Hybrid work is now not only the dominant workplace model implemented by many businesses across the board, but considered desirable by the majority of those who work in these businesses. Many adults who were working from home in 2021 would prefer a hybrid approach moving forward, citing greater work-life balance as the main benefit to this style of working. It requires employees to take greater personal responsibility. For many, it is about deciding for themselves where they work, how they apportion their time and how they deliver results. In this kind of working structure, it is often more about output than how long someone is at their desk. This means individuals need to be self-sufficient and leaders must empower them to do so. A coaching culture can help to develop both the mindset and the skills, but how do organizations make the transition?
The starting point is to ensure that a coaching culture in a hybrid environment is linked to the broader HR strategy. This begins with a focused review of the business’s existing HR strategy within the hybrid environment, and a consideration as to where coaching and a coaching approach fits within this.
To begin building a coaching culture that is successful in a hybrid workplace, HR leaders must set clear goals designed with a hybrid approach in mind, rather than attempting to simply migrate face-to-face approaches to a digital world. To assist with this approach, Jonathan Passmore’s (2021) coaching culture model is a useful tool. It suggests that organizations can assess themselves against four zones to ascertain where they are currently and to evaluate their progress.
Zone 1: Leaders – Managed access to external coaches
In this zone, the focus is on how the organization uses coaches to develop and support its top talent, specifically the board and directors. This is usually achieved through the engagement of external executive coaches and in a hybrid environment this can be done either through digital coaching or face-to-face coaching. Interestingly, scientific research shows that the immediate network around a coached leader also experiences a positive effect. As a result, when launching a coaching program, say with leaders in zone 1, momentum starts to build in terms of creating a coaching culture.
Zone 2: Everyone – Democratizing coaching
In this zone, the focus is on how coaching can be extended from the top team to all managers, supervisors and employees. One common way of achieving this goal is through using a digital coaching platform.
Zone 3: Approach – Coaching as the default leadership style
In this zone, the focus is on how a coaching style of management can be developed as the default leadership style of the organization. This requires coaching skills to be an integral part of all leadership, management and supervisor training programs. It will help managers to understand what coaching is, when to use it, and how to use it to best effect within a line management role, alongside other leadership styles. Such training needs to be designed with the hybrid working environment in mind and therefore the use of virtual synchronous and asynchronous learning is key.
Zone 4: Distributed – Coaching across organizational boundaries
In this zone, the focus is on extending coaching beyond the organizational boundaries. Most organizations now work with multiple partners, suppliers and agents to deliver their services or products. In this zone, the organization looks for ways to extend a coaching style to these relationships. For a public sector organization, this may mean creating cross-boundary coaching delivery. In other sectors, it may mean adopting a win–win development approach to project delivery, where project issues are worked through using a coaching style that adds value and seeks to build long-term relationships with key partners, agents and suppliers.
Taking advantage of digital tools
Digital coaching is a strong asset for organizations looking to offer coaching for all career grades, especially within a hybrid environment. Coachees can fit coaching around their schedule, no longer restrained by the travel requirements of face-to-face meetings with their coaches.
Many of today’s digital coaching platforms also offer resources that take the coaching journey one step further. Through additional reading or interactive activities that the coachee can take part in outside of regular sessions, to truly cement their learning. By implementing digital coaching, organizations can start the journey of integrating a coaching culture throughout their organization, and reap the benefits beyond traditional HR interventions.
The power of a coaching culture
According to the ADT, businesses with a strong coaching culture have a larger percentage of highly engaged employees than other organizations, 61% compared to 53% (ATD, 2018) and 62% improved the retention of top performers – some very strong reasons as to why developing a coaching culture is a business priority.