Research Paper By Lay Li Tan
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
In most organizations, there is a performance appraisal process. In the process, employees and managers will come to together to discuss performance for the last 6 months to 1 year. The managers will also agree on the development plan with the employee based on the identified competency gaps.
A course, off-site seminar or on-the-job training is typically suggested to the employees to acquire the knowledge or skills.
“Mary, you have done a great job this year. With the expansion of your job scope, I need you to be able to present eloquently and confidently. This 2-day course will give you the opportunity to practise your presentation skill.”
“Peter, I observed that you are not familiar with the standard operating procedure in organizing events. Grace is very experienced in this area. Can you arrange with her to go through the procedure with you?”
“Maria, all newly promoted managers attend this leadership workshop. It gives you the knowledge and skills to lead and influence effectively.”
These learning interventions can have extraordinary impact during the initial period. Often, the participants expressed that the content of these learning interventions was useful for their work. Yet, managers may not see improvements on the job. What could possibly be missing here? The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development describes the optimal sources of learning. The 70% refers to on the job learning. 20% refers to learning through others. The last 10% refers to formal and traditional types of learning like classroom, seminar and e-learning. Does it mean that if we provide on-the-job training we are most likely to create positive business impact? How can coaching complement these learning interventions to create positive change in the workplace.
Let’s take a closer look at the various scenarios below.
John is Mary’s manager. He observed that Mary was unable to present confidently during the management meeting.
In this situation, John suggested to Mary to attend a presentation course. From the course, Mary acquired a few tips on how to be a good presenter. She learnt that her tone of voice, eye contact and use of gestures are important in doing a good presentation.
However, during the next management meeting, Mary’s presentation did not improve.
Her confidence was affected by the last presentation that did not go well. Mary felt that if she is still not able to present well, she will not be getting her promotion at the end of the year. As an introvert, she feels that she will never be able to present with poise like an extrovert. While the trainer in the course has demonstrated how to be a great presenter and the techniques to present well, it was her limiting belief and lack of confidence that prevented her from doing a good job.
Coaching will support Mary in creating awareness on her underlying limiting belief and perspective. Through the coaching process, she will discover empowering perspectives to support her goal. Coaching creates awareness and learning on the ‘real issue’ that results in the poor performance.
Peter is in charge of planning corporate events. Susan observed that Peter was not very meticulous in his planning. He forgot to send out invitations to the customers during one of the product launch events. In another occasion, he did not inform the Security that the caterer will be delivering food at 10am. This resulted in delay and affected the itinerary put together for the event.
Susan asked Peter to approach Grace to go through the Standard Operating Procedure Manual. Peter had the briefing with Grace. He learnt the procedure required to perform the job well. However, he was not motivated to do his job well. He felt that his strengths are in report generation and analysis of customer data. He did not like to deal with different parties. However, Susan felt that this additional responsibility of planning corporate events will help him develop his competency on working with others.
Instead of assuming that the performance gap is due to lack of knowledge, coaching provides a channel of communication to understand what has prevented Peter from giving his best performance. It creates a trusting space for Peter to share what is important for him, vis-à-vis just following the instructions of the manager. By playing the role of a coach, Susan has the opportunity to understand what Peter’s strengths and interests are. The coaching conversation brings about commitment and accountability in the client as he co-creates development plan with the coach.
Maria has just been promoted as a manager. After 1 year, the employee engagement score of her department dropped. From the verbatim received, it showed that Maria was too task-oriented and micro-manage her employees. Maria’s manager, Anthony shared the feedback with Maria and explained to her that she needs to transit from an individual contributor to a leader who can lead and influence. After the conversation, Maria attended a leadership workshop to understand the attributes and behaviours of a successful leader.
After the workshop, Maria made conscious effort to build relationships with her employees and delegate some responsibilities. However, this change did not sustain. Under the pressure to deliver results, Maria felt that she needed to be very hands-on to monitor the progress very closely. Maria did not have time to reflect the progress she has made.
Change can be difficult. There is always an impetus to go back to old way of doing things. A coach can support and encourage Maria in the change process. It provides a safe space for Maria to integrate what she has learnt in the workshop with her past experiences, beliefs and values. A coach can challenge Maria on how she can continue to improve her management style. A coach will acknowledge her strengths and provide feedback on the progress the client is making. This helps to create sustainable behavioral change that will lead to business results.
Tony is a new Operation Director in Bank Z. In his previous company, the processing time for housing loan takes 1 working day. However, in Bank Z, the processing time takes 3 working days. Through observation, he felt that his employees were not technology savvy and motivated to find ways to reduce the processing time. He sent them for Excel and Quality Improvement workshops. The employees commented that the workshops were engaging and trainers were very knowledgeable. However, he was curious to find out why the processing time of housing loan did not improve after attending the workshops.
He put on his coaching hat and engaged the team leader in coaching conversation. He reminded himself to put his judgment aside. The team leader shared that the employees were too busy in the day to day responsibilities. They were not able to find time to review and establish steps to recommend changes based on the new knowledge acquired. Coaching builds trust and relationships that are necessary to establish sustainable change within an organization. It provides an opportunity for reflection on how the knowledge acquired can be applied on the workplace. This process brings realism and practicality to the acquired knowledge.
Determining the right course and selecting the ideal mode of learning are common questions that manager seeks to answer when a performance gap is identified. These are important questions that ensure effective learning takes place. However, effective learning does not automatically translate to business results. Coaching supports the learner in integrating the new knowledge and skills acquired to the workplace. It facilitates the application and change in behaviours that need to happen after a learning intervention.
Change needs to happen to create organizational growth. Change in organization structure, setup, system, process, targeted market and productivity will require employees to acquire new knowledge or skill. This need for learning intervention can come from top-down or bottom-up. Top-down refers to initiatives that are driven at strategic level affecting a bigger group of employees. Bottom-up refers to performance gap identified at individual level. In both scenarios, it is important for employees to have the motivation to acquire new knowledge and skills. According Dr. Malcolm Knowles’s Adult Learning Theory, adults are relevancy-oriented and they must see the reason for learning. Coaching prior to the learning intervention ensures that right learning intervention is given. It clarifies the learning gap to be addressed and brings about the commitment necessary for business growth.
Performance improves after a successful workshop is delivered. However, the positive impact may not sustain. Employees go back to some of the old habits. After a while, they lose the motivation to continue to reflect and change. Coaching provides the structure to facilitate change. It helps employees connect to goals of the organization and things that are important in their lives. This builds a cultural practice in an organization that is capable of continued growth.