Use Coaching to Improve Employee Performance

How to Coach Employees to Improve Work Performance

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The first step in any effort to improve employee performance is counseling or coaching. Counseling or coaching is part of the day-to-day interaction between a supervisor and an employee who reports to her, or an HR professional and line managers.

Coaching often provides positive feedback about employee contributions. At the same time, regular coaching brings performance issues to an employee's attention when they are minor, and assists the employee to correct them.

The goal of performance coaching is not to make the employee feel badly, nor to show how much the HR professional or supervisor knows. The goal of coaching is to work with the employee to solve performance problems and improve the work of the employee, the team, and the department.

Employees who respond positively to coaching and improve their performance can become valued contributors to the success of the business. Employees who fail to improve will find themselves placed on a formal performance improvement plan, known as a PIP

Employees who fail to improve when on the PIP are likely to find their employment terminated.

Second Example of Performance Coaching

In a second example of the use of performance coaching, managers can use performance coaching to help employees who are effective contributors improve and become even more effective contributors. Done well, coaching can help any employee continuously improve their skills, experience, and ability to contribute.

In my experience, the time managers spend in performance coaching with their best, most contributing employees, is time well spent. It is more likely to produce increasing results for the organization.

It is ironic that many managers find that they spend the majority of their time with their troubled, or under performing employees, when the most significant value of their time and energy investment comes from the opposite priority.

It is an effective tool for managers to deploy in their efforts to help employees succeed, and especially, help employees increase their skills and their potential opportunities for promotion or lateral moves to more interesting positions.

Coaching Steps

Use these six steps to provide effective and supportive coaching to your reporting employees.

  • Show confidence in the employee's ability and willingness to solve the problem. Ask him or her for help in solving the problem or improving performance.
  • Describe the performance problem to the employee. Focus on the problem or behavior that needs improvement, not on the person. Ask for the employee's view of the situation. 
  • Determine whether issues exist that limit the employee's ability to perform the task or accomplish the objective. Four common barriers are time, training, tools, and temperment. Determine how to remove these barriers. Determine whether the employee needs your help to remove the barriers - a key role of a manager - or if he is able to tackle them by himself.
  • Discuss potential solutions to the problem or improvement actions to take. Ask the employee for ideas on how to correct the problem, or prevent it from happening again. With a high performing employee, talk about continuous improvement.
  • Agree on a written action plan that lists what the employee, the manager, and possibly, the HR professional, will do to correct the problem or improve the situation.
  • Set a date and time for follow-up. Determine if a critical feedback path is needed, so the manager knows how the employee is progressing. Offer positive encouragement. Express confidence in the employee's ability to improve.

You can help your reporting employees improve their current performance, or in the case of an already effective employee, help them become more effective. Performance coaching is a powerful tool

Also Known As: counseling, work coaching

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