With the UK economy showing renewed growth, businesses that encourage and nurture their employees’ full potential will be ready for long-term success, with strong management teams, long-term employees and active corporate teamwork.
Two increasingly, yet sometimes confused, forms of staff nurturing are mentoring and coaching. Both are increasingly accepted as important business tools, yet senior and middle management are often unclear of the basic differences and of their responsibility to make coaching an intrinsic, active part of their role as a manager.
While the two development techniques of mentoring and coaching are similar, they do have different approaches and goals. Mentoring tends to be a long-term process, offering guidance and support for general business practices and personal development often from an older, experienced person to a younger colleague. Coaching, on the other hand, tends to be a number of shorter events, each one having a tighter focus on a particular team member’s performance and/or skill.
For example, through its innovative and successful GetInGetOn industry-led project, the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership offers an innovative career mentoring programme. Using a virtual approach (social media and email), young people participate in a one-month scheme completed entirely online.
The programme’s two elements are skill and knowledge development and e-career mentoring. It enables young people to find out more about the financial and professional services industry and to develop the skills and knowledge wanted by employers.
Alongside such mentoring programmes is the other critical employee support tool – coaching. It is also increasingly used in supporting managers to develop employees within forward-thinking organisations.
Recent research from The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that a substantial majority of employers use coaching within their organisations. The organisation also says it found that in-house development programmes and coaching by line managers are still seen to be the most effective practices.
However, many managers are unaware that such a role should fall under their remit. It is important that managers realise they need to be coaches to their staff – for much the same reasons that a sports coach encourages his or her team to success. Employee attitudes toward their managers will be influenced by the degree to which they feel supported at work, which includes discussion of training and development and feedback on job performance – all important elements of coaching.
In addition, the manager who is encouraged and trained as a successful mentor will feel more valued by the firm – which helps retain those key personnel.
Effective coaching means the company will retain key employees by making them aware of, and encouraging them to participate in, learning and development opportunities. It also creates a cohesive working team, whose members will know how to work together efficiently and quickly, even when under performance pressure or strict deadlines.
The Financial & Legal Skills Partnership has developed a corporate coaching toolkit based on the successful experience of six key sports coaches. By taking the best from the sports world and applying it to business, the Performance Toolkit (launching this month) enables managers to develop their positive management profile through adopting the traits of a good manager and encouraging and developing staff.
Through the Performance Toolkit’s five training modules, managers can learn the techniques that will improve their confidence in providing effective coaching.
We recognise that good managers share basic traits, including the ability to motivate and inspire their teams, and ensure that skills are used in the best way in the most appropriate job.
However, those same managers also need support in carrying out their roles and in realising that coaching is as successful a tool in the business world as it has proven to be in the sporting arena.
By encouraging managers in coaching existing and future talent, we can look forward to solid growth in the financial and legal sectors built on of productive skills and superb performance.
Liz Field is chief executive of the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership