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Employees crave growth: how managers can coach employees

Employees want to receive coaching so they can unlock their full potential. Yet only about 20% of managers know how to do it.1 To make matters worse, a ‘lack of career development and advancement’ is a top driver of employee turnover.2 That is something that workplace coaching could address; if only employers had access to it.

Amy Rigby

In these tough times, it's hard for Human Resources to hire external coaches. At the start of 2023, nearly half of HR professionals were worried about budget cuts.3 And now that we're halfway through the year, people leaders everywhere are feeling the squeeze.

But there is good news. Your existing managers can become coaches, because coaching is a learnable skill.

Read on to find out how managers can learn to coach employees with the help of an AI-powered tool called F4S (and yes, it has a free plan!). But first, what is coaching?

What is employee coaching?

There's a lot of confusion around what a coach is in the business world. To clarify, let's outline what coaching is not.

  • It is not telling employees what to do.
  • It is not criticizing employees.
  • It is not supervising employees' work.

At its core, effective employee coaching is about working with an individual and team to set and achieve goals, ultimately setting them up to reach their full potential. And this isn't some made-up thing. Gallup studied managers in 49,495 business units with 1.2 million employees across seven industries and 45 countries for years, and found that the best managers are coaches and that coaching differs from ‘bossing’ in three distinct ways:1

  1. Employee coaching focuses on engagement, and the manager provides employees with additional resources to succeed.
  2. Coaches tap into each employee's unique talents and strengths.
  3. Coaches boost team effectiveness and optimize individual strengths by providing constructive feedback and clear goals.

Managers coach their employees to help them with professional development, career growth, internal mobility, technical skills training, and performance.

It's also worth noting the difference between coaching and mentoring:

  • Coaching relationships tend to be more formal than mentoring.
  • A mentor is someone who has a specific job/career path that someone wants, while a coach does not necessarily have that.
  • A coach typically does not tell the coachee what to do, while a mentor typically tells their mentee exactly what they did to get to where they are today.

Why is coaching employees important? 4 surprising benefits of coaching employees

Research has proven time and again the many benefits of employee coaching. Here are just a few:

1. It contributes to employee well-being

Imagine going to work every day with a boss and team who don't know you or your goals. You'd probably feel tense and unwelcome, right? Coaching between a manager and their direct reports fosters stronger relationships and helps each individual find alignment between their work and their goals. This can help with employee well-being. Research by the Institute for Employment Studies found that employees who received coaching at work experienced better well-being and were able to feel more relaxed and useful.4

2. It reduces employee turnover

Sixty-one percent of U.S. workers are thinking about quitting this year.5

Why? McKinsey found that the top reason for leaving a job between April 2021 and April 2022 for 41% of respondents was a "lack of career development and advancement".2 Other top reasons for attrition were a lack of caring and inspiring leaders, and a lack of resource accessibility. All three of these drivers of attrition are exactly what workplace coaching addresses.

3. It improves productivity

Here's an incredible case study that shows the real impact of employee coaching. Virtual assistant platform Time Etc asked new employees what they needed from a manager. Based on their answers (goal-setting, feedback, personal development, etc.), they replaced their managers with coaches.
And guess what? The company's employees saw a 20% boost in productivity.6

We're not saying you should get rid of your managers and hire coaches instead – far from it! Instead, we’ll show you how managers can become coaches as part of their job. Read on to find out.

4. It drives employee engagement

One aspect of coaching that's alluring to employees is that it's personalized to them and caters to their specific goals. This can do wonders for how engaged they feel in their work. In fact, Gartner's research found that employees with managers who are effective coaches are 40% more engaged.7

How to create a high-performance employee coaching framework for your business

Thankfully, you don't need to hire external coaches to help your employees reach their potential. This can and should be the responsibility of your managers. And yes, they can absolutely learn this skill!

Here's how to build an action plan for training managers to become excellent coaches for your employees.

1. Establish your workplace coaching vision and measurable goals

Every good coach makes it clear to their employees what the goals are. Then they make it measurable, so they know when they've achieved them. The same goes for creating a workplace coaching program.

Begin by asking these questions:

  • Why start coaching employees?
  • How will you know the program has been a success?
  • What metrics will you track and how?
  • What specific skills will managers and employees gain from this?

2. Equip your managers with the tools to understand what motivates each of their direct reports

For a coach to develop their coachee's and team's strengths and uncover blind spots, they must first understand what motivates their coachee and team. This usually requires several meetings, deep dives and pointed questions, but thankfully, this coaching process can be made much easier with the use of evidence-based tools such as Fingerprint for Success.

All the manager needs to do is have their team members take the free F4S assessment, which takes about 15-30 minutes to complete. The results are available immediately to both the team member and the manager. The report reveals details on 48 different traits that motivate a person, unveiling insights about a person's preferred communication style, how they prefer to learn and how they feel motivated at work.

F4S team dashboard shows and ranks team motivations

F4S team dashboard

These insights have incredible implications for developing a high-performing team. You may be surprised. For example, you may find out that one of your direct reports is highly demotivated by group environments, and that by asking them to work in an open-plan office (which you thought would foster collaboration and creativity), you're stunting their growth because they're constantly distracted. Based on this, you might allow them to work from home more often, or move, or provide them with conference room access to get some solo work done.

3. Understand your team's dynamic

Once all of your team members take the F4S assessment, you can see a report on the team's dynamic, including where coworkers are aligned (and how to leverage that). You’ll also see where there are differences (and how to embrace and optimize those differences).

By better understanding the unique team dynamic, you can reduce friction and lean into strengths, helping with the overall team performance.

4. Set clear, actionable goals

Remember, coaching is all about working with an individual or team to decide on goals and help them achieve them. A manager who wants to coach an employee should sit down with them and ask a lot of questions about that employee's career goals and personal goals. They should then help them formalize those into a plan that includes metrics and measurable goals.

From there, it's the manager's job to check in with the employee, asking questions to uncover their motivations and progress toward those goals. They should then provide them with access to resources to succeed.

The same process is true of team goals. Managers should hold a team meeting to establish objectives on the team level with everyone involved.

5. Establish a recognition and rewards program

Speaking of motivation, never underestimate the power of recognition to keep your employees motivated. Recent O.C. Tanner research found that organizations that have employee recognition ingrained in their culture increase the odds of high engagement by 784% and decrease employee burnout by 80%.8

You can show appreciation in informal ways, such as training managers to say thank you on the spot when an employee makes an effort. And you can have formal practices, such as using employee recognition software to award workers for milestones (such as a work anniversary). Whatever you choose to do, be sure to solicit feedback from your team and choose rewards that are meaningful for them.

6. Foster tolerance and psychological safety on your team

None of the above steps will work if your team does not have a culture of psychological safety, where they feel empowered to take risks without fear of being punished for failure.

One way to quickly assess the level of psychological safety on your team is to look at the F4S dashboard after everyone on your team has taken the F4S assessment. Click on the Team Motivations tab, and search for the Tolerance trait. This will show you how open-minded your team is towards people who see and do things differently. This is key to creating a safe space for people to take risks and innovate.

If you find that your team's Tolerance motivation is on the low end, don't worry! F4S will provide you with personalized coaching programs and advice for coaching your team to move more toward the higher end of that spectrum.

7. Keep it collaborative: Start an employee coaching conversation

As your managers develop their coaching skills, it helps to continuously seek feedback from employees on how the coaching journey is going and what can be improved. Two-way communication will keep the process collaborative and effective.

Consider sending out pulse surveys to track progress. Or, ask your managers to hold a one-on-one meeting with each direct report to gather more ideas for your employee coaching program.

Another way you can measure employee progress is by having them re-take the F4S assessment at regular intervals, perhaps quarterly or annually. Within the F4S dashboard, you can click on ‘Me over time’ to compare how a person's motivations have changed over the course of the employee coaching program.

For example, if a manager has been working with a direct report on getting them to zoom out and see the bigger picture of their long-term goals (a trait F4S calls ‘Breadth’), then you can see how much the needle has moved on that person's Breadth trait within the dashboard.

8. Make the most of weekly one-on-one meetings

Annual performance reviews should not be the only time that employees find out how they're doing. Research by Quantum Workplace9 found that employees want more one-on-ones with their managers and that a weekly cadence was best for fostering employee engagement.

A manager should see a one-on-one meeting as an opportunity to connect with their direct report and ask questions to foster that person's growth – not as an opportunity to tell them what to do. During this meeting, the manager can help with coaching the employee by pulling up the F4S dashboard and talking about the top five traits that the employee wants to see growth in. They can check in on progress on any of the free AI coaching programs that the employee is enrolled in. And they can discuss how that person is interacting with the team overall. It's also a chance to check in on goal progress.

A well-optimized one-on-one meeting goes a long way towards creating strong relationships between managers and their direct reports.

9. Master the art of providing constructive criticism

Coaching isn't just about encouraging the coachee; it's also about challenging them to be better. But being able to provide negative feedback without demotivating an employee is a skill that must be mastered. The fact is, we all have areas of improvement, which is what the F4S assessment can help identify. The way a manager points that out, though, makes a big difference between inspiring an employee and discouraging them.

First, ensure that you have good intentions before providing negative feedback. Second, make sure to show how this negative feedback aligns with that person's overall goals. (Otherwise, it will feel pointless to the recipient that you even pointed it out.) For example, if a manager and a direct report have decided together that it's a big goal to improve communication skills, it's appropriate for the manager to point out that making a decision without notifying the rest of the team was not good communication. And lastly, show them what you'd like to see instead. It's not enough to simply point out that someone did something inappropriate. You have to let them know what they should do next time and how they can grow from it. Help them create an action plan for improvement so they feel empowered.

10. Use AI coaching to supplement human coaching

When managers coach their employees, it's a great opportunity for professional growth. But it's not the only opportunity. Supplement human coaching with AI-powered coaching through Coach Marlee. F4S has many free programs that help participants set and achieve a specific goal. It also has programs that help people get better at trusting their intuition, and pay attention to details.

Through 5-15 minute sessions a couple of times each week, busy employees can finally have access to coaching on the go, making it easier and faster to accelerate their learning. Then, when they meet with their manager for a one-on-one, they can talk about how the online coaching is going. The F4S dashboard even comes with an online journal. This allows  coachees to take notes as they go through the program and share those notes with their manager as desired.

Feeling unmotivated?

Find out how to unlock your motivation.

Managers need support on their coaching journey

As you can see, coaching is for everyone. It's a teachable skill, and with the right resources, your managers and employees will thrive throughout the coaching journey.

Coaching improves productivity, drives employee engagement, reduces turnover, and contributes to well-being. In other words, it's a worthy investment for every company.

If you're feeling stuck, the F4S assessment is a free and simple place to start. It'll uncover the details of the 48 research-backed traits that affect the way we work and communicate. Within the dashboard, you'll receive insights and advice to further develop your direct reports and teams.

Once everyone on your team takes the F4S assessment, you'll have a wealth of data insights to begin coaching them effectively. Watch how each employee's job performance and your organization's overall business performance take off.


  1. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/282647/give-bossing-coaching-results.aspx

  2. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-great-attrition-is-making-hiring-harder-are-you-searching-the-right-talent-pools

  3. https://www.shrm.org/about-shrm/press-room/press-releases/pages/inflation-concerns-rising-covid-19-concerns-and-employee-engagement-declining-as-detailed-in-new-shrm-state-of-the-workpl.aspx

  4. https://www.employment-studies.co.uk/system/files/resources/files/hrp8.pdf

  5. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/01/18/70percent-of-gen-z-and-millennials-are-considering-leaving-their-jobs-soon.html

  6. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/company-replaced-managers-coaches-employees-085308044.html

  7. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/think-employees-thrive-with-constant-coaching-think-again

  8. https://www.octanner.com/global-culture-report/2023-integrated-recognition

  9. https://www.quantumworkplace.com/future-of-work/one-on-one-meeting-frequency#:~:text=Our%20research%20shows%20that%20employees,and%20obstacles%20in%20real%2Dtime

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