Madhukar Govindaraju, Chief Executive Officer of Numly, Inc. talks about improving employee performance & engagement through Peer Coaching on Critical Skills, enabled by AI.
Enterprises and employees have spent the past year transitioning to the world of remote work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Enabling this change and accommodating it into our everyday lives has not been easy. Our global workforce has not only been stressed about the pandemic but has also needed to deal with the blurring lines between home and work.
The uncertain environment and the constant pressure to operate in a “business as usual” manner when the landscape around us is anything but that have led to greater levels of stress and burnout. Many employees are now constantly overstretched, juggling and balancing the nuances of this new normal.
Continuing down this path leads to burnout for many of us. So how can we help our teams?
First, Accept That WFH Burnout Is Real
Yes, the option to work from home (WFH) has provided us with a break from the fixed office schedule, the daily commute and the monotony of routine. But it has also introduced WFH burnout because the lines dividing our personal and professional lives have blurred.
A new survey found that 73% of working professionals are now experiencing burnout, with 20.5% blaming an unmanageable workload, 10.8% citing a lack of control over their work and 11.1% pointing to a lack of empathy and support from managers as the key reasons. Given the absence of face time, most employees are worried about their visibility, delivering impactful work and career progression. A report by ServiceNow states that while 91% of executives and 87% of employees say their company transitioned to new ways of working faster than they thought possible, it has not been without cause for concern: 31% of employees “believe the pandemic has reduced opportunities for professional growth.” The United Nations has also issued a warning regarding the mounting stress during this strange time.
The Role Of Peer Coaching In This New Normal
This is a unique situation, and a unique situation requires a unique solution. My experience shows that an antidote to burnout often lies in peer coaching. One of the objectives of coaching is to present different perspectives by understanding employee problems and issues. Coaching is not an “out-of-the-box” solution, but rather should be highly personalized and driven by authentic people interactions that are individualized.
The new normal comes with new challenges and new expectations. One-size-fits-all training programs have to be extended with more personalized, individualized and contextual coaching programs. Whether it is for hard or soft skills, coaching is a result-oriented method to help people achieve more.
Peer coaching, specifically, is powerful because it makes the coaching more relevant. It enables learners to expand their organizational network and coaches to improve and become more confident as leaders. In this framework, coaching is more scalable over the long term.
Three Areas To Improve With Peer Coaching
1. Renovate your team culture.
To combat feelings of isolation and to build team spirit, organizations now have virtual meetings where everyone is present. While virtual meetings are the new normal, the rules of engagement are different. There is pressure to be more responsive, more focused and more energetic. Employees feel they need to emote more, talk more and be more visible to make an impact on video calls as compared to in-person meetings.
Empower peer coaches to help employees adjust and acquire the vocabulary needed to communicate in this new world of work. Coaching should account for the challenges employees are facing and handhold them to the path of resolution. Focus guidance on alleviating stress and anxiety, teaching them how to maintain balance and enabling them to focus on the things that matter most.
2. Identify growth channels.
The weight of exhaustion and high stress is compounded by the fear of slowed career growth and a general lack of direction. These fears can build stress and anxiety and adversely impact productivity and employee engagement levels.
Structure coaching that helps employees identify growth plans according to their growth objectives. Skills and personality assessments can identify personality types, learning gaps and areas of improvement that are keeping employees from achieving.
3. Build empathy across the workplace.
Employees are struggling, as are managers and leaders. Many managers have to suddenly lead completely remote teams. Leaders have to ramp up their leadership styles to match the pandemic era. This time is difficult for everyone across the board.
Coaching can help managers build greater empathy, help them understand employees’ challenges better, fine-tune leadership styles and create healthy ecosystems for communication and collaboration. Focus peer coaches on building trust and helping to nurture mature, resilient, motivated and committed teams by simply helping everyone.
Organizations can look at coaching to help identify the skills gaps of their employees and charter paths to close these to build a resilient workforce. Managers can get employees invested in their own growth story. Coaching can empower managers to lead by example and develop a cohesive team by teaching them how to identify individual talents better. It teaches them how to guide employees through challenging work situations with empathy and helps team members remain invested in the organization’s growth story. A focus on positive actions helps in removing stress and anxiety from the equation and consequently tackles burnout.
It is a myth that burnout is a result of long hours spent at the office alone. The reality is that burnout can happen when those hours are spent camped out at home in sweats, constantly stressed and anxious with a multitude of “what if” scenarios playing out relentlessly while working.
And while wellness breaks and long weekends seem like a solution, these are cosmetic solutions that will work only for a short while. The workforce needs to push the reset button on the old way of working and change all that is not serving their personal and professional goals and gear up for the new world of work.