Coaching builds skills and engagement

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Finance professionals are under continuous pressure to keep up with developments in their market and adapt their skills to changing needs. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) skills, for example, are increasingly sought. But demand far outstrips supply, and the tight recruitment market makes hiring staff with these highly prized skills a costly and time-consuming process – or just impossible.

Employers are therefore having to develop the knowledge within their workforce to meet these changing needs. Whether using an external coach, setting up internal processes or encouraging peer-to-peer initiatives, coaching is an effective method of supporting your talent.

It can, in particular, be a cost-effective way of supporting the development of specific skills. Respondents to a survey by the Institute of Leadership and Management cited improved confidence, performance and productivity as the three most positive changes it brought, both for the individuals coached and their wider team or organisation.

Create the culture

Coaching works well as a daily activity, through in-the-moment and one-to-one career conversations. It’s important first to identify the significant skills gap that needs addressing so you can choose the appropriate coach, and then to actively manage the coaching relationship so you can evaluate success.

Employees who recognise a need to develop themselves appreciate coaching as an opportunity that doesn’t take time away from the day-job and is focused on their particular needs – unlike more formal, generic, company-wide training sessions. The key is for individuals to own and drive the learning process. The coaching objectives ought to be agreed upfront and should include Smart (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals that help improve the performance of the business.

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Agree terms

It is a good idea to start with a three-way conversation to agree coaching objectives – between coach, coachee and the coachee’s immediate line manager. This enables transparency around goals and expectations, and ensures there are no hidden agendas. A good coach will set stretch objectives in agreement with the coachee in the first instance, and review progress on a regular basis. It’s important to have a robust conversation.

The regular nature of the feedback – rather than as part of an annual performance review – is where coaching really comes into its own. This continuous learning can be really motivational.

Be specific with feedback – eg has there been a measurable change in the coachee’s behaviour? – and use 360 feedback, from juniors and clients.

Key steps

Here are some tips for where to start.

  • Set up an initial meeting to establish a coaching relationship, taking into account the individual’s needs and goals as well as business objectives
  • Identify specific objectives, timescales and outcomes for the coaching
  • Establish a flexible structure to suit all parties, agreeing format, frequency, progress and evaluation
  • Ensure the coaching is confidential and provides a safe space in which to learn, question, share and grow
  • Agree a process for review and evaluation to ensure progress on desired outcomes and goals.

Whether the focus of coaching is on attaining an individual career goal, skills enhancement, a specific project or change management, good coaching will support employees in achieving the objective via targeted and skilled conversations with their coach. For the employer, the process can bridge talent gaps, create a high-performance environment where team members thrive, and build a more engaged workforce to deliver consistent and sustained performance.

Author: Liz Sebag-Montefiore is co-founder and director of consultancy 10Eighty

This article was first published in the May 2022 edition of AB magazine

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