Anthony Henry, Customer Program Manager
Luz Hernandez, Industrial Engineering Analyst
Luis Rojas Romero, Industrial Engineer
As discussed in our previous blog post, From Door to Floor: Making the New Process Stick, a failed methods improvement initiative will cause a major waste of time and money. This risks a loss of your investment if the improvement is abandoned or only partially implemented, as well as a decrease in employee morale. Managers play the key role in communicating the new method and performance expectations to associates. Having well-trained associates will result in an exponential improvement in productivity and efficiency (see our stocking productivity post). Determining the best coaching method will allow you to build up trust with your team and show your leadership skills. Bad leadership and coaching will impact productivity and efficiency and create resistance to adopting method changes in the future. In this post we discuss different coaching methodologies, their pros and cons, and tips on increasing your associates’ commitment to your company’s efforts to strive.
Step 1: Explain. Clearly describe why something needs to change. Answering the “why” question is a key motivator. It gives meaning to our work. Be proactive by answering the fundamental four questions employees ask, whether they are asked out loud or not:
- Where are we going? (Strategy)
- What are we doing to get there? (Plans)
- What can I do to contribute? (Roles)
- What is in it for me? (Rewards)
Step 2: Ask. Ask questions of the associate to determine if communication is 100 percent effective. Do not proceed until you and the associate are both perfectly clear. Listen carefully. At this point, the rule to listen 80 percent and talk 20 percent is good advice.
Step 3: Involve. Discuss ideas for potential solutions and approaches with the associate. Continue your discussion to identify the root cause for performance gaps. Focus on performance, not the person. Collaborate with the associate to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-framed) performance goals for improvement.
Step 4: Appreciate. Recognize positive movement or effort to encourage continued progress toward the agreed-upon goal. Appreciating not only their efforts, but their value to the company will motivate them to improve continuously.
A structured training program has a clearly detailed schedule, time frame, outline of activities, and assignment of responsibilities. It has well-defined goals and consequences, it typically leads to more success and employee development than an informal or unstructured one. When is structured training appropriate? Consider the pros and cons.
- It is a flexible approach and may be used to address a variety of performance improvement issues.
- It is a consistent approach that associates can adapt and get used to.
- Because the training is designed to be long term, you can measure outcomes to prove the training is working as anticipated.
- The effort to create, design and implement the training makes it long lasting.
- It can be more costly than other training methods, and you must be sensitive upfront to expense and budget.
- It can be more difficult to adapt the structured training when new problems arise.
- It may take time for some employees to adapt to the structured training program.
- Because it is intended for the long term, it requires an investment of time to design and test before implementation. It is not well suited for urgent scenarios.
Ad hoc, on-the-spot coaching can be a very powerful tool in reinforcing new methods. However, managers must be sensitive to the situation. It may not be the most effective solution, and scheduling a time for a full coaching conversation may be more effective if: there is more than one issue that needs to be addressed, you do not have a solid relationship with the person involved, the person to be coached is too stressed or busy when you would approach them, or you realize that you will be met with significant resistance. However, used correctly, on-the-spot coaching can be a powerful way to quickly correct an inappropriate behavior or action. It can also be a useful tool to reinforce positive results. When you locate a coaching situation that is time sensitive, be prepared to act. By utilizing these extra opportunities for coaching, you will be able to develop your team members faster and more effectively.
- Focus is directed to one behavior or skill at a time.
- It is an opportunity to communicate a specific recommendation in the immediate situation.
- The associate can learn from a mistake right after they have made it.
- The associate is getting work done while being coached.
- This method requires a careful and assertive manager who can effectively call attention to the observations and why they cause concern.
- The associate may respond unexpectedly when corrected on the spot, which could be counterproductive.
- Balance is needed so the associate is still able to get their work done.
- On-the-spot coaching works best when there is only one issue that needs to be addressed.
Coaching for performance and continuous improvement is ultimately the responsibility of organizational leadership. The responsibility goes well beyond mission statements for the best practices if it is to remain sticky. It also requires practical direction, support and recognition to frontline associates for a job well done. The work of organizational leadership includes establishing an infrastructure for continuous improvement to flourish so that it becomes a part of the organization’s DNA. Taking an active role to ensure that the best practices are being adhered to and provide coaching and recognition when and where possible helps drive the organization’s initiatives forward.