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worklife coaching report 2022: retention through coaching.
We are living in an unprecedented professional environment, sometimes dubbed as the ‘Great Resignation’ and the ‘Great Reshuffle’, when a record number of people across all sectors are reevaluating the meaning of work. In another era, this might seem like a luxurious exploration. But right now, it’s front and center as employees ponder whether to quit their jobs if current roles don’t meet a range of criteria from compensation and commute to purpose. Added to this volatile mix is the pandemic reality that teams are often working remotely and are longing for connection and organizational cohesion. As human resources departments grapple with low unemployment rates and high turnover, HR leaders are looking for solutions to keep employees satisfied and on the job.
results-driven approach for career development and job satisfaction
After 20 years in the film industry as a producer and head of a media organization, I was drawn to become a coach because coaching is a results-driven approach designed to elevate professional performance and engagement. And it works. Managers and their teams need a forum to review and refine working methods to optimize performance and the company’s bottom-line success, but in this unprecedented environment, employees want more than performance optimization. They want to feel personally valued in both the short- and the long term, with an opportunity for growth. And one of the most important ways companies can demonstrate this is by creating a tangible plan for their staff's career development. With the expertise of a coach, employees can gain clarity and insight into their career direction, the areas in which they might like to gain additional knowledge and the steps that will be necessary to achieve their goals.
As I write this, I’m coaching a senior vice president, who is the head of human resources for a renowned media company that has won numerous ‘Best Picture’ Oscars. This SVP is a visionary leader committed to listening and responding to employees’ concerns. She was the first HR executive at the company to lobby and then carve out a budget for employee professional development because she understood its direct correlation to retention and engagement. In other words, a professional development strategy is making her job easier. And topping the list of requests from employees is utilizing the services of a career coach.
how coaching for career development works
Many of my clients who have never worked with a coach before don’t know what to expect from the experience, or they have a preconceived idea that it’s vague and ethereal. In reality, it’s the opposite. Coaching is about delivering tangible results in a collaborative process to maximize personal and professional potential. Coaching provides a confidential forum to develop leadership qualities, strengthen decision-making and build confidence. Sometimes the goals may center around career advancement, while at other times they may focus on enhancing soft skills or personal development to enable an employee to perform their role with greater effectiveness and confidence.
External coaches play a unique role in contributing to company success because they’re able to bring a fresh, unbiased perspective to help identify entrenched employee patterns that need adjusting and then develop strategies for lasting change. By homing in on each participant’s obstacles and strengths – and with the company’s business objectives in mind – coaches generate a personalized plan for improvement with concrete action steps. Common goals include increasing productivity through better prioritization, delegation and time management. Of particular interest to coaching clients and their supervisors is enhancing workforce well-being through improved empathy and communication strategies. Coaching is effective because it’s a framework that combines an honest assessment, meaningful feedback without fear of reprisal and consistent accountability to build momentum for transformation.
creating a game plan for success
Another coaching client of mine is a senior producer at a tech firm who was delivering solid results for the Silicon Valley company, but was struggling with the ability to communicate calmly with supervisors and peers. On our first call together, my client shared one of his career goals, which was to enhance his ‘executive intelligence’ so that one day he’d be able to move into people management. We developed a customized plan with achievable action steps he could take in between each of our sessions. And by achievable, I mean steps he could actually complete given the demands of his full-time job and family.
As a result of our work together, he has learned to listen more and take a pause before reacting. He’s now inclined to give his colleagues the benefit of the doubt, particularly during meetings when he’s presenting his work, and to value their contributions. During the course of our calls, his self-esteem has flourished – and his co-workers have quickly noticed a difference. This impressive growth was possible because of my client’s enthusiastic commitment to the coaching work and because he felt valued by the company, as evidenced by their ongoing investment in his career development.
career development and remote work
On a recent coaching call with a human resources professional, she was wearing a charcoal-gray sweatshirt while her dog and cat lounged on the sofa in the background. It was a vivid reminder of the paradigm shift that has happened with the prevalence of remote work. Along with a casual dress code, there’s the bonus of less commute time and a more flexible schedule to deal with pickups from school, elderly parents and doctor’s appointments – but with that also comes the challenge of creating boundaries as the workplace is now squarely in her home. Part of our career development coaching these days is about building conscious strategies to separate work so that it doesn’t wholly intrude into family life. She’s able to take these strategies into the company, at large. As one small step forward, the firm has initiated a policy where co-workers don’t send on-the-job related emails to each other between six in the evening and nine the next morning.
The other aspect of remote work that we tackled is how to create a sense of company unity and allegiance when people aren’t meeting in person. A coach can offer relief to overtaxed supervisors by giving individualized check-ins and support for employees’ ongoing professional advancement. A prime example of this is the work that I do with a client who is head of brand strategy for an electronics corporation. He’s the father of two young children, and working remotely has created a constant juggling act for him and his wife as they manage everyone at home, with no place to vent. Our regular calls have become an oasis. He can safely vocalize the challenges on the job – especially around maintaining focus amid all the distractions – and feel a sense of ongoing support that translates into good will for the company. We also carve out time during calls to discuss where he sees himself in five years and the training he’ll need to be a competitive candidate for the next level of seniority that he’d like to achieve.
innovating to keep good career habits sharp
With so many employees now permanently working in a hybrid or completely remote environment, cross-pollination of ideas and connections between employees from different departments can decline. Information silos may develop because employees are no longer casually interacting with each other in a physical workspace. Coaching can counter this inclination by helping managers and their teams develop innovative activities to maintain their effectiveness and collaboration with colleagues.
Such is the time in which we live that I’m working with a startup company where many of the employees have never met. So, it’s essential to find ways they can feel a sense of bonding beyond their usual mode of communicating via app channels. The manager and I have been brainstorming to come up with informal group events, like learning how to make pasta and exotic cocktails and then dining with each other from their living rooms (spouses and roommates welcome). And I’ve been facilitating Zoom calls where the team is gathering together to explore and articulate the company’s core principles. As part of this exercise, team members were asked to talk about what parts of their job bring the most joy and how they want to develop professionally. Their answers knitted the group closer together and gave the manager insight into how to provide more opportunities for career growth. As a coach, I’m able to bring a fresh, outsider perspective that the company really values.
career development coaching and the road to transformation
On my first call with new clients, I make a point to let them know that I take the opposite of a cookie-cutter approach where the aim is uniformity. My role is to listen to the nuances of their unique professional arc. Coaches meet clients where they are and where they want to be, whether it’s having an eye on the C-Suite, more time at home or a complete career reinvention, as was the case with me. Wherever they are, I start with the premise of hope and possibility. And that’s when the transformation can begin.