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  • Writer's pictureRyan Panzer

Coach high performers for engagement and retention

This is the fourth post in a series on coaching high performers. In the last post, we explored how coaching high performers creates sustainability and produces competitive advantages.

Researchers continue to find correlations between workplace coaching and employee engagement. When employees receive consistent coaching, they are more productive, motivated, and committed. 66% of employees who receive coaching state that it increases their job satisfaction. Two-thirds of Millennials committed to staying with a company for 5+ years have a workplace coach. It's, therefore, no surprise that coaching drives employee retention.

But when we pause to consider who receives coaching, we have to wonder if we're motivating and retaining the best people. Most "coachees" fall within two categories. The first is executive coaching, a practice utilized by 50% of organizations in which a high-ranking leader works with an external coach. The second is performance improvement coaching, in which a low-performer works with their manager and/or an HRBP in an effort to meet expectations. As we've explored in past posts in this series, high performers receive at best sporadic coaching.

So if we combine the data that coaching drives retention and engagement with the finding that most of our coaching falls outside of the high-performance segment, we can infer that we are boosting the retention and engagement of two groups: highly-paid executive leaders who are likely to stick around by virtue of their compensation packages, and low-performing individuals at all levels of the organization.

The practice of workplace coaching needs to evolve to engage and retain high performers, not just because hiring a new high-performing employee is prohibitively more expensive than retaining an existing one, but because it is essential to an organization's culture of innovation and sustainability.

Talent developers should explore three relatively simple actions that can improve the engagement and retention of high performers.

First, ensure that every high-performer has a high-performing coach. The best way to do this? Recognize that high performers might need a coach from outside of their "chain of command." Nearly every high-performer has a people manager, but most people managers are not effective coaches. Approximately 60% of managers are not seen as good coaches. Talent developers can change this by identifying high performers and pairing them up with an effective coach, internal or external. It should be the talent developer's responsibility to convene, check-in with, and evaluate these pairings, which will often cross org chart demarcations. Sometimes, these pairings will bring-in voices external to the company. We spend over $1B every year in the United States on external executive coaches. In the event a great coach isn't readily available internally, why not extend this same benefit to high performers across the business?

Second, enable the high-performers to be the next generation of coaches. The employees who drive results in your organization likely know what they would like to get out of a coaching/mentoring relationship, but they might lack the vocabulary to initiate, sustain, and optimize coaching partnerships. So don't wait until these individuals are promoted into a management position. The talent developer should resolve to create a new class of coaching talent by upskilling high performing individual contributors (ICs) in the practice of coaching. Don't just create a one-off training for this group. Continuously invest - in workshops, micro-learnings, reading materials, and job shadowing programs, so that the best of your best might continuously sharpen their coaching skillset. Then pair high-performing ICs with peers who need a boost - before you need to move those same peers into a formal performance improvement plan.

Finally, convene the best of your best for regular group coaching check-ins. Identify the best coach in your organization, and empower that coach to engage high-performers in a group setting, such as a monthly lunch group or quarterly happy hour meetup. Group coaching is particularly useful for high performers as it creates a sounding board with which innovative ideas can gain traction. The key to successful group coaching in this context is to bring together a cross-functional selection so that coachees can vet their ideas with the greatest minds in your company, and so that they can continue to work on their own coaching aptitude.

It's no longer a great secret that coaching is correlated with engagement and retention. The question now turns to whether we are engaging and retaining the right people. When we stop neglecting and start coaching our highest performing employees, we elevate the odds that our brightest minds will still be with us for years to come.

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