Employee engagement is an issue of major concern for most organizations as the price of ambivalence or worse, disengagement in the work place can indeed be very costly. Employees are engaged when they have a sense of commitment to the company regarding it as a great place to work, when they willingly go the extra mile and put in the discretionary effort, and when they don’t want to work anywhere else. According to global human resources management and outsourcing firm Hewitt, engagement is the extent to which an organisation has captured the ‘hearts and minds’ of its people and is made of three key behaviours – Say, Stay and Strive.
Coaching makes a key contribution towards employee engagement in the following ways:
1) Increased self-awareness
Coaching helps managers and leaders grow their levels of self and “other” awareness as they take time to reflect and think deeply about their intentions, behaviour and outcomes. It helps them gain clarity about themselves including, who they are – their strengths, weaknesses, blind spots and what drives them – their sense of meaning and purpose, their values, personal vision, motivators and their goals. This awareness helps them make a stronger connection between who they are, what they do and why they do it resulting in greater emotional engagement.
2) Better alignment
With greater self-knowledge they are able to create better alignment between their values, goals and aspirations and that of the organization. Consequently, there is a greater congruency and consciousness in the expression of who they are, what they do and how they are going about achieving this. There is renewed energy in their levels of commitment and purposeful action.
3) Leader as coach
As managers and leaders gain value and appreciate the insights derived from engaging in their own coaching and reflective practices and translating these into positive actions, they also become better “leaders as coaches” with their direct reports. They became enablers of others to do the same, harnessing their capabilities for best results. Employees, in turn, become more engaged as they value the sense of “my boss cares about me and is interested in my development” and “I am a valuable, contributing member here.”
4) Coaching helps develop executive EQ
Competencies like empathy, listening, collaboration, teamwork, influence, leveraging diversity, conflict resolution and having courageous conversations all help provide the glue that facilitates greater teamwork and emotional engagement to achieve mutual goals. The manager is role modeling through her daily behaviour the key values that fundamental to their organization and its brand. They start “walking their talk” more consciously.
5) The “flow on ” benefits
In working with a senior executive who was technically extremely bright but not as adapt in the EQ stakes and getting the best out of his team, after 12 months of coaching we achieved some significant results. Not only had his employee engagement scores gone up by 15 points but his entire team of 10 – 12 direct report had also lifted their engagement (and performance) ranging from 5 to 35 points, as measured by a reputable external engagement survey. Needless to say both the senior executive and his CEO were very pleased with the outcome. Some 18 months on, the gains were even more significant.
6) Leaders setting the context and culture
The above example reinforces the leader’s role in setting the context and creating the desired culture by their everyday leadership behaviour and attitudes. Using the leadership engagement questionnaire (LEQ – created by the author) on a weekly basis, the senior leader was able to quickly discern what he was doing well as well as noting the critical engagement behaviors he had been oblivion to! As a result of coaching he became much more aware about the “small things” which made a big difference to his people and customers energy and engagement.
Don’t underestimate the energy that engagement generates and which in turn has a direct impact on the feel good factor as well the company’s bottom line!
7) Increased responsibility, accountability, transparency
With increased awareness and greater engagement, invariably levels of responsibility, accountability, and transparency in the organisation also go up. As the leader is able to share his journey – the good with the bad, it enables the team members to also feel safe and share their concerns as well as struggles and what might be getting in the way for them and their outcomes.
8) Greater clarity and direction
As people get coached, they become more engaged with what they are doing (or in some cases choose to leave the organization, which is usually good for both parties) and performance and productivity also go up. It’s hard to be engaged and “spinning the wheels” at the same time!
9) From work to life engagement
Coaching typically takes the “whole person” into account. The benefits derived from coaching such as increased engagement at work doesn’t stop there but spills over into the individuals home life as well. There is a shift from just “work/employee engagement” to “life engagement.” The person becomes engaged and energized with the whole of life!
10) Building community
Technology while amazing can never fully replace the human touch and its role in bringing forth higher levels of engagement. We still need each other for a sense of belonging and community, acknowledgement and recognition and for effective teamwork and collaboration. The human journey is enriched as we share space and rub off on each other be it as coaches, colleagues, direct reports, bosses or family members. High tech and high touch engages, then transforms!