When it comes to employee benefits, learning and development is increasingly reported as a perk that employees are looking for. And the research makes sense – as the workforce becomes more nimble, honing skills in a variety of areas keeps employees interested, engaged, and able to apply a broadened toolkit to their everyday work. In a recent Gallup poll, 87% of millennials reported development as an important factor in their career satisfaction. In recent years, the concept of “career coaching” has become more sought after, and thanks to our own Senior HR Business Partner Jeni Corso, we were able to pilot a program internally for our team at Zenefits. In this post, Jeni shares her experience in kicking off ZeneCoaches, tips she has for getting your own program started, and ways to approach the coaching world if you’re completely new to the field (like me). Enjoy!
Having worked in Human Resources over the years, I’ve seen the landscape of coaching evolve quite a bit. My exposure to coaching early on was as an additive program that was once reserved for executives or leaders that needed extra support in a development area. In recent years however, I’ve seen coaching become more accessible within organizations–which is a great thing. Moreover, much of the language around the talent, leadership and management space has shifted to talk about ‘being a coach’ as a way of operating if you are a people manager. This was another shift that definitely piqued my interest.
On a personal level, I discovered my passion for coaching through my sheer interest in learning about others. I’ve always been curious about people, enjoyed learning what makes them tick, and understanding the information they use to make decisions. This natural curiosity has served me well in pursuing coaching as that element of discovery plays a big role in the growth process.
It was certainly a culmination of things. I had worked at another company that had a successful internal coaching program. As I was researching bringing executive coaches into Zenefits, a number of people I spoke with recommended Peer Coaching as an effective way to create a coaching culture. Prior to that, we had sent out various surveys that revealed a resounding interest from employees for greater development opportunities at work. This was a consistent theme across many departments and employees at all experience levels. It started to become clear that creating an internal program would be the best way to engage more employees and demonstrate Zenefits’ commitment to investing in development and creating a coaching culture.
The benefits of a company coaching program are multiple, but the most salient that come to mind are:
If you’ve never participated in a formal coaching program, there’s no time like the present! It is truly worth the investment. I personally have gotten so much more done in the 3-4 months I’ve been working with my own coach that I only wish I took the plunge sooner.
The top two benefits from my perspective related to the Zene-Coaching program have been:
1) Building a community of coaches: The value of building relationships and connectivity with your colleagues outside of the day to day does powerful things. Our coaches now have a relationship with one another that is deeply rooted in trust, vulnerability, support and admiration for each other – something you hope for in an organization but is hard to achieve through day-to-day work interactions alone.
2) Transforming communication: When you learn to be a coach, you learn an entirely new language. It’s a new way to communicate where you learn to listen, observe and help others without an agenda. It’s truly fascinating and empowering.
It can be very simple. My advice in getting a program off the ground for your company is broken down into the following steps:
As I shared above, I conducted a few simple surveys of the coaches and coachees. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. However, I felt as though surveys weren’t painting the entire picture of the coaching and coachee experience. So, I then asked participants to share stories about the direct impact they feel coaching has made on them. We incorporated this feedback into a series of posts called the Zene-Coaching Chronicles.
The anecdotal feedback from both the coach and coachee delivered exactly what we were hoping for. Participants shared that as a result of this program, they felt more confident, connected, and had a clearer understanding of what they want from their professional careers. By participating in the Zene-Coaching program to begin with, they took the initial steps to pursue what they want – and that can often be the most challenging step.
Try asking open-ended questions that start with ‘What.’ This allows the other person to expand their thinking and their understanding of what is happening. For example:
This may sound overly simplified but I find having space to talk to someone about a topic I’m struggling with helps me to arrive at my own conclusion or action plan. A more tangible example was working with my coach to create the Zene-Coach program. On several occasions, I used my time with her to clarify why I wanted to do it and what success looked like.
As a coach, I’m often reminded of how powerful it is to take an active interest in someone else. My mom always said ‘everyone’s favorite subject is themselves.’ As a society, we don’t spend enough time listening to one another without judgment or trying to drive our own agenda – when you start getting curious for the sake of being curious, it is incredible what gets unlocked for the other person. Watching that happen is powerful.