Who Put Data in My Coaching? Measuring What Matters to Your Employees AND Your Bottom Line

CJ Scarlet

Apr 6, 2012

Who Put Data in My Coaching? Measuring What Matters to Your Employees AND Your Bottom Line

In last month’s article, “The Low Down on Coaching”, my partner Stephanie McDilda and I explored what coaching is and what it is not - as well as the tangible and intangible benefits companies and employees might experience when taking advantage of coaching. This month’s article focuses on the critical role employee engagement plays in your organization and how coaching for middle managers and other employees may increase engagement in your company. It also reveals the return you might expect to see from your coaching investment, and explores how data gleaned from post-coaching surveys can be used to help measure employees’ levels of engagement over time and put your finger on the pulse of your organization.  

Rising to the challenge

Let’s begin with a story. “Kaitlyn” (not her real name) came to her coaching session looking exhausted and defeated. Her supervisor left the organization two months earlier, leaving the team without leadership. This team was responsible for an important component of the business, and without a leader they were uncertain, unfocused and less productive.

Kaitlyn felt stressed because - as the most senior employee - the team was looking to her for leadership; but in a highly regulated environment, she knew she couldn’t take action without authority. She was literally losing sleep because she was so worried about whether her team would meet their deadlines, and yet she felt unable to take the lead. Her top concerns were how to keep the team motivated and focused on results in the absence of authority, and how to ask HR to provide her team with a new leader. She was carrying a heavy burden that was taking a physical, mental and emotional toll on her.

In her first 30-minute coaching session, Kaitlyn stated that she wanted HR to fill the open position so the team could move forward and meet their goals and deadlines. She also wanted to learn ways to decrease her feelings of frustration and overcome her fear that the team was at risk of missing their commitments. Her coach helped Kaitlyn explore her options, and one that emerged was for Kaitlyn herself to fill that leadership role, at least temporarily. As an action item, Kaitlyn decided to talk with her HR leader about this possibility.

When she chose to come to a second coaching session two weeks later, Kaitlyn shared that she had asked for, and had been given, the position temporarily until the position was filled. Now in the acting role of supervisor with the authority to provide the team with leadership, Kaitlyn felt much less stressed and frustrated, and finally empowered to make decisions and give guidance to the team. She was enthusiastic about the team’s chances of meeting their goals and felt much more hopeful about the future.

When Kaitlyn chose to come back for a third session, she was positively glowing as she happily announced that she had been officially promoted to supervisor. This promotion saved her company the cost of recruiting, hiring and training a new manager and increased personal, team, and company productivity – while increasing her personal life satisfaction. Kaitlyn won. The team won. The company won.

What “Employee Engagement” means

Kaitlyn’s coach helped her transition from a state of disengagement to one of high engagement by facilitating a dialogue driven by powerful coaching questions and interaction. Kaitlyn needed focused time to tap into her own knowledge, hear her wants and needs reflected back to her, and a safe space to uncover options that served both her company and herself.

An engaged employee is defined as someone who is “fully involved in, and enthusiastic about her work, who consequently provides the discretionary effort required to exceed the expectations of her manager and employer,” according to Victor Bullara, CEO of World Class HR Consulting (www.WorldClassHR.com). With more than 35 years in human resources, Mr. Bullara should know. He has worked with hundreds of companies to implement HR change initiatives including employee engagement surveys.

Kaitlyn became engaged because she not only worked hard on behalf of her employer, but because she did so with enthusiasm and a genuine desire to benefit her team and the company. She also saw her personal purpose align with the purpose and expectations of the organization.

Engaged employees make - and save - your company money. When they feel appreciated, respected, and supported, they are more likely to be engaged. When they have access to resources and tools that demonstrate this kind of support, they are generally happier, more productive, experience lower absenteeism, get along better with peers/managers, are more aligned to your corporate goals, and are more likely to remain with your company over the long-term. So, as you can see, employee engagement is critical to the success of any organization.

In a very recent study conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), just 14% of the 1,857 employees surveyed indicated they felt their “leaders were honest and ethical.”  In this same survey, 12% indicated that their employer “genuinely listens to and cares about its employees.” What do you think is on the minds of your employees? What are their chief concerns about the organization, leaders or working environment? “The only way you can be sure, according to Mr. Bullara, is to ask. He also suggests that you should never ask about issues that you might not have any intention of changing. This is the fastest way to build distrust in the organization.

Coaching is one tool to increase employee engagement

One of the most popular and effective engagement tools available to companies today is coaching. Usually reserved for the C-suite, the need for coaching for middle managers and even employees at all organizational levels is becoming increasingly evident. This makes sense, because these people are the backbone of their companies—the ones whose productivity and wellbeing matter most to the bottom line of the business.

Sixty-seven percent of employees worldwide say their top motivating factor is a sense that they matter and are valued by their employer. (Length-of-Service Awards Becoming More Personal, Rebecca Hastings, SPHR, 2009 HR Trendbook)

In another study, employees stated that coaching from someone other than their manager is important to their sense of contentment at work – more important, even, than training. (State of Employee Engagement 2008 Asia-Pacific Overview)

The term “coaching” is often confused with mentoring, advice-giving or counseling /therapy (*as noted above, in the March 2012 edition of Voluntary Benefits Magazine Stephanie McDilda and I provided a thorough description of each of these modalities and I encourage you to refer to this article for a clear understanding of the differences between them).

The International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org), widely recognized in the US and internationally as the professional association for the coaching industry, defines coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” At Roving Coach International (www.RovingCoach.com), we like to say that coaching is “a confidential conversation all about you.”

How can coaching lead to higher employee engagement?

Let me illustrate this with another story. “Roger” felt overwhelmed and stressed out at his first coaching session. Although he had stated in his pre-session survey that he wanted to talk about a management issue, he had other, more pressing things on his mind. In a rush of words, Roger shared that he had missed several of his son’s soccer games due to his workload - including their big loss in the championships - and he was getting only a few hours of sleep each night. His wife complained that he was grouchy all the time and his son was growing more distant. Roger felt that he wasn’t performing at 100 percent either at work or at home, and he knew he couldn’t keep up at this pace and stay healthy.

Roger’s top concerns were striking a balance that would enable him to be productive at work, including figuring out how and what to delegate to others in a way that was fair and appropriate, while also being present for his family and creating a greater sense of personal well-being.

Roger’s coach validated his feelings of overwhelm and frustration, which put him at ease and helped immediately eliminate some of his stress. It was visible on his face as he took a deep breath and relaxed back into his chair. She then facilitated a discussion that allowed him to project what he really wanted, to paint the picture of how he wished his days played out from a time and commitment perspective, focused on what mattered most to him. By asking powerful questions, his coach helped him think through ways to better manage his time, including delegating more and making personal time with his family a priority. This dialogue included the realization of what his current actions were costing him and how the new actions would benefit him. Roger left with clear actions to implement.

The result

Roger chose to visit the coach again. At this second session, he expressed greater satisfaction both at home and at work as a result of the actions he had taken. By delegating some of his responsibilities to his very capable team members, who felt excited and challenged by the additional trust placed in them, he took less work home and had more time for himself and his family. He was then able to use his coaching session to work on a new opportunity that was now in the forefront of his mind.

Improving his work/life balance increased Roger’s level of engagement and made him more effective and productive both at work and at home. Most importantly, Roger was a happier person, more able to fully engage in his work, and better positioned for future career opportunities.

Capturing that elusive ROI

Coaching can consistently produce powerful results like those seen with Kaitlyn and Roger, but how do you know, really, if it’s effective? Data—direct anonymous feedback in the form of dashboard reports that show you exactly what your employees are grappling with and how their coaching experience has shifted their perspective and led them to take action. Rather than having to rely on static, one-dimensional annual employee satisfaction surveys, it is now possible to gain access to dynamic employee engagement pulse data, on demand, to guide your people development efforts so you can better attract, grow and retain your employees.

Roving Coach, for example, uses brief anonymous pre- and post-coaching session surveys, both to gather information to help the coach prep for the session and to measure employee engagement. Corporate clients may choose to include four to six questions of their choice in the post-survey, in addition to other data captured about the coaching participant’s experience, such as whether the session is related to a challenge or opportunity, the general nature of the issue (e.g., manager/supervisor relationship, work/life balance issue), participation levels, etc. (It is important to note that identifying information and the content of the coaching sessions are held 100 percent confidential. Only high-level, anonymous data should be shared.)

Engagement questions are customizable and should be created based on what you are measuring in your company in the areas of leadership and culture, employee value proposition, work satisfaction, work relationships, employee well-being, and personal and professional growth.

What does access to this kind of pulse data mean for you and your company? It means the ability to:

  • Better appreciate what’s on employees’ minds and what they need to be successful.
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of your organization.
  • Justify the use of the proven benefit of coaching in your company.
  • More finely target your employee development dollars.
  • Track the progress of your coaching investment.

Business expert and motivational speaker Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, wrote one of my favorite quotes: “Take time to appreciate employees and they will reciprocate in a thousand ways.” To this I would add, “Take the time to listen, by asking (through direct communications or surveys) and then act on that information, and they will reciprocate a thousand more.”

In the final installment next month I will explore offering situational coaching for a sustainable impact and a way to energize and shift employees at conferences and sales events.

About The Author

CJ Scarlet, M.A., is Chief Rover of Roving Coach International, and a certified coach and Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner. Roving Coach combines the proven benefit of coaching and customized employee engagement data into the Roving Coach Experience™ -- two powerful tools to help employees shift from whining to winning and from winning to leading in 30 minutes.  If you have any further questions, contact Roving Coach at (800) 611-3161 or by visiting www.RovingCoach.com.