A Key to Retaining Employees: Continuous Coaching and Upskilling

BY Lisa Jaffe | December 29, 2022

Last year, 4.3 million people, or 3.4% of the U.S. working population, left their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this wasn’t something that started with the pandemic. It’s a trend that started in 2009 and continues this year. “The trend is continuously increasing in terms of people who leave voluntarily,” said Madhukar Govindaraju, founder and CEO of Numly, a company that provides solutions for coaching, learning and development, and upskilling. Govindaraju presented a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s virtual conference on “New, Active Approaches to Employee Coaching and Recognition.”

The people leaving their jobs at the highest rates are women and, and they aren’t just leaving their jobs and companies; they’re moving internally. “Obviously retention is hard. But hiring has also become very hard,” said Govindaraju. “It’s not just the cost of hiring, but in finding the right talent, paying them the right market salaries, engaging them, and attracting them to your company. And it’s not just hard but getting more difficult. Even if you want to throw dollars at the problem.”

Add to this the challenges of hybrid work. “Fifteen or 20 years ago, as a manger or leader in my own organization, I was looking at the same thing. I want my team to be very productive. I want everybody to have flexibility in terms of the choice of work location work time,” Govindaraju said. “And everyone on the team, myself included as leader, wants them to feel a sense of belonging. We felt there was a need to upskill and reskill our teams always.”

Now, there are rumbles of anxiety and burnout, and there is uncertainty not just from an economic standpoint, but for employees’ jobs and careers within teams, says Govindaraju. “It's not just a lack of engagement, but active disengagement. Existing programs are not working as well as envisioned.”

Companies are looking for for skills beyond the technical, like resilience and empathy. Managers need to extend their abilities in these new skill sets to be more effective in the world of remote work–leadership, problem solving, and critical thinking alike. That requires coaching, says Govindaraju.

Numly CEO Madhukar Govindaraju (Photo courtesy of Numly)

E-learning works in certain areas, he says, “and without e-learning, you can’t embark on developing your teams. When we extend training with coaching it makes a big difference.” Training can mean e-learning, workshops, and other development programs. The productivity numbers that result from the combination of these different types of training show this is “a slam dunk,” Govindaraju said. Combining these types of training can result in four times the productivity and five times the engagement among employees who do both traditional training and have access to coaching.

Coaching actually improves the efficacy of learning delivered in other manners. “If you think of doing this not just quarterly, or assigning 25 hours of learning and coaching to managers and top talent, but rather do it across the entire organization,” said Govindaraju, you can quickly see the return on the investment.

Coaching Is Different Now

Traditional coaching is usually freeform, one-on-one, on-off, involves bringing in outside experts, and produces results that are difficult to measure. The new kind of coaching is different. It includes structured, guided conversations; it is offered universally, is many-to-many rather than one-to-one, and it is ongoing and continuous.

Success isn’t measured by skill level pre- and post- training, nor just engagement. You should know whether people are working together, how many sessions happen each week, and the satisfaction rating of each session. You want to know not just how many people participated, but how many completed the programs. “What you can’t measure won’t improve,” he said. You need to find out if users feel psychologically safe during the process, and if there is assurance of privacy– something that HR leaders have told Numly repeatedly is important to any coaching platform.

Turning Managers Into Coaches

Start with external coaches, says Govindaraju, and have them work with your managers to become coaches themselves. “They aren’t just coached how to coach, but required to practice coaching. Then we take the network of leaders and managers and incorporate them into a network where they can coach their teams and others within the organization.”

They need to develop skills to be effective coaches, including those related to dialogue, such as active listening, emotional intelligence, teamwork, empowering and providing recognition, as well as development skills like providing powerful feedback and fostering a growth mindset. These are some of the critical skills needed to coach with confidence, says Govindaraju.

“Coaching always correlates better KPIs,” Govindaraju said. “Across the board, according to a study that Google did about what’s the No. 1 factor for people to stay within their company, it was not benefits, not any other compensation related things, or the economy or whatever. It was psychological safety. And if you look at coaching, it improves team functioning, increases engagement, and of course, productivity. Most importantly, it creates a foundation and a very strong trust network of psychological safety within your organization. And you can absolutely expect higher retention within every small unit, your team, your organization, or a division or a company at large.”

Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics.


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