Many organisations have recognised the need to support their employees in ways that go beyond the traditional employer-employee relationship. The transformative events that have taken place since 2020 have caused us all to re-evaluate what it means to have work that aligns and integrates with personal values, goals and needs, as well as to be properly skilled and prepared to perform roles that are quickly evolving.
As we look into 2022, it’s worth evaluating how companies have progressed in investing in tools to keep employees engaged, relevant and future-ready and in implementing programmes to improve the career wellness of their employees. Has the vision of career wellness that dominated HR discussions and media coverage in 2021 come to fruition?
If the results of the 'Great Resignation' are any indication, we have work to do. While employees are leaving for many reasons, career health is one important component. Clearly, employees are looking carefully at their options and employers who want to keep them need to keep up.
To address talent losses, companies should try to dig down deep to understand in greater detail why employees leave (e.g., In what ways was career development lacking or inhibited?) and define their plans to address these challenges. Through employee engagement surveys, pulse surveys and exit interviews, companies can better diagnose their own organisation’s biggest issues and invest resources in fixing those problems endemic to their culture.
coaching addresses multiple work issues
HR analyst Josh Bersin has said that the silver lining of the pandemic is that it has taught us that if we don’t focus on the ‘whole person’ at work (wherever that may take place), all the individual HR programmes an organisation has won’t add up. Often, however, such coaching is only provided to leaders and high-potential employees, leaving the vast majority of employees without the benefits of having an expert to help them with a multitude of challenges they could be experiencing. These might include a number of issues, such as communication challenges with a manager or colleague, stress and managing workload, finding purpose in work, deciding how to best develop their career, navigating a multitude of HR programmes for career development, determining what skills it makes sense to develop, or how to reach full productivity, build relationships remotely or establish early wins as a new employee.
The solution for addressing the unique issues that an employee may face is actually quite simple: guidance and support from someone who is an expert on careers and is able to help the employee discover and gain clarity about what they need to do so that they can achieve career wellbeing.
coaching for development
Offering coaching can help employees stay on track in their careers by untangling what is often a complex and nuanced array of needs. Career experts can guide employees to develop priorities and plans of action that are tailored to each employee’s set of circumstances – providing an effective method for employee development. According to a study from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and HCI from 2019, companies that have a coaching culture reported higher employee productivity, greater ease in making large-scale change and better candidate attraction. By focusing proven coaching techniques on employees’ careers, companies can begin helping employees address their career goals and explore possibilities for achieving those goals inside the organisation, thus reducing the chance that employees leave to join another company, such as a competitor.
coaching for hybrid work challenges
While at the beginning of 2021 we were hoping for a return to the office, hybrid work models appear to be the new normal. A BBC survey tells us that the majority of employees want the hybrid model, including some form of remote work and with no more than three days in the office. With the reality of hybrid work, supporting these employees and keeping them engaged has presented new challenges.
Connecting is an important element for many employees. This creates another opportunity for career coaching: helping companies provide better human connection to their employees and manage the challenges presented by working in isolation.
Imagine a scenario where an employee is working remotely while others are in the office for a high-profile meeting. Body language can be read by those in the room but is more difficult for a remote employee to discern, even if on camera. Side conversations might also happen in the room, leaving remote employees feeling left out. It would be easy for remote employees to tune out and not contribute under these circumstances.
Over time, those who are in the office less often, or who are working 100% remotely, can find their voices drowned out by those who are present. Such a scenario may have a greater impact on women, who are more likely to work remotely due to family responsibilities. This can also make it more difficult for women to advance their careers, which in turn can strain a company’s inclusion and diversity efforts. In this straightforward example, a coach can help that employee find their voice in a meeting and ensure they share their thoughts. This can contribute to more inclusivity when it comes to solving business challenges, while also safeguarding the employee’s professional reputation. It would otherwise be too easy for remote employees to disappear in the minds of key leaders.
Working remotely can lead to numerous work challenges that increase stress and lessen effectiveness. For example, while employees may be more productive, there is a danger in getting sidetracked on lower priority work activities that are not aligned with the needs of the larger team. Asynchronous communications among coworkers can also lead to knowledge gaps and missed cues. Through career coaching, employees can get personalised guidance from an expert who can help them develop strategies for working efficiently, staying focused on priorities and finding ways to minimise the challenges of online communications.
coaching for meaningful work
Finding meaning in work is another important element of career wellness. Many have theorised that the Great Resignation is, in part, a ‘great reckoning’ on the part of employees who are reconsidering the alignment of their work with their values. While company values can sometimes adapt to changing norms, companies can also help employees to discover what’s truly meaningful to them – and find ways to connect that meaning to their work.
Coaching prompts employees to discover and articulate their values and perhaps find ways to practice those values in their current roles. I once coached an executive who was considering leaving her industry to pursue a career in non-profit work. She had deeply held values around Alzheimer’s research after caring for an elderly parent and could not reconcile her ‘day job’ to the passion she felt in her nonprofit work. Through coaching, she was able to approach her employer about ways to help her fuse the two. Her manager suggested she join an elder caregiver’s Employee Resource Group, which also supported Alzheimer’s research for prevention. The ERG helped raise awareness of the issue and matched the fundraising efforts of the nonprofit organisation for a company-sponsored Alzheimer’s walk. With coaching, this employee was able to expand her mindset to consider a novel approach to her values and her work.
As we continue to move through unprecedented times and look to 2022, consider helping your organisation strengthen career wellness through coaching. Employees are clearly looking for new ways to apply their skills and interests, and coaching can help them consider new paths. Coaching employees to adjust to hybrid work can help them maintain a tighter human connection and ensure they remain visible at a time we’re not seeing as much of each other. Coaching can also ensure their most deeply held values are identified and aligned to the work they do every day. By creating a coaching culture in your organisation and supporting employee career wellness, your company has a better chance of keeping employees interested, productive and committed to your organisation at a time when options on the outside are abundant.