A version of this post was originally published in Entrepreneur on April 6, 2022.
Even just a few years ago, coaching in corporate environments was often a face-to-face exercise. Coaches or managers might meet with employees to help them prepare for a milestone, such as a customer presentation or a sales call. The coach might even shadow employees during their presentation and sit down afterward to review performance and polish key skills.
In recent years, though, coaching has undergone a dramatic change, shifting to a hybrid coaching model. While remote coaching was used before the pandemic, more than eight in 10 coaches (83%) have since increased their use of audio-video platforms, in response to work-from-home models. And hybrid work will be here to stay — in fact, more than 70% of global workers say they want flexible work options to continue post-pandemic.
Companies face new questions including: how do we offer coaching tailored to drive success among a hybrid workforce? How can we ensure coaching quality, consistency and continuity when some employees are remote, some are in-office and some do a mix of both? The answer is hybrid coaching, a relatively new type of coaching that promotes great coaching results that aren’t restricted by factors such as time and location.
Ideas for implementing hybrid coaching
People, processes and technology have a role to play. Here are three considerations for coaching a hybrid workforce:
Offer on-demand training resources
Coaches help employees develop new competencies, hone their skills and overcome challenges. But that all takes time and can’t just transpire in limited, live sessions.
So use live coaching smartly, and combine it with an on-demand approach to training. For example, if a coach is helping an employee who struggles with public speaking, the coach can talk through strategies for overcoming anxiety and roleplay various scenarios that trigger it during face-to-face or live virtual sessions.
The best results will come after sustained individual practice, so the coach should also provide public speaking resources (videos, tutorials, etc.) and assignments through the company's learning platform.
Combining coaching with training resources in this way is especially useful for a hybrid workforce because:
- Learning modules and resources can be accessed conveniently, anytime, anywhere.
- Coaches can use the learning platform to see if employees have accessed the materials. (When? How much? And for quizzes, how did they score?)
- Face-to-face coaching sessions are less likely to happen consistently in a hybrid work environment. By keeping the learning momentum going between live sessions, you make every minute of those sessions count.
Employees should be focused on improving their skills and solving challenges they face — finding the right learning resources to do so should be the least of their concerns.
Read more: 5 Tips on how to coach a hybrid workforce
Coach your leaders and managers
A hybrid environment is a dynamic one. As workers go about their fast-paced days, it’s easy to lose track of long-term goals as they focus on immediate ones. It's a leader's job to show them the bigger picture.
But knowing how to focus and lead workers — and do it remotely — often isn’t an innate skill. Consequently, it’s important to give coaching to leaders and managers to prepare them for leading and coaching hybrid teams. Among the important skills they’ll need to master:
- Building a cohesive team culture in the absence of face-to-face group activities.
- Breaking barriers imposed by their own biases regarding hybrid workers. A leader can’t effectively manage remote employees if they unknowingly (or knowingly) favor in-office ones.
- Being more intentional about creating learning opportunities. (Before the pandemic, casual office interactions often led to brief and impromptu coaching sessions on an as-needed basis.)
- Effectively coaching (on their own, and as a supplement to any corporate coaches/consultants) and delivering feedback to employees. To that end, companies should help leaders and managers make time to prioritize coaching within their busy days.
Most of all, leaders will have to practice active listening in a virtual environment (as it can be easy to misinterpret gestures or words when coaching online) and know how to structure coaching sessions. For example, what I like to do is, first, listen to an employee (such as after they’ve given a presentation), then use their impressions and concerns as a guide for further questions. In this way, they have an opportunity to figure out what went well (and what might be improved), and I can see if they’re already aware of potential solutions. Also, I always like to ask: “Will this be important in a year’s time?” to drive prioritization and clarify any long-term impacts of current actions.
Read more: 3 Obstacles to overcome when building a coaching culture
Be open-minded when it comes to delivering coaching
Forget the idea that coaching can only happen in a specific environment or not at all! Coaching a hybrid team means being open to testing different delivery methods and being flexible. Besides in-person coaching, there’s also:
- Synchronous online coaching: where virtual sessions occur live, such as through web conferencing tools.
- Asynchronous coaching: where communications between the coach and learner don’t happen live. Sessions might be conducted through email, direct messaging or even back-and-forth video messages.
- A blended approach: with in-person, synchronous online and asynchronous components.
Mixing coaching formats often works well in hybrid work environments. For example, you can set up a coaching flow that starts with a face-to-face meeting to prioritize goal-setting. Then, incorporate Zoom coaching for highly interactive exercises. Round out the instruction with asynchronous sessions, where employees can record themselves practicing the skills they’ve learned.
How is feedback best delivered? Coaches can send feedback through email, video, Slack and even text messages! Implementing such a hybrid coaching flow takes some trial and error, but is highly effective when done right.
Hybrid coaching that makes an impact
Coaching is a strategic priority for organizations today — and beneficial for and attractive to employees at all levels. In today’s corporate environment, coaching should accommodate flexible work schedules and be embedded within the corporate culture. Adopting various methods of delivering coaching sessions ensures that all employees can benefit from them, no matter where and when they choose to work.
Hybrid work is here to stay. The question is: are you ready to create high-impact coaching opportunities for your hybrid team?