A five-point approach to coaching clients to better engage and mobilize employees

The past few weeks I have been working with a billion-dollar client to help the leaders and managers there better engage and mobilize employees. Following is a five-point approach that seems to cover all of the bases and lead to measurable results:

1. Collect data. In this case, the client had already engaged a company to measure engagement among its 6,000-plus employees. The survey results tell the overall organization and each manager where they stood compared to national benchmarks. The survey also revealed specific areas where engagement was low based on drivers for engagement in that particular organization, for instance on involving employees in decisions.  If you specialize in helping clients improve employee engagement, you should align yourself with a firm that provides validated engagement surveys. With data in hand, the client can easily track progress and know where it is succeeding and where it needs work.

2. Provide training so that managers know how to better engage employees. I provided a series of 3.5-hour trainings to 175 managers (around 20 per session) using my methodology for engagement. (Center for Executive Coaching members receive the exact training materials I used along with a webinar on how to deliver these workshops). Many coaches/trainers/consultants provide an incomplete solution when all they do is offer training. That's because research shows that up to 85% of training content is forgotten within two weeks. Training must be reinforced by the other elements of this 5-point approach.

3. Provide coaching to follow up and sustain results/learning. In this case, I have trained the internal coaching group of the organization to be executive and leadership coaches. The engagement initiative is one of their inaugural assignments. Coaches in the group will look at the engagement scores and action plans that managers have submitted, and set up coaching sessions to make sure that the action plan gets implemented, while tracking improvements.

4. Put systems in place that support higher engagement. There are many things that this organization is doing to support improved engagement, and there are also opportunities to do more. Among the new systems that are in place: 1. Managers are now reviewed partly on how well they increase engagement scores; 2. Compensation is now partly based on engagement scores; 3. Managers are expected to submit a specific action plan about how they will improve their individual engagement scores (and the coaching team will work with them to support implementation/accountability).

There were also a few areas that emerged (and were mentioned frequently during the training sessions) that can further help engagement, and the organization is exploring ways to resolve them. Two examples: 1. It takes a long time to remove a poor-performing employee from the organization. As a result, managers spend too much time with the under-performers, which leads to disengagement by the high performers and causes many to leave. Some managers also dump poor performers onto other units, because that is easier than firing them. The organization is working to educate managers about how to properly document performance to remove poor performers more quickly. 2. There are WAY too many meetings at this organization, and this prevents managers from spending time walking around and working with their team members.

5. Change the culture at the top. This remains one of the trickier areas for this particular organization. It is going through enormous change, and almost every employee has shifting priorities that are challenging to juggle. However, the CEO is working to streamline reporting and model behaviors that make it easier to stay focused on key initiatives. He is becoming more aware of the ways that his own behaviors can make it challenging to engage his team, which in turn ripples down through the organization.

As you can see from the above approach, coaches can make a huge impact on engagement. However, it might require the coach to think about offering more than just a pure coaching solution. To me, this is a wonderful opportunity, and I am happy to be the lead advisor for the whole process. I would rather provide a complete solution to a client than quibble about what coaching is and isn't. For other coaches, it might make more sense to do only a part of the process, and work with other advisors who do the rest.

Regardless, I hope you find this approach valuable. Again, the Center for Executive Coaching has the tools and resources you need to get involved in engagement like this, and you can have tremendous impact!

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