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Coaching for Performance & Productivity Improvement

  • Coaching for Performance & Productivity Improvement

What’s the rationale?

With Gallup and other researchers reporting that 7 out of 10 workers are “actively disengaged” in the workplace today, organizational psychologists view coaching as a means to energize employee engagement levels while improving both individual and team productivity and performance.

What’s the concept?

Coaching is a personal/professional growth tool. Employing a process that enables learning and development to occur, the result of effective coaching is an improvement in an individual’s personal/professional skill set.

Who participates in coaching?

Everyone. Coaching relationships can be fostered on three levels:

  • Leader to Leader
  • Leader to Employee
  • Employee to Employee

Anyone with information or a skill-set that will benefit a co-worker can be an effective coach.

What skill-sets are most amenable to the coaching process?

There are three levels of skill-sets required of the majority of employees:

1. Work-specific (product/technical) skills: these are the skills that are acquired by virtue of education, training, or experience. They contain the technical components of a job. For example, if you’re an automotive technician, repairing a transmission is a skill unique to your profession.

2. Functional (process) skills: these are skills that may be required by workers with different jobs in the same workplace. For example, the technician, the service consultant, and the sales professional may be called upon to complete reports, develop work-plans, or participate in continuous improvement teams.

3. Foundational (people) skills: these are the people skills required of an effective employee in any capacity. How well does the employee listen, communicate, problem-solve, and manage conflict resolution? Are they team players, for example?

These three skills are most often viewed as a job skills pyramid with foundational skills at the bottom, functional skills in the middle, and work-specific skills at the top. Practically, for example, if an automotive technician is particularly skilled in his or her craft, but can’t communicate effectively with the shop foreman, or lacks the computer skills required to document required factory information, then there are coaching opportunities available at the middle and base of the job skills pyramid.

What’s the most effective Leader-to-Employee coaching process?

The most fundamentally effective coaching process is a 4-phase cyclical approach containing these four phases: the affirmation phase, the information phase, the feedback phase, and finally, the agreement phase. Employing each of the four phases is essential to the success of the process.

A Service Manager, for example, might employ the 4-phase coaching process every other month with his/her Service Consultants to improve each of their six core competencies. After one year, their job skills pyramid would show individual growth and development, while the bench-strength of the team would demonstrate performance and productivity improvement.

Here is an explanation of the 4-phase process using a Service Consultant case study as an example.

Case Study: (The Service Write-Up)

Bob is 26 years old and has worked at XYZ Motors for15 months. His outgoing, gregarious personality has resulted in great relationships with both his peers and his customers. His CSI scores are average, and male and female customers of every age rave about what a “nice young man” he is, and how he listens to them during the write-up, understands their issues, and spends time talking with them when they leave their vehicles for service.

Over the last three months, though, his scores for “Explanation of services performed” have been slipping and more than a few non-waiters have called the service desk inquiring as to when they could come and pick up their car. In addition, a few customers have complained that not all of their vehicle problems were addressed. The Service Manager, too, has had to remind him more than a few times lately about how to properly close out an open RO.

Before Bob’s performance and/or CSI slips to an unacceptable level, how should he be coached?

Affirmation Phase:

In this phase of the discussion, the Service Manager highlights and expresses appreciation for Bob’s service to the dealership and praises him for the relationships he continues to build with his customers. The Service Manager may reference a positive customer comment card or interaction he/she observed in the drive as an example of Bob’s great relationship-building skills.

Information Phase:

Realizing that Bob possesses a healthy foundational and work-specific skill-set, the Service Manager focuses on providing information to him that will strengthen his functional skill set. For example, his strength (building great relationships with his customers during the write-up) may occasionally be taken to the extreme where it’s causing a weakness in other areas. He may need to spend a little more time and give additional attention to the details of each RO, closing it out properly, and notifying his customers with updates in a timely manner.

Feedback Phase:

In this phase, the Service Manager listens to Bob’s perspective, paying attention to any challenges or obstacles that he might have in the execution of his duties and responsibilities. It also gives Bob a chance to respond to the Service Manager’s concerns and to clarify the expectations that his manager has of him. In addition, if Bob needs some additional training or support, he can express those needs here.

Agreement Phase:

Bob and the Service Manager reach an agreement as to what actions Bob will take to improve those areas that precipitated the coaching session. The Service Manger then follows-up with Bob as to his progress on an as-needed basis.   

What’s necessary to make the coaching process work in the long-term?  

Here are some key points:

  • It’s important that the manager-coach have the requisite level of emotional intelligence necessary to make the coaching session meaningful for the employee.
  • Everyone should understand that a “coaching session” is NOT a performance appraisal and that it has no bearing on salary, promotions, etc.
  • A typical coaching session usually never lasts longer than 20-30 minutes.
  • When these sessions are conducted regularly, the employee learns that the Manager/dealership has a vested interested in their growth and development, thereby improving engagement and productivity levels.

Time invested in coaching employees has many benefits for the dealership and managerial staff. A commitment to employee growth and development reduces turnover and improves both employee and customer satisfaction.

Tom McQueen is PDP's automotive industry expert and has consulted with over 400 dealerships on performance improvement and employee engagement.