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Peer Coaching Programs Done Right with a People-First and Data-Driven Mindset

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Research shows that those organizations that establish a culture of continuous learning are 46% more likely to be first to market, experience 37% higher productivity, and are 92% more likely to innovate. Given the increasing competition and rising disruption owing to technological developments as well as changes brought about by the pandemic, learning has to extend beyond technical skills and over to critical skills as well. 

For organizations to succeed and emerge from the impact of the pandemic, it is essential to create an environment that supports an open mindset, encourages an independent quest for knowledge, and helps people develop shared purpose – irrespective of whether they are working in-premise, working remotely, or using a hybrid work model. 

While organizations are supposed to provide formal learning opportunities, peer coaching. when encouraged across the organization can be immensely helpful to drive this cultural transformation where learning becomes a part of the organizational DNA. 

This is an important point of consideration mainly because culture shifts happen only when people own and drive the learning process. Peer coaching facilitates continuous learning and helps organizations boost employee engagement and experience, drive performance, reduce work-from-home burnout, and develop a healthy leadership pipeline. 

However, taking the right approach to peer coaching determines the likelihood of its success. Having a people-first and a data-driven approach are essential for this. 

‘People-first’ or fail 

Peer coaching has to be, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ 

It is perhaps the most democratized form of coaching and, hence, it experiences a high success rate. This is also because people change or become accepting towards change and growth when it is not forced, is relevant and contextual to their narrative, and is proactive. Since people are creatures of habit, change only takes place when certain actions are reaffirmed regularly. Constant reaffirmation of learnings becomes critical towards driving the behavioral changes needed to bring about a shift in actions. 

But what does a ‘people-first’ approach entail?

Different people, different needs

Not all employees are the same and neither are their coaching needs. As an organization to create a coaching culture to drive continuous learning, it is imperative to identify the exact learning needs of the people. Not all your employees need to improve their communication skills. Not all need coaching on strategic thinking. Get the drift? 

To develop a successful peer coaching program, it thus is essential to identify the different needs of the people at work and pair them with the right coaches and help them achieve their goals. Peer coaching programs have to recognize the different needs of people and capably serve only what is relevant and contextual to individual needs. A new recruit, for example, will have different coaching needs than the seasoned employee. 

Driving contextual peer coaching is important also because now we have more demographic diversity in the workforce than ever before. With Gen Z and millennials overtaking Gen X and baby boomers, accounting for their learning and development needs becomes imperative to drive employee engagement. 

Account for the manager’s ecosystem 

We were delivered to the Future of Work as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. There has been immense pressure on managers to ensure their teams remain high-performing, motivated, and productive. They have had to rework their management strategies to drive remote work while ensuring that the trust barometer and the engagement index remain unaltered. 

For new managers, the challenge has been to build trust bridges without getting the opportunity to leverage everyday physical interactions. And along with this, they have to achieve and deliver everything that the seasoned manager is delivering. 

Peer coaching can address the challenges, both every day and unique, to these managers and give them the tools to lead their teams and themselves efficiently. With constant dialogue, action is more proactive than reactive, building trust bridges with teams (especially remote teams) becomes easier, and decision-making is more confident. Peer coaching also helps new managers immensely as it helps them build their network and make the right connections essential for navigating the organization.  

Diversity and inclusion 

A ‘people-first’ approach also amplifies the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the organization. Today, a serious attitude towards diversity and inclusion is not just important for social value and perception, it is essential for profitability too. 

Peer coaching presents the perfect solution to assist diversity and inclusion initiatives as it helps people recognize both conscious and unconscious bias and helps them understand how their actions impact those unlike them. Since peer coaching is a continuous process, it can bring about the shift in behaviors that drive the change in actions. 

With peer coaching, those falling under the diversity and inclusion umbrella also get a fair chance to overcome their fears and perceived notions that impede success. Having a thriving peer coaching environment helps these people develop the networks and bridges they need to navigate their careers successfully without fear or judgment. 

Data-driven peer coaching – what is that?

The ‘gut feel’ and ‘intuition’ are two highly romanticized words in modern life. We hear geniuses of our generation like Einstein saying “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift”. We have Steve Jobs propounding “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition; they somehow already know what you want to become.” In this romanticizing, we tend to forget that intuition can be and is a very valuable ‘tool’. But it would be a mistake to base decisions on intuition or gut alone. 

Things are no different for peer coaching. A successful peer coaching program will be based on data and will try and leverage data wherever it can be employed for better decision-making and improved outcomes. 

But how can we apply a data-driven mindset to peer coaching?

Data to identify the coaching needs 

Identifying what needs to change comes before how it needs to change. Instead of jumping on the next coaching trend, develop the capacity to exactly identify the learning needs of the employees, especially for critical skills like strategic thinking, leadership, communication, etc. 

A people-first approach has to thus be complemented with a data-driven approach to drive contextual and relevant peer coaching programs. Data-backed assessments like Behavioral Assessment tests or 16-Personality Factor Assessments provide accurate insights on the exact learning needs of the employees. This data-backed approach thereby contributes towards creating relevant, contextual, and consequently, successful coaching programs. 

Tracking program impact 

You can only manage what you can measure. Coaching initiatives are no different. 

How can organizations understand the impact of their coaching programs and understand their effectiveness if they do not have access to granular data on the same? How can they assess if their initiatives are bringing about the shift in behaviors that they want? How can they identify if the organizational skill sets have expanded as desired? 

The answer to these and other such associated questions lies in data. Thus, it becomes essential to have the right tracking mechanisms in place. Using an AI-enabled coaching platform, organizations can capture feedback, track the impact of the peer coaching program by measuring the change brought about in organizational skill sets, and improve program structures when needed. 

Data to drive organizational resilience  

A data-driven peer coaching program becomes the enabler of continuous learning in an organization. Using data and technologies such as AI, a peer coaching platform can help people remain on the path of continuous learning. 

AI-powered nudges delivered at the right time can help people proactively identify their learning needs and keep them on the path of continuous learning. This approach also builds organizational resilience as when learning becomes proactive and continuous, people are more prepared to handle and manage change and disruption. All of this contributes towards employee resilience which contributes towards organizational resilience. 

While culture change starts at the top, you know your organization has made a successful transition towards the culture of continuous learning when employees drive their independent quests for knowledge. This will only happen when organizations make it easier for people to connect with the right resources who can help them without judgment, and help them eliminate their reservations against feedback, and provide growth opportunities. Having a thriving peer coaching network within the organization makes this a reality. 

Connect with us to know how NumlyEngage™ can help your organization develop a culture of continuous learning and drive organizational resilience by taking the people-first and data-driven approach. 

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