Developing a Coaching Culture to Recession-Proof Retention & Improve Employee Engagement

During tough economic times, organisations need to ensure they not only retain key team members, but that their employees remain motivated.  This is no mean feat with international economic screws tightening and many employees becoming increasingly concerned about job security.  So, how can Leadership teams prevent employees from retreating into fight or flight mode?

As humans, when we are fearful our cognitive and emotional functioning becomes impaired.  This impacts on individual, and ultimately, organisational performance.  In a recession, the last thing we want to do is limit performance and productivity.  An MIT review found that job security and reorganisation are two elements which are the most concerning for employees.  Not only this, but as highlighted by Gallup, the cost of replacing employees can be up to twice that of an employees’ annual salary.  So not only do companies want to retain and engage their best employees, but they also need to avoid being hit with significant hiring costs when the economic downturn ends, which it will.

It has been found that remuneration packages have only a moderate impact on engagement.  This is relevant to some Cayman-based firms, where there has potentially been a historic reliance on paying top-end salaries, to mask less than average employee experience practices.  In fact, in the current climate, the greatest predictor of employee attrition is company culture itself and whether the culture is experienced by employees as a toxic one MIT.  With this in mind, and with redundancies and restructures often a first line of defence when faced with challenging economic times, the time to look at ways to boost retention and engagement is now.

Strategies to build a winning company culture are broad and far reaching, however below we have explored the development of a coaching culture which has been shown to have a significant impact on employee retention, engagement and morale.  Reviewing existing practices, or indeed employing these strategies for the first time would be a valuable use of organisational time when looking to ‘recession-proof’ company culture.

What is a Coaching Culture?

Developing a coaching culture in the workplace creates empowered individuals, engaged and diverse workforces & impactful leadership teams.  Employee fulfilment, engagement and productivity will be dramatically improved by embracing this approach.  But what does this mean in practice?

The facilitation of a coaching culture needs intentional positive action.  It requires the fundamental pillars of coaching and its associated techniques and practices to be woven into the organisational value system.   The Leadership and Management team are encouraged to embody a growth mindset and take a holistic approach to developing people that nurtures openness, inclusivity, and authenticity.  It means creating a safe environment where difference is celebrated; performance is coached not policed; employees feel able to speak their truth and individuals are accountable for their actions, not system failings which they are unable to control.

It is a culture where the leadership lean into challenging conversations and situations with the aim of supporting peers and employees to grow.  Within a coaching culture, Managers hold a deep belief in individual potential, and a nuanced approach is taken towards each employee so they can reach it.

The Positive Impact of a Coaching Culture

Aside from an overall increase in both individual and team performance, the effect of embedding the cornerstones of high-performance coaching into company values, is that organisations increase both awareness of, and connection to, meaning and purpose.  Scoring high on meaning and purpose is another key driver of employee engagement.

Taking a coaching approach to development also allows organisations to treat employees at all levels as individuals, allowing them to play to their strengths when setting objectives, and then aligning these with business needs.  Allowing employees to focus on their unique strengths, and weave them into business objectives, is top requirement for engaging employees.

The Gallups research highlighted below, supports the aforementioned benefits of a coaching approach and underlines the importance of the role of Manager in employee engagement.  We have all heard the adage ‘people leave their Managers, not companies’, however, extensive research has now compounded the importance of this fact.  Not only is having a Manager who can take a coaching approach to development key to retention, research suggests that the impact of a Manager or Team Leader accounts for 70% of variance in team engagement.

Employees want to know that they matter, and they are valued for what makes them unique.  The diagram below outlines how the current key drivers of employee engagement have now shifted:

The Past Our Future
My Paycheck My Purpose
My Satisfaction My Development
My Boss My Coach
My Annual Review My Ongoing Conversations
My Weaknesses My Strengths
My Job My Life

Therefore, alongside a proactive Leadership decision to cultivate a coaching culture in the workplace, the facilitation of companywide external and internal Coaching Support Packages, Coaching Skills Workshops for Managers & Employees, along with Management & Leadership Training, will work simultaneously foster the development of a coaching culture.

In summary, whilst off-shore jurisdictions may have historically navigated engagement challenges by paying market-leading salaries, the slowdown of both local and international candidates willing to move roles during challenging economic times, plus the need to boost retention, means there is certain value in reviewing and augmenting approaches to employee retention and engagement.  For support or advice with creating coaching cultures, high-performance coaching and employee enablement workshops, please contact our Head of Coaching & HR Business Consultant [email protected]. This article is the second in a series on DE&I, Culture and People First Strategy.