations can also look at subject matter experts to contribute to coaching initiatives. 

Identifying these potential coaches, assessing which skills, they are lacking, and which skills they need to develop to coach effectively can help organizations develop their army of coaches. Complemented with external coaches, such an ecosystem can create a vibrant coaching culture and blend it into the organizational DNA. 

  • Embed coaching into talent and performance management 

The COVID crisis has dramatically impacted goals and employee performance plans. Remote work is becoming the norm. Performance and talent management are becoming a steep climb, especially as business leaders feel that performance management systems are not accurately helping them identify top performers. 

While the annual performance review had been an acting barometer until recently, today, waiting it out till the end of the year can only lead to frustrated talent. While the annual performance review does hold merit, complementing it with regular coaching delivers better outcomes as feedback is constructive and continuous. 

Technology has also made it possible to provide AI-powered nudges to make learning and development more holistic, relevant, contextual, and consequently, impactful. 

In Conclusion 

Organizational structures are becoming flatter and yet, more complex and employees are working with, interacting, and collaborating with more people. 

New work models that were in the testing phase (such as fully collocated, alternating on-site, on-site on-demand, connected remote, work from anywhere models) are all now mainstays. The digital nomads, the new age white-collar workers, are also an integral part of the enterprise today. 

With so much changed, HR has no alternative but to tap into technology to help the workforce stay connected, engaged, and enthused. As the organization and the needs of the employees evolve, HR has to drive the paradigm shift and work towards cementing an internal coaching culture. 

When all leaders, managers, high-potential employees, and subject matter experts become coaches, helping the rest of the workforce move along their career paths, ensuring productivity, profitability, and organizational agility become achievable goals. 

It is time to proactively address the development needs of the workforce and keep the organization moving northwards towards better outcomes. 

Connect with our team of experts and see how employing an AI-powered technology platform can help your organization build a robust internal coaching culture to drive enablement at work.