by E. Sprague | Oct. 28, 2020 | 7 Min Read

Why a Strong Coaching Culture Matters Now More than Ever

Entrepreneurs at work

This article is written by our featured guest writer, Erin Sprague.

When you think about the differences between training, enablement, mentorship, and coaching in the workplace, your head probably starts to spin. Even more confusing is determining who owns what.

Whether you’re in a large, medium, or even a small organization, there’s a lot of “hot potato” happening when it comes to project ownership, particularly as we face an unsure economy.

We’ve all been there: a challenge arises in the business. Leaders say, “Get the training team involved.” We spend weeks (or months!) developing the perfect training solution, then what?

How do we know when we’re “done”?

Should we conduct follow-up training?

Require a test or assessment?

Invest in a customer survey?

And around, and around we go!

If your head is spinning, I’m here to clarify the confusion. Today, I’m talking about the importance of coaching in the workplace, the benefits of coaching employees, and the key ingredients of a coaching culture.

Developing a Coaching Culture

Let’s go back to the original request asked of the training team. Depending on the organizational challenge you’re looking to solve, you’ll most likely need a mix of capabilities (training, enablement, mentorship, and coaching) to solve the problem.

However, if I could only pick one, it would be coaching. Every. Single. Time.


Because training, enablement, and mentorship drives behavior change and skill development in the organization.

But what triggers that change?

Coaching. The impact of coaching at work improves employee performance and company culture. If you want to drive lasting change, you need to create a coaching culture.

What is a Coaching Culture? + The Key Ingredients

Simply put, a coaching culture is when an organization leverages coaching practices that enable managers to coach, motivate, and develop employees.

Coaching behaviors can include individualized professional development, mutual goal-setting processes, prioritization of tasks, consistent feedback on strengths and opportunities, and clarifying employees’ long- and short-term goals.

Embedding a coaching culture moves your team beyond mundane annual performance management and into proactive development throughout the year. One on one coaching creates a consistent and measurable framework that fosters discovery, feedback, reflection, and progress.

I recently sat down with a commercial leader of a large organization whose industry was particularly impacted by COVID-19. Leadership is evaluating how to measure and incentivize salespeople in a challenging sales environment.

The leader asked, “How do we maintain and possibly grow our salespeople’s engagement without a sales incentive plan?”

Can you guess my response?


Don’t just take my word for it. Learn more about what Unboxed Training & Technology says is the secret sauce to sales (hint: employee coaching software).

The Benefits of Coaching at Work

Recognition Increases Retention

Team members (not just salespeople!) need consistent, meaningful, and personalized feedback on their performance. Of course, commission and bonuses are connected to employee satisfaction and engagement. But, believe it or not, employees feeling that their work matters is even more important.

Eighty-nine percent of bosses think employees quit an organization for more money, but they’re wrong. Only 12% of employees report leaving a job for more money.

Coaching and employee engagement walk hand-in-hand.

Consider typical employee engagement surveys. The vast majority of questions where organizations underperform are often tied to clarity on objectives, employees feeling like their work isn’t valued, and a lack of confidence in employers providing a clear, actionable track for career development.

In fact, according to Forbes, “Recognition is the number one thing employees say their manager could provide them to inspire them to produce great work.”

In an uncertain economy, achieve higher performance through coaching without overspending on bonuses and commissions to drive it!

High Employee Engagement = High Performance

Your organization can tremendously benefit from strong coaching skills in your people leaders from attrition, pipeline management, and talent management to overall operational efficiencies.

Team members who receive consistent and regular feedback from managers are more likely to trust their manager. Trust is a critical component to unlocking awareness on many aspects tied to performance and engagement. Psychological safety and trust are directly connected to engagement – engagement, in turn, drives performance.

According to Gallup, businesses with engaged team members experienced:

  • 41% lower absenteeism
  • 17% higher productivity
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 20% more sales
  • 21% greater profitability

How different would your organization look if you experienced just a fraction of those increases?


One of the most notable benefits of coaching employees is scalability within your organization.

I’m guessing you have a lot more people managers than you do HR managers or training leaders. Do you know what that means? You have the potential to activate one of the largest segments of your organization and the part that has direct oversight into team member behavior!

Coaching should take place inside of day-to-day workflows, not at a one-time training event. Plus, the benefits of internal coaching gives your managers space to grow in their coaching skills over time instead of a stale “stick to the script” mentality. Fostering a coaching culture at work also weaves it into everyone’s day instead of piling yet another task on a manager’s already-full work plate.

Coaching skills need to be developed in your people leaders (vs. only a training team or HR manager). Your managers already have the oversight and responsibility to develop employees. Now, develop your leaders into coaches to provide each team (sales, HR, Ops, etc.) with ongoing support.

The ability to inspire, motivate, and create positive behavior changes in team members is not a trait most people have innately. Let’s look at the key ingredients of a coaching culture.

The Key Ingredients of a Coaching Culture

Establish Coaching Across the Board

A coaching culture must be established across the organization: top-down and bottom-up. If your C-Level leaders look at coaching as something for middle managers to focus on without adopting these practices in their own teams, guess what?

Those 2nd line leaders won’t model and prioritize coaching for their leaders either, and so on. Craft communications from the bottom-up and create space and tools for team members to understand what they can expect from coaches.

Explain the Why Behind Coaching

Help the business realize that the responsibility of coaching belongs to everyone, not a single training course or team. One of the essential steps to sustaining learning and creating real, lasting behavioral change is building a coaching culture with a strong why behind it.

As you cast the vision for how coaching can transform team engagement, productivity, and performance, set an expectation for what success will look like. Think about the small and big wins you can achieve through coaching at work. Encourage coaches to set SMART goals with their teams that support company-wide objectives.

Find a Coaching Program

Building a coaching culture is a long-term commitment, not a one-time investment. In the new normal of the digital workplace, you need a mobile coaching tool that engages your employees at home, in the office, or on-the-go.

The coaching software you choose needs to work across your organization in all situations. Upskill your managers, and reap the benefits of feedback culture today through employee coaching. If you’re interested in learning more about coaching in the workplace, request a demo of Coach: Employee Coaching Software by Unboxed Training & Technology.

Hold Leaders Accountable

If you want to see ongoing one-on-one coaching benefits, you need to keep your leaders accountable. Ensure they have regular touchpoints with their teams to keep up the momentum, even while working from home.

  1. Establish KPIs and MBOs that reflect pre-established expectations and goals for coaches.
  2. Measure each leader’s coaching impact beyond project milestones and revenue targets.
  3. Review employee engagement surveys.
  4. Incorporate team member feedback to analyze the skills and performance of your managers.
  5. Include a Leadership Index component to annual reviews.

If you’re a training leader, think about introducing the concept and benefits of coaching employees to stakeholders the next time you get a significant training request. Help everyone understand how coaching will benefit them, what effective coaching looks like, and examples of how they can expect coaching to show up in their day-to-day work life.

Erin Sprague is a seasoned sales professional, career coach, and learning & development leader. She has a passion for connecting the dots between capability analysis, feedback from business leaders, and sales results, in order to create training & development programs that allow learners to thrive, and drive results for the organization.

A native of Western Michigan, Erin is a recent transplant to Washington, D.C after spending 15 years in Chicago, Illinois. She has worked for companies large, (Hilton, Kraft Heinz), medium (Groupon), and small (Trustwave), always in or alongside sales teams. She has delivered consistent results for these companies – driving participation, engagement, performance, and high satisfaction across trainees.

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