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 Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Recently Gallup conducted a survey on employee engagement amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. They found that 49% of workers were not engaged with work. They put long hours into their work but were not passionate about it. 

As remote working continues and employees increasingly face burnout, there is a risk of disengagement.

One way to solve it is through coaching. Companies are looking for ways to offer meaningful mentorship and coaching to employees to equip them with the right skills so they can use it to upskill themselves and feel engaged with the work they do.

However, coaching should not be done like a drill. It has to be truly valuable and effective for the employees. 

Coaches can make it effective by avoiding a few common mistakes while coaching mentees.

Common Mistakes That Coaches Must Avoid During Coaching

  • Not understanding the strength and weakness of mentees

No two mentees are the same. Every mentee, even in the same position, may have a different set of strengths and weaknesses. For example, a mentee with good technical skills may not be effective in communication. Some thrive in challenging situations, whereas some others might crumble. Coaches often fail to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their mentees. This results in ineffective coaching that may not add value to the mentee’s growth. A good coach evaluates team members on their soft and hard skills and finds out their strengths and weaknesses before finalizing the coaching approach. 

  • Not personalizing the coaching

Imagine teaching an advanced course to a person starting from a beginner’s level. The person will not understand anything, which would make teaching ineffective. That’s what happens when coaching is not personalized and aligned with the skills and specific needs of the mentees. Mentees might find it uninteresting and tune out mid-way due to lack of engagement. Coaches often use textbook coaching methods to coach their mentees, which may or may not add any value and could lead to a loss of precious time and effort. If coaches want to improve the outcome of coaching, they need to understand the learning gaps, set SMART goals for their mentees, and develop a personalized coaching journey with the help of HR, Subject Matter Experts, and the mentee. Personalized coaching could help increase employee engagement and employee productivity at work. 

  • Lack of transparency and communication

Lack of trust and transparency could derail the entire coaching process. Coaches often get so involved in the routine tasks that they do not communicate with their mentees as much as they should. This results in a lack of transparency between the coach and the mentee and eventually leads to the mentee losing interest in the coaching process. Coaches have to make efforts to build transparency and have a regular conversation with the mentee to develop trust and improve engagement throughout the process. There should be an open-door communication between both parties to exchange ideas freely and discover new areas of improvement that can lead to successful coaching. There must be a way to provide holistic feedback to mentees to ensure continuous improvement. 

  • Not measuring the outcome of coaching

One of the common mistakes that coaches often make is not measuring the outcome of coaching. They set goals at the onset of the coaching process but fail to measure if the coaching has been effective. Lack of tracking renders coaching ineffective. Coaches must evaluate the mentee on their skillsets and identify the next steps to make coaching successful. The performance can be rated in different ways – through self-assessment, peer rating, and frequent feedback provided by the coach throughout the duration of coaching. The outcomes must be measured regularly to make coaching effective.

  • Lack of engagement

Lack of engagement is an issue that most coaches and employees face during the coaching process. Coaches and mentees do not fix a coaching schedule and tend to make it a mechanical process. Lack of engagement does not add any value to both parties, especially if it results in minimal transformation within the mentee during the process. If companies want to see real transformation in their employees, they have to encourage continuous engagement between the coach and mentee. From addressing concerns to guiding mentees to think critically and innovate, coaches need to have 1:1 engagement with them to improve their performance. 

  • Limited accessibility to content

Coaches tend to rely on the in-house resources to coach their mentees. Sometimes the in-house eLearning content may not alone suffice to develop the skills of the mentee. Real case scenarios could inspire mentees to build their capabilities and transform themselves and the company in return. That’s why coaches need to look beyond limited in-house content and tap into third-party eLearning programs and integrations to evolve their mentees.

Also Read: Power Up Your eLearning Initiatives with Coaching

Conclusion 

Coaching is no longer a nice-to-have feature in a company. It has to become a part of the company’s innate culture. Companies need to invest time and money in good coaches, robust tools, and coaching strategy. 

At Numly, we provide enterprises with solutions that can help make coaching a seamless part of the company. Remember, a company that invests in its coaching programs is the one that can quickly pivot during stressful situations and grow with an innovative mindset.