The Changing Role of L&D: Coaching for Success

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Steve Finch
Thinqi Ambassador
The Changing Role of L&D: Coaching for Success

What do you think of when you see the word ‘coaching’? Do you imagine yourself back with your school sports team, watching your teacher bouncing back and forth emphatically to fire you up for an important match? Perhaps you imagine a larger-than-life character striding a stage, wildly gesturing and booming into a microphone, telling you how to be successful.

According to Sir John Whitmore, coaching involves “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” Jo Wainwright, speaking on the GoodPractice podcast, adds to this by noting that “coaching is a way of being with someone – one-to-one or in a group situation – where you would use language or communication techniques in order to enable good thinking and development of the other person or people that you are with.” Although the concept of coaching originated in sport (and has since been influenced by other fields of study, such as education and psychology), the essence of coaching as we know it today is about building awareness, responsibility and self-belief in an individual in order to help them develop.

This is important when we consider how the learning landscape of the modern workplace is changing. Advances in technology have allowed learning pathways to become more self-directed, personalised and informal, and as the modern learner takes increasing responsibility for their own unique learning pathway, support is vital to keep them motivated and focused – and to avoid them becoming isolated from other learners.

This is where coaching can make all the difference.

Large mobile device showing learning content with person writing beside it, and employee with coach looking at document in front of it

Creating a Coaching Culture

In the first of our four-part series ‘What Do Practitioners Need to Be?’ we explored how the role of the L&D trainer is adapting to the shift towards more informal learning pathways. While face-to-face learning is still an important part of a modern blended learning platform, the rest of the time the L&D trainer will need to assume the role of coach by providing invaluable support and encouragement throughout the learning journey.

Which coaching model you use is up to you; whether that’s GROWFUEL or OSKAR, there’s a whole range of models you can explore to find the perfect match for your organisation.

And it’s not just trainers who can act as coaches. Research by Manchester Inc. revealed that companies that provide coaching to their executives showed improvements in productivity, quality, organisational strength, customer service and shareholder value, as well as an average return on investment (ROI) of almost six times the cost of the coaching.

You need to start by getting your leaders fully engaged and on board with coaching. To grow an effective coaching culture – in other words, a culture where staff are supported to learn new skills and become greater assets to the company – engagement needs to start at the top and flow through the rest of the business. Coaching your leaders may seem intimidating at first, but if you demonstrate confidently the values of each step with relevant examples, your leaders can act as positive role models for change.

It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t forget about your line managers in this process. Your line managers play a key part in the learning transfer process and help learners create behavioural change post-learning – they are, after all, the people who spend the most time with the individual on a day-to-day basis. Equip them with the skills needed to coach effectively and you’ll enable them to support learners with trusted, regular input and feedback.

Learner and coach talking about learning with Thinqi logo above them

Getting Your Staff On Board With Coaching

In research conducted by City & Guilds Group, of those respondents that hadn’t been offered coaching by their current employer, lack of investment (33%), taking staff for granted (31%), leaders’ disinterest in staff (22%) and a lack of understanding on the value of coaching (22%) were listed as the most common reasons.

There is also a common misconception that only those who have problems at work have any need for a coach. “Why would a competent worker need somebody to teach them how to do their job?” you may ask. “Isn’t a coach only needed to fix a problem?”

On the contrary, coaching is an excellent tool to help good workers overcome difficult challenges in order to become even better. It’s precisely why some of the top leaders in the FTSE 100 have their own coaches. It must be made clear that the role of the coach is not to tell a ‘bad’ worker how to do their job, but to offer a different perspective and challenge the individual’s thinking about their own development in order to improve.

It’s about focusing on learner potential, not just performance.

This is important to bear in mind when getting people on board with coaching. Misconceptions can create a resistance between the learner and the coach. For example, an employee may feel as though they aren’t performing well enough and must be ‘babied’ in order to correct a certain aspect of their work, resulting in a reluctance to engage. To avoid this, make it clear how coaching can benefit employees at all levels and abilities, ensuring learners are made aware of how coaching can help them achieve particular personal goals. For example, you could outline how it can improve their ability to identify solutions to the work-related issues specific to them, or use real-life examples of how successful people in your organisation have benefited from a coach.

The key is to keep it relevant.

Large picture of workplace with different Thinqi feature icons connected to the building to show importance of coaching and learning to whole organisation

The Benefits of Coaching to Your Organisation

So, now you know how to start building a coaching culture and get your staff on board, but how will this benefit your organisation?

Research published by City & Guilds Group has revealed that coaching is integral to productivity and performance, with a significant 84% of workers saying that coaching should be part of every business’s management and development programme. What’s more, 64% say that coaching has already become important in facilitating intergenerational working. When we consider the rapid transformation of ways in which we learn and work in the modern workplace – with staff from several generations now working side-by-side in a single organisation – this is vital for improving cooperation and cohesion across the board.

“Coaching is an easily accessible tool that empowers employers to undertake successful organisational and technological transformation, while boasting workforce engagement, performance and productivity.” – John Yates

Coaching can help people recognise and develop their own strengths, target and improve weaknesses, improve their outlook in their working lives and improve their leadership skills. It unlocks potential in individuals, resulting in a more motivated, skilled and productive workforce. According to research by the International Coach Federation, of the respondents surveyed, 80% of respondents reported improved self-confidence and 70% said work performance had increased. If people know they are being supported and have developed a sense of self-belief, they can go to work every day really caring about the part they play in the organisation and sharing in its overall aims and values.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many major organisations, including Nike and Coca-Cola, employ coaching as a way to help them stay on top in an ever-changing global market.

In Summary…

Virtually all companies or individuals who have received coaching are satisfied. The International Coach Federation noted that 86% of companies say they at least made their investment back. This is the sort of information that’s going to be critical for proving the value of coaching, and ultimately, the value of L&D to your business leaders.

Managers can be coached to manage and learners can be coached to learn; there’s no end to where coaching can can be used to help your organisation evolve.

If you want to make the best of the talent within your organisation and help your business to thrive, it’s time to get on board with coaching.

If you would like to further create a successful culture of learning in your workplace, we’ve got the technology and expertise to help you succeed. Request a demo to arrange to speak to one of our experts.

We’re going to be exploring each of these trends and others in coming weeks, so keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when these insights are published:

To view the rest of our ‘The Changing Role of L&D’ series, follow the links below:

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Steve Finch
Thinqi Ambassador
Steve Finch is Head of Marketing and Brand Ambassador for Thinqi, the modern learning system. With a background in customer success and digital learning programme delivery, Steve has been helping organisations deliver effective modern learning for nearly 20 years.