A Few Questions & Answers with Employee Coach Greg “Geese” Giesen

  1. What exactly is an “employee coaching program?”

An Employee Coaching Program (ECP) refers to a structured and formalized process through which employers provide training, guidance, and support to their employees to help them improve their skills, performance, and overall professional development. It involves an outside dedicated coach or mentor who works closely and provides one-on-one guidance to the employee, helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses, set goals, develop action plans, and overcome obstacles or challenges.

The main objectives of an ECP are to improve performance, develop new skills, enhance communication and interpersonal skills, address specific work-related issues, increase employee engagement and retention, and foster professional growth. It can also support performance improvement, career development, succession planning, and talent management within an organization, conducted in a confidential and supportive environment.

  1. For organizations that already provides professional development to their employees, how would coaching help?

Think of a ECP as an additional professional development resource for your employees. Specifically:

  • An ECP would compliment the professional development offerings in your organization.
  • An ECP provides one-on-one assistance in applying an employee’s learning from any professional development opportunities into actual practice.
  • An ECP supports and reinforces any coaching efforts from an employee’s supervisor.
  • An ECP coach also serves as mentor for coaching clients, based on their many years of experience in the workplace, and can provide appropriate guidance as needed.
  • An ECP offers an objective and neutral coach to assist employees in working through challenges that are internal to the organization itself (i.e., with supervisor, coworkers, etc.), where working with someone outside the organization is preferred.
  • An ECP works especially well with employees that may prefer one-on-one coaching as their desired learning style.
  • An ECP provides just-in-time coaching for critical issues in a timely and efficient manner.
  • An ECP provides a confidential and safe place for employees to talk without fear of retribution.

Probably the best way to assess if a coaching program would be beneficial to your organization is by testing it out. What do you have to lose? It’s a low-risk financial commitment with a tremendous upside.

  1. What are the benefits of employee coaching?

There are several benefits of implementing an employee coaching program:

  • Skill development: Coaching helps employees enhance their skills and knowledge. Through one-on-one sessions, employees can receive personalized guidance and support to improve their performance and develop new skills.
  • Increased productivity: Coaching programs focus on improving employee performance, which can lead to increased productivity. By addressing any skill gaps or challenges, employees can ultimately perform their job more efficiently and effectively.
  • Employee engagement and satisfaction: Coaching programs boost employee engagement by providing individuals with the attention and support they need. It shows that the organization invests in their development and cares about their success, leading to higher job satisfaction and motivation.
  • Greater retention rates: Employees who feel supported and valued by their organization are more likely to stay with the company in the long run. Coaching programs can help build a strong employee-employer relationship, reducing turnover rates.
  • Improved communication and collaboration: Coaching programs often involve regular communication between the coach and the employee. This strengthens communication skills and fosters a collaborative work environment, leading to better teamwork and coordination among employees.
  • Increased self-awareness: Employee coaching encourages self-reflection and self-awareness, allowing individuals to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. This heightened self-awareness helps employees make better decisions, manage their emotions, and adapt to challenges.
  • Leadership development: Coaching programs are not limited to front-line employees; they can also be tailored for developing leadership skills. Coaching helps individuals improve their leadership and management abilities, empowering them to lead effectively and inspire their teams.
  • Conflict resolution: Coaching programs often address conflicts or challenges employees may face within the workplace. Through coaching, employees can develop strategies to address and resolve conflicts, leading to healthier work relationships and a more harmonious work environment.
  • Professional growth: Coaching programs enable employees to set goals and work towards advancing their careers. By receiving personalized guidance, individuals can identify opportunities for professional growth, development, and advancement within the organization.
  • Overall organizational success: A well-implemented coaching program can improve the overall performance of an organization. When employees are continuously developed, engaged, and motivated, they can contribute to the company’s success, leading to higher customer satisfaction, increased revenue, and a competitive advantage.
  1. How does confidentiality work?

Confidentiality in a coaching session refers to the understanding and agreement between the coach and the client that any information shared during the session will be kept strictly confidential. This means that the coach will not disclose any personal or sensitive information shared by the client to any third party without the client’s explicit permission.

Confidentiality is essential in coaching as it allows the client to trust and feel safe in sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences openly with the coach. It fosters an atmosphere of openness and allows the client to explore and discuss their challenges and goals without the fear of judgment or negative consequences. This confidentiality extends to all aspects of the coaching relationship and includes both verbal and written communications.

Coaches are ethically and professionally bound to maintain confidentiality, and it is a fundamental ethical principle within the coaching profession. However, there are some limitations to confidentiality, such as situations where the client poses a danger to themselves or others, when the coach is legally required to disclose information, or when the information shared in the session violates ethical guidelines. In those cases, the coach may need to breach confidentiality to protect the well-being of the client or others involved.

  1. How would an employee coaching program typically work…and can we try it out before committing?

For this question, I can only speak from my experience. Know that other coaches and consulting companies have their own programs and processes that may differ. With that said, I’ll share what’s worked for me and the organizations with whom I’ve provided coaching. And yes, begin with a “trial” ECP to test the waters. Here are some initial steps:

  1. Lock in an outside coach or coaches who will be providing employee coaching.
  2. Meet with the coach(s) to iron out an agreement around fees, confidentiality, organizational boundaries, coaching client limits per month, coaching services beyond one-on-one sessions (if any), mandatory versus voluntary coaching, and the coaching process/steps itself.
  3. Identify a ECP coordinator (usually from HR) to oversee the program, connect requesting employees to their coach(s), manage monthly invoices, promote the program, and monitor progress. This sounds like a lot but it’s really not. (See Question-7)
  4. Introduce the ECP to your organization and the process for requesting a coach. A typical process would be for a requesting employee to contact the ECP Coordinator for coaching. Upon approval, the coordinator then links the employee and coach up together to work out a time/date to meet. Usually there is a limit as to how many coaching clients can utilize this service per month and how many times a particular employee can seek coaching within a month. This varies per organization.
  5. Following a coaching session, every employee would be sent a brief survey on their experience.

Typically, there are two types of coaching offered within an ECP. The most common is “Just-In-Time” coaching. As the name indicates, just-in-time coaching is usually an individual session centered around a pressing issue or problem to be solve that can be addressed in a single session. These are time-sensitive concerns and make up the bulk of the coaching sessions.

The second type of coaching involves a more structured, multi-session program where the sessions include professional development, education, and ongoing work. This can also include employees who have been put on a performance improvement plan (PIP). Because these sessions are more involved and often center around specific performance objectives, the coach may also connect upfront with the supervisor of the employee (with permission) to ensure there’s alignment between all parties.

  1. Are the coaching sessions online or in-person?

All coaching session are on Zoom for the following reasons:

  • It’s cost-effective (no travel)
  • It’s easy to use.
  • It’s easy to schedule and re-schedule coaching sessions.
  • Most organizations have already adapted to online meetings and have the technology to support it.
  • Clients have access to Zoom on their cell phones, iPads, and computers.
  • A personal connection via Zoom between coach and coachee still occurs.
  • Both coach and clients have more availability since no travel is involved.
  • Coaching at odd hours is possible.
  • Clients can connect with their coaches in the comfort of their own homes.
  1. Do employees typically take advantage of coaching?

As with any professional development service or offerings, there will always be a percentage of employees who: 1) Take full advantage of these opportunities, 2) Prefer a “wait-and-see” approach at first, or 3) Simply never will consider professional development (for numerous reasons).

If your organization endorses professional development and provides it through classes and programs to all your employees, receptivity to coaching will most likely be high. If, on the other hand, your organization does not provide much in the way of professional development, expect employees to be hesitant at first. Obvious concerns include:

  • What’s the purpose?
  • How will coaching help me be more effective in my job?
  • Is it really confidential?
  • Why do I have to go through HR to get a coaching session?
  • Is it a sign of weakness that I am seeking out coaching?
  • Will my supervisor find out?
  • Is there a limit to how often I seek out coaching?

You get the idea. The key to getting a ECP off the ground begins with how the program is introduced and marketed throughout the year. Once a coaching program has been established within an organization, the marketing efforts and employee word-of-mouth helps maintain the program’s viability.

I’ve been providing coaching for employees at a particular large city government since the inception of the program, 15-years ago.  Since then, coaching has become part of their culture with a positive stigma attached to it. As a result, it’s regularly utilized.

  1. What are the costs?

In my opinion, the better question is: Who sets the costs? I would recommend that your organization identifies a monthly limit for the ECP. For example, the city government client I mentioned earlier has a $2,000 monthly limit designated for coaching. In full disclosure, that means a maximum of eight coaching clients @ $250/hr. per month for me (my fee). Keep in mind, if I only have three coaching clients in a given month, I’m only paid for those three clients, which would be $750.

Another one of my clients prefers to put me on a monthly retainer of $3,000, with no limits of how many coaching clients I work with per month. The cavoite is that I also provide additional services as needed, such as conflict mediation, management consulting, or group facilitation.

Regardless of which method you choose, the point here is that your organization should be setting the costs, not the consultant/coach.

  1. Is the ECP only for employees or can our managers and senior leaders utilize the coaching option as well?

The ECP is for all employees, including team leads, supervisors, managers, directors, and chief executive officers. What makes the ECP unique is that it provides the coaching option for everyone within an organization.

Traditionally, many organizations have provided management and executive coaching for their emerging leaders to fine-tune their abilities to both manage people and lead within the organization. The ECP simply expands upon that principle but with the employee-base in mind.

The bottom line is this: I think we can all agree that when an organization provides growth and development opportunities for the whole organization, employee satisfaction goes up, employee morale goes up, and employee retention goes up. An ECP may not be the “silver bullet” to making this all happen, but it will definitely make a difference.

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* Greg “Geese” Giesen is a writer, speaker, storyteller, and student of life. He’s been a management trainer/consultant, graduate school professor, conflict mediator, team builder, personal growth coach, executive & employee coach, college administrator, radio talk show host, and team intervention specialists. He’s also written two books (Mondays At 3: A Story for Managers Learning to Lead, and It’s All About Me: Stories and Insights from the Geese). Geese lives in St. Petersburg, FL and continues to provide coaching for employees across the country. He can be reached at [email protected].