By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The threat because of which we retreated in haste, from office buildings to kitchen tables or home offices, at the onset of the pandemic, seems to be abating. Today people are gearing to return to work as the pandemic comes under control. However, the reactive stance that businesses assumed at the onset of the pandemic, no longer remains a valid strategy to design the hybrid workplace. 

As the world of work moves towards a hybrid avatar, seamlessly amalgamating work from home with on-premises, organizations are moving to create transformational strategies to ensure business success in the future. The future of work is now centered on how you work. Not where you do it from.

The hybrid workplace needs a transformational strategy – one that is intentional and purpose-driven. This strategy will remain incomplete if enterprises do not account for the impact of this world of work on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. 

The extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic threw greater light on the racial and societal inequities in our society. While enterprises were hiring and were greatly focused on diversity, the move to the hybrid workplace has shifted priorities. 

A recently concluded report on workplace culture and inclusion shows that 

  • Only 53% of employees rate their workplace diversity, equity, and inclusiveness culture as healthy. 
  • 58% feel that their organizations still have undefined diversity and inclusion goals. 
  • More than 67% feel that their organizational leaders need to do more to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion across the organization.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are playing a big role in enterprise transformation. A report from McKinsey highlights how diverse and more inclusive organizations are more profitable than those that are not. While diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are good for business, the time to do more than just pay lip service to these initiatives is now. 

Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion matter even more now

COVID-19 gave organizations a chance to evaluate and reconsider what workplaces should look like. Ushering in the Future of Work and driving the focus to build a hybrid workplace demands a technological transformation to ease the logistical nightmare. But the hybrid workplace also shows the promise of being a cultural facilitator. This is because the work environment becomes more boundary-less while bringing in geographically distant workers closer. 

Thus, to access a greater talent market and to support geographically dispersed teams, bringing strategic focus on designing relevant diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives becomes paramount. 

From Technological Hybridity to Cultural Hybridity

In the hybrid workplace, employing technological hybridity will be commonplace. New platforms, tools, and technologies will drive better workflows and processes. And just like this technological hybridity, it also demands a more intentional move to enable the coexistence of multiple individual identities. This becomes especially relevant in today’s context where employees desire a greater alignment of individual identities and the value system of the organization.

Organizations need to work intentionally towards creating an environment that fosters and encourages inclusion, and diversity and promotes equity. 

Leveling the playing field is essential

At present, most organizations are focused on managing the day-to-day challenges of managing remote and in-person teams. However, along with this, they must now focus on creating a playing field that is even and fair to all. And we cannot create an even playing field unless we address the unconscious biases that may be at work dividing in-person and remote employees and those coming from marginalized and underserved communities. 

Accounting for the need of all employees is mandatory

Diversity, inclusion, and equity are the key components that ensure that organizations function better and innovate faster. As the workplace becomes hybrid and relies more on technology, organizations need to reskill and adapt to the demands of digital transformation to help employees manage the climate of change. This reskilling and upskilling extend to power skills that drive collaboration and innovation while accounting for the needs of ‘all’ employees. 

Undoing unconscious bias is imperative for engagement 

The hybrid workplace will need to focus heavily on undoing unconscious biases and work towards becoming more inclusive to drive transformational organizational outcomes. A focused effort into diversity and inclusion unlocks new opportunities to accelerate reskilling and simultaneously nurturing a mindset of continuous learning. 

By becoming more intentional about their diversity, inclusion, and equity strategy, organizations ensure that they level the playing field and allow all employees equal opportunities. These moves drive better employee engagement as employees feel that the organization is invested in their growth. This also strengthens the organization’s ability to manage change and foster growth. With time, the organization becomes more inclusive and diverse. 

How Peer Coaching Can Help

Just like how technology is driving the workplace, technology can drive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives as well. Moving towards a culture focused on continuous learning leveraging peer coaching can be a strategic starting point for the same. After all, with knowledge comes power. 

Peer coaching is an effective medium to change unconscious bias. That is because bias can only be removed by virtue of continuous and contextual interactions to drive behavioral change. Employing a technology-powered peer coaching platform can help employees identify their growth needs and address challenges that impede professional progress. 

The opportunity to access coaches to drive growth makes sure that the people in the D&I umbrella are not struggling to identify growth pathways, can easily navigate the organizational network, and build trust bridges across the organization.

The rules of engagement have to evolve in a hybrid workplace. We can no longer afford to take a cut-and-paste approach to important initiatives such as diversity, inclusion, and equity. Those organizations who take data-backed and technology-powered approaches for their initiatives will be more successful in their efforts simply because their efforts will be more structured, organized, contextual, and relevant to the workforce. 

Connect with us to see how we can supercharge your diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives with our AI-powered coaching platform. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

The future of work is hybrid, and it is now. 

As we move steadfastly into the hybrid work model, it becomes abundantly clear that this world of work will need new skills and approaches. In the post-pandemic world, organizations will have to re-evaluate the drivers of employee engagement and employee experience since the older drivers of engagement no longer remain valid. 

With the economy ahead promising to be unquestionably different, organizations have to now focus on upskilling initiatives to thrive in this new world order. New skills, processes, working mechanisms, systems of collaboration, team building, and new ways of thinking are the need of the hour. These cannot be addressed with a day-long training program. Developing these new skills to thrive in today’s complex work environment needs focused and continuous learning. Something that organizations can achieve with peer coaching. 

Read: Peer Coaching – The Critical Pillar to Drive Employee Experience and Engagement in Hybrid Workplaces

But how can organizations create a peer coaching culture?

Develop an army of peer coaches

To create a peer coaching culture an organization needs peer coaches. Looking at the employee base and identifying the natural coaches in their midst is the first step. However, often people themselves are unaware of their coaching capabilities. Helping people identify their inherent coaching capabilities assists in identifying peer coaches who can contribute to the organizational learning environment. 

Apart from the ones who are naturally disposed to coaching, organizations can also look at high-performing employees or those employees who show exceptional technical or power skills and coach them to become peer coaches. 

Managers can identify the potential coaches in their teams according to their skills and make them a part of the peer coaching network. Managers themselves can embark on a learning journey and take coaching to become good peer coaches. 

Read: Help your Leaders Transition to a Digital World – Start Peer Coaching Initiatives

Destigmatize asking for help

It is heartening to see that organizations are now paying close attention to their employee’s mental health. With the pandemic pushing employees towards burnout, the conversation around mental health and seeking help to alleviate stressors has become mainstream.

Seeking help has been stigmatized as a sign of weakness for the longest time and it is time to change that.

There are many who are still not sensitized to the unique challenges of their peers. Setting up a peer coaching culture helps in beating stigmas and creates a healthy work environment by educating people on the importance of mental health and the adverse impacts of poor mental health and burnout. Actively identifying toxic behaviors and addressing them, sends out a strong message, that only healthy habits that are conducive to the workplace shall be encouraged. 

Peer coaching helps people become more self-aware by providing contextual information. Since it is a continuous and non-judgmental process, people are more open to receiving feedback. The continuous nature of the program also makes sure that people can circle back to their coaches when they find themselves falling into unhealthy work patterns or ideologies. Proactive support provided by peer coaching makes sure that the behavioral change needed to destigmatize aging concepts is implemented and internalized. 

Promote continuous learning

To develop a peer coaching culture, organizations have to work towards developing a culture that promotes continuous learning. This ties in with the need of the times, where changing business dynamics, a rapidly evolving technology landscape, and the increasing focus on digital transformation demand new skill sets. What is clear is that the pace of change we are experiencing is only going to accelerate in the post-pandemic world. 

The needs of the hybrid workplace also demand the learning of new power skills and the unlearning of certain old methodologies. Organizations that offer avenues to improve their employee’s skill sets by helping them identify their learning needs using contextual data are more likely to see an invested, engaged, and productive workforce. 

Encouraging continuous learning also drives a peer coaching culture as then the workforce is motivated to lean in towards their coaches to seek guidance on how to best navigate their work environments and ensure that they can remain on a growth path. 

Lead by example

Peer coaching can play a big role in helping leaders develop and evolve their leadership styles to suit the hybrid work environment. Managers now have to evolve and become virtual leaders from remote bosses. It is time for organizational leaders to lead by example and leverage peer coaching and become peer coaches themselves to navigate the challenges of this hybrid workplace.

When employees see people of authority encouraging, seeking, and participating in peer coaching, it also prompts them to follow their example. The goal of peer coaching is to help each other find solutions and unlock an individual’s potential to maximize their performance. When employees across the organization see seniors taking the right steps to enhance their performance and learn new behaviors and skills to thrive in the hybrid workplace, they are also motivated to follow the same. The legitimacy that peer coaching gets from leadership involvement helps in establishing a strong peer coaching culture within the organization. 

In Conclusion

With no playbook telling us how to manage these challenging and inexperienced times, developing a peer coaching culture becomes imperative as we go back to work. The workforce today needs understanding, empathy, and support more than ever before to forge ahead in their career paths. Establishing a peer coaching culture in these times gives employees the support that they need to validate and activate knowledge, reduce work-related stressors, identify growth paths and avenues of improvement, and increase engagement. All of these factors contribute towards a healthy and resilient workforce- one that is completely ready to manage the upheavals and uncertainties that the future holds. 

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can help you deliver a robust and thriving coaching culture across your organization. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

With organizations diving deeper into digital transformation, upskilling the workforce has moved to the forefront. While digital transformation is creating powerful business opportunities, it is also creating a skills gap. The dynamics of work are also constantly changing and evolving, and organizations have no option but to invest in advanced upskilling strategies to capably respond to market changes and cash on the opportunities. 

The World Economic Forum had predicted that more than 1 billion people globally would have to be reskilled by 2030 to meet the needs of jobs transformed by technologies. 

In today’s world characterized by a hybrid workplace and remote teams, focusing on ongoing upskilling and employee development has become imperative. 

As the impact of the pandemic, organizations have to not only upgrade technical skill sets but have to work towards developing a workforce that is agile and emotionally & mentally ready to tackle a transforming market. While there are clear advantages that upskilling brings to the table, given the forces of disruption at play, the traditional approach of creating annual training plans no longer remains effective. 

Market dynamics are compelling organizations to add new capabilities on the fly. They demand organizations to be flexible, agile, and resilient. In such a dynamic and constantly evolving market, organizations need to make their training and upskilling initiatives agile as well. 

Given these shifts, how can organizations plan their upskilling initiatives? 

Replace guesswork with data analytics for precision 

Jumping on the next upskilling fad and expecting your upskilling initiatives to work? Initiatives designed from a place of gut feel or trends usually end up in the skills graveyard. This is because training only sticks if it is relevant and contextual to the employee. Why should the employee enthusiastically upskill if they don’t feel the need or understand the role these skills will play in their career development? How will the training stick in the absence of relevance? 

Organizations need to engage their employees and help them identify these skill gaps not from gut feel but from data-backed tests. These tests have become crucial data points to evaluate the technical and power skill needs of the workforce. Behavior Analysis tests or 16 Personality Factor tests, for example, can help organizations and employees self-diagnose and identify their exact skill needs. 

With this information, organizations can create powerful peer coaching plans and leverage a robust, technology-enabled peer coaching platform to drive great results. With such a platform, it becomes easier to make the right coach and learner pairings. A comprehensive platform will also provide actionable insights from rich analytics on skill development, performance, employee engagement, and overall transformational insights. All of these make training outcomes more impactful and positive with lesser effort.    

Remove ambiguity in a hybrid world of work 

Employees across the world are battling challenging times. While the chaos and uncertainty that gripped the world of work in the initial days of the pandemic have mellowed, ambiguity and complexity prevails.. 

As employees and organizations move into the Future of Work, it becomes the organization’s responsibility to help the workforce settle into this hybrid world. 

  • News of work from home burnout, concerns regarding career paths, and work opportunities are on the incline. 
  • Managers have to now move from being bosses to virtual leaders
  • Leaders have to discover new leadership styles to suit this new world. 
  • New employees have to find and build trusted networks and paths for career development. 
  • New and old employees are working out how to augment their career paths while ensuring they remain visible. 

The challenges in this new world of work are aplenty and add to chaos and confusion.

Helping employees and management (leadership) find the right direction in uncertain times assumes strategic importance now. Traditional upskilling initiatives are not designed to be impactful in this new world simply because the rules of engagement have dramatically changed. As such, upskilling initiatives have to account for the unique needs of the workforce and help them contextually resolve their problems. 

Peer coaching networks help a great deal in removing most of the complexity that comes with ambiguity. Since peer coaches come with similar life experiences and work challenges, it becomes easier for the learner to connect with the peer coach, understand the context and implement the actions that need to drive behavioral change. As Peer Coaching is a measurable and contextual process, it can be leveraged to drive learning and upskilling programs and cover up those aspects that typical traditional training programs miss. 

Battle constant change with resilience 

If there is one thing that is set in stone is that ‘change is now constant’. Organizations have to now develop their workforce such that they can contribute to organizational resilience. Digital technologies are assisting organizations in this journey. Cutting-edge technologies such as AI are helping them improve business capabilities and outcomes. 

The key to survival and success in these disruptive times is to remain agile towards the workforce and organizational needs. As such, while organizations cannot completely do away with training planning for the whole year, it is essential to supplement it with peer coaching to address the more immediate needs of the workforce. Peer coaching can also be impactful in reinforcing learnings and driving behavioral change that ensures that new skills stick and are implemented at work.  

This becomes especially relevant in these trying times as employees battle to understand the new rules of engagement and figure out strategies for professional success in a remote, disconnected, and hybrid world. 

Peer coaches, through non-judgmental and informal exchanges, can help learners navigate challenges and hurdles with ease. Employees are also more receptive to feedback when it is presented in a timely, contextual and non-judgmental manner. Strong peer coaching also reaffirms learning by providing personalized and contextual nurture actions that include notifications, reminders, alerts, kudos, and more. These actions, along with contributing to skill enhancement, also aid employee engagement initiatives by delivering enablement to employees when they need it.

Connect with us to see how an AI-powered coaching platform can power up your upskilling initiatives and drive them with deep engagement insights from data analytics and Machine Learning-powered engagement scores.

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The future of work centers around people and how they can connect with each other in meaningful ways. While collaborative technology solutions address many of the issues of this new world of work, organizations have to now identify ways to enable employees to increase productivity and stay engaged. 

As the pandemic eases, most organizations are looking at a hybrid work model, one that combines remote work and on-site work. This new world of work needs that organizations retool to address the needs of their employees and drive better organizational outcomes. However, in the absence of physical proximity, it is essential to empower employees to help them develop the critical skills needed to thrive in this new and hybrid workplace. 

Hybrid workplace – new place, new rules

Evolution is now becoming a constant in the enterprise narrative. As such, employee development has become a priority to ensure that organizations can remain on the path of competitive profitability. However, with limited physical interaction being the hallmark of this hybrid workplace, organizations can no longer rely on old methods that worked previously. 

The Learning and Development (L&D) department has to help organizations manage this workplace evolution and help them develop the skills needed to thrive and contribute to organizational outcomes. 

But is it possible to drive learning and development in the traditional, directive manner now? The answer is, no.

The mind-shift 

Survival was top of the mind when we went into the pandemic. As the dust settled, organizations realized that the world of work had indelibly changed. It was time to identify new ways of doing things – tools to drive collaboration, productivity, time management, processes, etc. all became a part of this journey. 

What also became evident that the playing field had changed. 

For leaders, this meant identifying new leadership strategies and shift from being remote bosses to virtual leaders

For managers, this shift signified learning new ways to connect with the team and help them succeed

For employees, it meant identifying ways to improve productivity and output and work on building collective team effort. Then there was the concern of work from home burnout that had everyone on their toes. 

But we have graduated from this space. Now organizations are looking at ways to accelerate innovation, productivity, and organizational outcomes while assessing ways to drive enablement at work and facilitate employee growth through learning and development initiatives that plug the gaps and drive growth. They are also focused on helping employees become more resilient to prevent WFH burnout

The responsibility to identify the needs of the workforce primarily lay with the L&D in the traditional workplace. But with the forces of change accelerating continuously, addressing learning and development needs and personal development needs have to become more proactive than remain reactive. 

Organizations need to address the development needs of employees proactively as it remains one of the major influencers of employee engagement. The millennial and generation Z value learning and growth opportunities as critical ‘perks’. As they are becoming the dominant demographic in the workplace, the focus on learning, development, and growth opportunities become direct contributors of retention and engagement. 

Organizations have to be able to quickly recognize and address the learning and development needs of their managers and leaders as well and make sure that they are in a position to get the knowledge needed to drive the shifts in behaviors that influence the new workspace. 

Being proactive in everything is the only way ahead to build resilience and success into the organizational DNA. As such, the work environment that exists now demands establishing the right processes and structures that help the employee take the drivers’ seat when it comes to their development needs.

How to deliver empowerment in a location-agnostic manner?

The Learning and development department’s role in the hybrid work environment veers more towards delivering empowerment and enablement at work, where work happens, irrespective of where their employees are. 

The way ahead is to help employees build the right connections and identify the right resources that will help them progress ahead in their career path. But before that, they need to clearly identify what their learning needs are. 

With no water cooler conversations to ignite minds, limited physical interactions with others in the organization, employees are holding the short end of the stick when it comes to recognizing what, where, and how they need to progress. Skills, especially, soft skills can be tricky to identify more so because human nature is biased. 

Relying on guesswork or gut feel is hardly an effective solution. Instead, organizations should empower employees by helping them identify their development needs using data. Behavioral analysis tests, 16 Personality factor assessment provide clear data on where development efforts should focus.

This approach needs to be supplemented with a healthy and buzzing peer coaching network within the organization.  With peer coaching, organizations can help employees maneuver their way in the hybrid workplace, close performance gaps, and achieve their professional goals. Additionally, peer coaching is the road ahead to drive thriving diversity and inclusion initiatives and ensure that these are not flaky and superficial. 

Peer coaching outcomes though, have to be measurable. Thus, having a peer coaching platform that allows personalization, supports confidentiality, enables assessment-based learning, and provides feedback become crucial contributors to success. 

Given the needs of the hybrid workplace, an AI-powered coaching platform can make employees more proactive in distinguishing learning and development opportunities by providing AI-powered timely nudges. Such a platform can also provide deep analytics to help organizations assess the efficacy of their peer coaching programs. Insights on skill and attrition dashboards and performance management analytics help organizations determine the success and areas of improvement of the program and coaching and take concrete steps to remediate any gaps. 

By creating a peer coaching network, personal development in the hybrid workplace becomes more than an amorphous concept. It helps employees and leaders to transition into their roles more seamlessly and helps people work better, irrespective of where they are located. It becomes the bridge that connects the organization with the employee in more meaningful ways and fosters interactions that generate action and outcomes. 

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered peer coaching platform can help your employees thrive in the hybrid workplace.

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.