Survey: 93% of Managers Need Training on Coaching Employees

March 21, 2017 Sarah Payne

Comic Strip

Over the past few months, we’ve run a series of posts covering findings from the latest SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey. To recap, here are the four findings and their respective posts:

  1. The top three workforce management challenges faced by organizations today are retention/turnover, engagement, and recruitment. (The Proven Links Between Retention and Employee Experience)
  2. Recognition programs tied to organizational values are perceived to outperform other programs on every metric evaluated. (Meaningless Core Values – A Dangerous Liability)
  3. Organizations that dedicate 1% or more of payroll to values-based rewards and recognition are more likely to perceive greater impacts on retention and financial outcomes. (1% of Payroll: The Magic Number for Social Recognition Investment)
  4. Award-winning workplaces are more likely to offer human workplace programs. (3 Programs Adopted by Award-Winning Workplaces)

This brings us to the fifth and final finding from the survey:

As organizations evaluate their performance management processes, coaching is seen as very important. 

It’s fitting that workplace coaching rounds out this series because it brings our attention back to managers – the people actually responsible for managing performance and motivating employees. Do managers need training on how to coach employees? A resounding 93% of those surveyed said, “yes.”

No matter how much your HR or leadership team invests in recognition or human workplace practices, much of an individual’s experience at work is directly shaped by their relationship with their manager (read a personal story about that here from Lynne Levy, Globoforce’s director of product management). Let’s look closer at the data within this finding.

The survey asked: Are your organization’s performance reviews an accurate appraisal of employees’ work?

Performance Review Chart

While many HR professionals surveyed told us they still conduct annual reviews, 40% said they do not think their organization’s performance reviews are an accurate appraisal of employees’ work.

And although 41% believe they are an accurate appraisal, this has declined from 50% in 2013. Another 19% admit that they aren’t sure if their performance reviews are accurate, up from just 6% in 2013.

HR professionals are not sure whether the investment in annual reviews is making any difference at all (more on the death of the annual review here).

Employee Coaching Chart

The survey also echoes a growing trend toward continuous conversations and feedback either complementing or replacing the annual review. 21% of HR professionals told us that coaching is directly tied to employee performance, while 45% said coaching is “very important” at their organization. 

The evolution from boss to coach

There’s no question that organizations need to get better at “coaching the coaches,” or risk losing their best people. So where do you start?

First, you need to ensure you are promoting and developing the right people into leadership positions. Just because someone is a stellar individual contributor doesn’t mean they have the ability to (or that they even want to) inspire a team of people to achieve great work. I like Dr. Gary Hamel’s take on the new role of a leader:

Historically, leadership meant having more information and more facts than your subordinates. It meant having more discretionary authority. It meant you having unique access to the leaders above you, and the ability to influence their thinking. It meant having the power to command and then to impose sanctions if people didn’t follow through. Today, people expect a very different set of traits from their leaders. They want people who are great mentors, who are unselfish enough to put the success of those around them above their own personal success. 

Second, we need to acknowledge the power managers have in influencing an employee’s day-to-day life at work. Woohoo Inc. published a study on the factors that cause bad days at work. The survey of 700 workers found that the top five single factors are:

  1. A lack of help and support from my boss (40%)
  2. Negative co-workers (39%)
  3. Lack of praise or recognition for the work I do (37%)
  4. Uncertainty about the workplace’s vision or strategy (37%)
  5. Busyness / high word load (36%)

Do you want to create a better employee experience? A manager can directly or indirectly influence each of these factors – and foster happier employees – by being a more empathetic coach. This is about helping managers become better communicators so they can have more honest and meaningful conversations with their people.

In the new State of the American Workplace report, Gallup advises that managers’ ongoing performance conversations be:

  1. Frequent: When employees have opportunities for improvement, address them immediately so they can apply lessons learned to their current work.
  2. Focused: Address progress, successes, and barriers to current work.
  3. Future-oriented: Traditional approaches to feedback tend to focus on evaluation and criticism of what employees did wrong – which feels judgmental and punitive.

Rather than hiding behind an annual review, the best coaches achieve a balance of both positive and constructive feedback throughout the year to help employees achieve their best work. Because most people are more apt to hear constructive feedback when it comes from a place of caring, consider the power of ongoing praise and recognition in building relationships and connections between managers and employees in your organization. A formal and visible social recognition program is a tool that you can provide managers to enable more human and honest communication with employees.

How are you coaching the coaches in your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Survey: 93% of Managers Need Training on Coaching Employees
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