Use Coaching to Speed Up Employee Development
Promoting from within a company has a lot of benefits. Current employees understand the company culture, know the ropes, are known to you, and the paperwork already exists. So when you don’t have a better candidate there is some basic stuff there to work with.
Employee development is the magic bullet for succession planning and for ensuring you have the right people in the right jobs. The trick is to find the right way to prepare them. A promotion usually means the person will begin supervising others and that requires a range of skills they might not already have. Sometimes called “softskills,” they include communications skills and leadership skills. Short of sending them to a management course one option is to use on-the-job coaching.
The Coaching Role in Employee Development
Coaching happens spontaneously in construction all the time as a sort of ad hoc form of employee development. Whenever a supervisor explains a new technique, or a seasoned co-worker evaluates the finished task of a junior worker, there is coaching going on. In the case of grooming someone for a promotion however, coaching is more formal. You should set up plans on how you’ll do the training and should also set up evaluation criteria so you can track progress.
The Secrets Behind Good Coaches
It’s very important to choose the right coach. Good coaches are empathetic and aren’t afraid to work with their student in creating a coaching plan that takes into account the student’s needs as well as those of the business.
The coach will spend time training on tasks, but the student will also need to develop a more sophisticated view of the bigger picture. And, it’s not unlikely they’ll need to improve their communications skills and leadership skills.
It’s very likely a coach preparing a seasoned lead carpenter to take a superintendent’s role would have to get into areas related to communications, ethics and discipline. Not that the carpenter isn’t familiar with those, but they will now be involved with those things at a totally different level. They’ll start dealing with subs on contractual items, dealing with bank representatives, and facing new situations requiring different communications skills than what they’re used to using.
So, the coach needs to be someone who is well seasoned, and who has the patience to help the person understand how things need to work, and what constitutes success. And, that is one of the major advantages of coaching your people to their next positions – they actually get to see the expected behaviors in action.
It’s A Process
Assuming you have a motivated employee who wants to move to a new level within the company, and you have a qualified coach, here are a few steps that will help make the adventure successful.
1. Outline the Desired Outcomes
If your company has job descriptions this will be a fairly easy task. You will compare the job description of the employee’s current position to the new one, and list the new, or upgraded, behaviors. If you don’t have job descriptions then you might start out with a broad statement like; “Employee will be able to manage the day to day operations of a construction site so the project comes in on budget, (or say within a percentage), and on time while following company established rules and job requirements.” In this case, the person’s degree of success will probably be gauged against others who perform these same jobs.
2. Assign a Project as the Training Ground
Ideally the person will start their training on a new project so they don’t inherit issues left behind by someone else. But, even if they have to start training on a project that’s underway, you can still coach them successfully. Just make sure you spend time with them going over known issues. Set up a series of meetings, either in person or virtual, where you talk about issues that are evolving.
3. Schedule the Coach Time
At first, the coach should work at least half days with the trainee, and more if possible. The coach will perform all the normal tasks associated with the project as the trainee shadows them and does some of the tasks jointly and alone. This is the “watch and learn” approach, and for most people it works well as long as there is enough time allotted for the two to work together.
4. Gradually Release Tasks to the Trainee
As the coach sees the trainee catching on, they can release more of the tasks for the trainee to do on their own. With this happening, the coach’s time with the trainee begins to reduce, slowly at first.
5. Evaluate and Adapt
Here’s where the coach carefully reviews the trainee’s performance, suggests changes, reinforces positives and offers suggestions for improvements. It’s also perfectly okay during this time to entertain ideas the trainee has come up with for ways to be more efficient, streamline work, or even accomplish things in his or her own style. A good coach will be able to assess these initiatives and help the trainee to understand why some may work and others may not, without putting a damper on the trainee’s budding attempts to innovate.
6. Mark the End of Training
Here is where it might be a good idea to have a ceremony or social event where the person is recognized for their achievement while at the same time is shown a clear ending point of being in training status. From here on out, normal employee controls are picked up and followed.
Using coaching to advance your employee development efforts doesn’t have to be highly difficult and time consuming. Go into it with people who have the best interests of each other, and the company at heart. It can go a long way in helping to fill the ranks from within.