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Inspiring Behavioral Change in Employees Through Peer Coaching

By Ashley Henderson, Guest

The numbers don’t lie—employee peer coaching is in demand and is very good for business. CNBC reported that a LinkedIn’s study found that 94% of employees will stay longer at a company invested in their learning. Meanwhile, millennial and Gen Z workers—who are steadily populating the workforce—have said that engagement with leadership is an important factor for their longevity and productivity. But despite all this, companies have not always encouraged leaders to transcend into coaches.

Only in the last decade have companies begun to see employee peer coaching as an investment rather than an option. LinkedIn also reported that over 82% of professionals now say that their bosses support employee engagement and upskilling. However, the real benefit of peer coaching is not just its ability to increase company profit.

When properly rolled out, peer coaching can create lasting paradigm shifts that will better the company, the culture, and the employee personally. But just how can this be done?

1. Identify Pain Points

Even the most professional worker cannot help but carry some personal baggage every so often. If an employee is experiencing personal issues, purely professional and objective advice will only provide them a bandage solution. Through peer coaching, you can work together to identify specific pain points that may be hindering progress.

For example, if a single father is struggling to meet the quota, it is better to coach him on how to schedule his day rather than provide short-term solutions. Not only will this get him back on track, but it will also help him keep these good habits going in the long-term. Keep a macro-awareness of how everything plays into each other. Depending on your relationship, you could set up team goals (that include numerical and behavioral) or you could meet one-on-one to do this.

2. Break Unconscious Biases

Unfortunately, generations of ingrained biases affect how we look at ourselves and others. In the workplace, this is often seen in the form of sexism and racism. In fact, in our ‘Workplace Racial Bias is Real’ post, Shalini Ramakrishnan notes that 42% of American employees have experienced racism.

She also states that racial biases are impossible to change through outright admonishments—especially if they’re subtle microaggressions and microinvalidations. Instead, by providing holistic understanding, employees are better able to grasp the need for acceptance and respect at the most fundamental level of thought. Through effective peer coaching techniques, employees  can be approached in a personalized and contextual way that is sustainable too.

3. Develop a Growth Mindset

Marcus article on developing resilience states that trying times can be a way to develop a growth mindset. This mindset allows you to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than problems waiting to be solved. A growth mindset can also promote positivity, patience, and happiness that can lead to a 31% increase in productivity.

Coaching your employees to believe in their abilities, while also making sure to acknowledge hard work is one way to develop their growth mindset. There is a fine line between nitpicking and honing. Constantly pointing out an employee’s “difficulties” can lead to disengagement and demotivation. Instead, approach them from a place of improvement and trust. Show them that their “weaker” attributes are works-in-progress. This is a prime chance to re-angle their outlook and help provide insightful feedback through peer coaching.

4. Foster Regular Dialogue

Effective peer coaching should have a constant flow of communication between everyone involved. This not only establishes a clearer baseline for training programs, but it also instills a sense of accountability and recognition that employees thrive off. In fact, an entry from Medium on employee recognition states that 82% of employees prefer getting recognition over other incentives. When employees feel valued and recognized, they are more likely to be effective and loyal workers who are inspired to pass on this mindset to others. This type of coaching helps promote a team, rather than solo, approach to problem-solving and productivity.

The biggest mistake that many employers make is to put behavioral training behind hard skills. But this old-school approach only widens the skills gap and creates an impersonal environment that can dampen even the hardest worker. This is because a small company in the US can lose up to $3 million a year due to disengagement. While the pandemic has pushed many companies to cut corners, the investment into proper employee peer coaching should not be one of them.

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