How to Use Coaching To Skyrocket Employee Engagement

In this highly competitive labor market, skilled workers are leaving jobs faster than ever before. More than 70 percent of employees who are considering leaving their jobs say they must leave their current organization in order to advance their careers.

PayScale’s own research on the drivers of employee engagement revealed that providing learning and development opportunities can have a big impact on reducing employee turnover.   

So, how can organizations help employees discover the growth opportunities within the firm and take ownership over their own development? Personalized coaching can be an effective solution to add to your L&D mix.  

What is coaching and what are the benefits?

Is it the same as mentoring? Consulting? There are many ideas or definitions about what coaching is and that can be confusing. The International Coach Federation provides a succinct definition:   

“To coach means to partner with an employee in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

At a basic level, coaching can help your employees build valuable skills and knowledge they can use to advance in their careers. When your firm invests in coaching your employees, your firm can reap benefits, including:   

  • Strengthen employees’ skills so you can give them more responsibilities
  • Boost productivity by helping your employees work smarter
  • Develop a bench of talent who can take leadership roles as the firm grows
  • Make more effective use of company resources; coaching costs less than formal training.
  • Get ahead of costly and time-consuming performance issues  

Coaching be targeted, or surgical. It can help employees:   

Navigate development opportunities

  • What does an employee see as the “next level” for herself? What does it take for an employee to get to the “next level”? A coach can help an employee crystallize their thoughts on where they go next in their career.

Improve key skills

  • A coach can help an employee identify the skills they want / need to gain in order to perform at a higher level, and map out a plan to gain these skills.   

Navigate difficult conversations and conflicts

  • A coach can help an employee navigate a difficult conversation, and identify tools for dealing with issues or conflicts.

Give and receive feedback

  • A coach can help an employee figure out how to give and receive feedback, as well as how to communicate with their colleagues, direct reports or managers to get to better results.

Bear in mind, development is holistic. The goal is for a coach to guide the employee to discover their own path. Just be clear with each employee about confidentiality. Often, confiding in a coach can feel “safer” than going to HR.

Should you have a coach on staff?

If you’re questioning whether or not bringing a coach on staff would benefit your organization, here are some things to think about:

  • How is morale within your organization?
    • Like any program, it should be tailored to your culture.  Would your employees be open to it? Would someone from outside work better?  Coaching – like feedback or opinions – need to be invited.
  • Do you have existing employees who have the passion and talent for coaching?
  • Cost – it could be cheaper to have someone on staff full-time than to hire a consultant.

In order to have an effective coaching program, it’s important to set clear expectations with your employees on how to utilize coaching. Also, coaches need to be perceived as credible people. Getting certified lends credibility to your potential coaches. Two organizations that provide trainings are the Association of Talent Development and International Coach Federation. However, there are countless other certification and credential bodies. Be sure to research which ones may best meet your organization’s needs.

help Managers become great coaches

Managers play a critical role in employees’ development. This quote sums up the job of managers well:

“Ultimately, managers have one job: Hire the best talent and continuously engage them. If [managers] don’t meet the basic psychological needs of their most talented employees, they squander years of performance gains. At worst, they lose their talent (and whoever leaves with them) to their competitors.”

But great managers aren’t born, they’re made. To help your managers become great coaches, you’ll need to help them master these core competencies:

  • How to ask for and give feedback
    • Managers should know how to give and receive feedback. When managers are good at this, they show employees the value of feedback in their own development.
  • How to best motivate individual employees
    • Managers need to be able to engage their employees in conversations, so that they can identify what drives each employees, discover the individual’s’ strengths, areas of development, work style and communication style. Having this foundation will help the manager work effectively with each employee.  
  • How to have performance conversations
    • Managers should how to approach these sensitive conversations, so that both manager and employee can get in sync about the employee’s performance and the expectations of the role.  
  • How to have compensation conversations with employees
    • Managers should know how the organization makes pay decisions, be able to explain the pay process to employees and be prepared to address employee questions about pay.  
  • How to connect with other managers to learn how they solve problems
    • When managers can share best practices amongst themselves, it’s beneficial to the entire organization as a whole. You can create space for managers to talk to each other so to speed up the knowledge sharing process.   

How to Coach in One-on-Ones

Coaching doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Instead, it can be incorporated into your organizational routines and cadences. For example, if managers typically have one-on-one meetings with their employees each week, they can use that time for coaching.

If you’re a manager, you can think of a one-on-one meeting as an opportunity to help your employee grow. How can you use this time to help address your employee’s needs? Focus on these four areas to explore with your employee in a one-on-one:  

  1. Dig deep. Your employee is a specialist. How can he or she become even more of an expert than they’ve ever been in their field? Set a goal around how to do that.
  2. Broaden your employee’s horizons. Identify some projects and opportunities that offer your employee a wider scope of experiences.
  3. Review wins and learnings. Discuss the last major project your employee just completed: What went well? Conversely, what didn’t go well and what are some learning opportunities for your employee? This is a way to demonstrate to your employees that learning and reflection should be on-going activities. Encourage your employee to find ways to share those learnings out to the rest of the team, so that your entire team can level up together.
  4. Encourage peer feedback. Feedback among peers can be just as valuable as feedback from managers. Sharing knowledge from others can help the whole team grow. It’s important to for an employee to know how their work is influencing and impacting others around them.

One-on-ones don’t necessarily need to be elaborate, robust programs. The most important factor to pay attention to to in a 1:1 is that it is value-added time.

Final Takeaway

Retaining and motivating your best employees requires a multi-faceted approach. Using coaching as a learning and development tool can be a great way to keep employees engaged. Done well, coaching can really move the needle much more quickly and at a lower cost than traditional classroom training.


Have you tried using coaching in your workplace? Which methods have given you the best results? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments.