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Pedalling on: More life cycles…

Following on from our last post, in which we explained how a coaching culture would support and boost three separate stages of the employee’s life cycle, we’re now covering the other three.

Coaching cultureIt’s easy for us to wax lyrical about coaching as a subject, given it’s what we do, but it’s much easier to see the outcome in real-life context. We’ve gone into great detail, over the past few months, about the benefits of implementing a coaching culture within your organisation, with contribution from our team member Gillian Jones, author of ‘How to Create a Coaching Culture – if this is something you’re interested in for your company, scroll through our recent blogs and you should find heaps of useful information.

So, on to the life cycles…

Life Cycle Four: Studying for Professional Qualifications

In some industries, law and accounting, for example, those wishing to practise need to undertake exams. Without these professional qualifications, they’re not protected if they give poor advice, nor recognised as someone who keeps abreast of changes to the law.

It’s not just exams for legal or ‘qualifying’ purposes that employees may wish to take whilst working in their job; some may look to develop themselves through further education, to improve their career prospects, achieve long-term ambitions, or just so they’re continually moving forward.

Whilst some managers may fear that helping to improve the career prospects of team members may mean losing them, this is no reason to not support them (see last week’s post). Instead, the manager should look at the benefits this extra knowledge could bring to the team: how could it improve current practices? How could they help enrich the skills or knowledge of their colleagues?

There are considerations, of course, such as the impact this study has on the employee’s daily duties, and how it may affect the priorities and deadlines of the whole team/department. There may also be funding issues to contend with, and the views of the other team members to manage; a policy on in-work study can help provide a framework, but day-to-day organisation and support may bring its own challenges. A coaching culture will ensure the manager and team see the wider picture, and also, that the employee looking to study feels supported.

Life Cycle Five: Returning to Work

Whether a new mum, after her maternity leave has ended, or someone coming back to work following a long illness, a change of routine and focus can take a while to get used to – for both parties. Says Gillian, “More women are delaying starting a family, and a large proportion of these can therefore reach management roles before taking maternity leave. Organisations are starting to realise the importance of retaining the knowledge and skills of these women. Coaching prior to, and post, maternity leave ensures business continuity, knowledge protection, employee motivation and enhanced retention.”

ID-100218367Some companies offer ‘maternity coaching’, and tackle the process in three separate stages. The first focuses on the handover to whomever is covering the pregnant employee’s role whilst they’re on maternity leave. The second stage is perhaps more radical: it supports the employee with the practicalities and expectations of motherhood and aims to maintain their confidence. The third stage concentrates on their transition into the workplace.

Typical questions organisations should consider, when an employee returns to work after a period of time away (for whatever reason), should include: What processes have been implemented since the employee took a break? How have customers changed in the interim? What key responsibilities did the employee have? What projects were they working on, and how have these progressed in their absence?

The employee’s manager may use coaching in meetings and visits with the employee, to put together some framework or plan similar to the individual’s induction. It’s an ideal opportunity to find out how the employee is coping psychologically, and to also discuss any logistical or practical issues relating to their return.

A common factor behind prolonged absences is stress; coaching is particularly welcome in this scenario. The aim would be to find out if the source of the employee’s stress still exists, and how the situation could be recognised and dealt with if symptoms reoccurred, before it has chance to escalate.

Life Cycle Six: Exit Management

Sensitive and appropriate handling of an exit situation could help retain knowledge – something Gillian describes as “critical”. She adds, “The minute someone announces they are leaving the organisation it’s vital that you protect your investment, by ensuring as much knowledge they have in their head is transferred to the rest of the team before they depart.”

However important that may sound, the manager’s concerns may be elsewhere: the finding and training of a new employee, for example. They may struggle to pinpoint exactly what should be recorded or gleaned from the exiting employee, and if the departure was borne of an internal issue, it could prove an uncomfortable process. It’s unlikely that the exiting employee will be motivated to pass on all they know in this scenario, too.

But, handled correctly, and using a coaching approach, the company could gain a significant amount of insight. An exit interview that explores why the employee wants to leave could highlight hidden issues within the team that desperately need attention. If held in a timely fashion, there may also be an opportunity to change the employee’s mind.

To encourage openness and objectivity, it may be a good idea to have someone from HR conduct the exit interview. Ask open questions that focus on specific elements of the employee’s time with the organisation, such as: What was their experience of the induction process – what was a help, and what hindered? What could make things better for their successor?

This could prompt further considerations for the organisation: Do managers recognise how much knowledge a person can take with them, and the benefits of asking them to coach others? Does the department already have a culture of sharing knowledge? Have managers received training to understand what questions to ask to elicit knowledge, e.g. modelling techniques? Does the organisation have a specific process to manage retirees leaving the company?

The feedback, of course, is only useful if it leads to change, and not just as a paper exercise.

Sometimes, it’s hard to focus on new ways of thinking or working when there are other demands on your time and attention. If you’d like our help to implement a coaching culture within your organisation, contact us on 01329 820580 or via

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