women textile workers sewing garment

Building a Coaching Culture in the Industrial Sector

July 12, 2023

Posted by BOLDLY

Identifying the Need for Change:

This case study explores the implementation of a coaching culture within a large client in the industrial sector with global offices. The client approached BOLDLY with the objective to enhance employee development, improve performance, and foster a learning environment through coaching culture. They had been using coaches for several years but had not organised their approach and had no view of spending, which was sometimes listed as an L&D expense, and sometimes embedded in business unit P&Ls. They had no approach to coaching quality or procurement but saw the huge potential coaching posted for their organisation. Drawing upon academic research and best practices, the team at BOLDLY was able to first diagnose their coaching culture, and then propose key steps to establish and sustain a coaching culture. The findings highlight the benefits of a coaching approach, the challenges encountered during the process, and the overall impact on the organisation.

The industrial sector is characterised by its complex operations, demanding work environments, and the need for continuous improvement. This case study focuses on a large client operating in the industrial sector and their journey towards building a coaching culture. This client saw that a coaching culture could become a critical element of their organisational environment, to enhance employee performance and development. They already had some coaching initiatives in play before reaching out to BOLDLY, but had observed:

They were getting some surprisingly negative feedback: coaching is normally considered a benefit or investment in employees, and for the most part, this client was getting good engagement from staff. However, they had received some surprising negativity in response to coaching being offered through key learning programs. This resistance was found to stem from a perceived irrelevance of coaching to the career advancement of technical functions, such as supply chain and engineering. The client had struggled to make the case for coaching in these divisions, and those staff who did attend coaching saw it as a remedial step rather than an advancement opportunity.

Inconsistent coaching practices: the client lacked consistency in how coaching was conducted across the organisation. This resulted in confusion, conflicting messages, and varying levels of support for employees. Inconsistent coaching practices make it difficult for employees to understand expectations, hindering their development and growth, and mean coaching isn’t being utilised strategically.

And finally, coaching wasn’t being tracked or measured for its impact. The lack of accountability in the immature coaching culture was a clear indication of inefficiency. Accountability ensures that coaches and coachees are actively engaged in the coaching process, tracking progress and taking necessary actions to achieve the desired goals. Without clear accountability mechanisms in place, coaching efforts may become aimless and ineffective.

male and female employees in a middle of a friendly coaching session

Recognising Coaching's Potential:

The implementation of a coaching culture with this client was a multi-step process involving various stakeholders and following best practices in organisational development. The methodology included the following key steps:

Needs Assessment: A thorough needs assessment was conducted to identify the organisation's requirements and areas for improvement across coaching and nestled within the learning and development strategy. This involved surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gain insights into employees' perspectives on coaching and identify organisational goals.

Training and Development: To ensure that managers and leaders possessed the necessary coaching skills, a comprehensive training program was designed and implemented to build out internal coaching styles and capabilities within teams. The training focused on active listening, powerful questioning, and providing constructive feedback.

Coaching Certification: To build a pool of internal coaches, interested HR business partners were offered the opportunity to undergo coaching certification programs. This equipped them with the skills and knowledge needed to support their colleagues' development and facilitate a coaching culture.

Integration of Coaching Practices: Coaching practices were integrated into various HR processes, such as performance management, talent development, and career planning through close workshopping with the broader talent team. This integration ensured that coaching became an integral part of the organisation's overall framework and was consistently applied.

Over the course of the diagnosis and implementation phase, a clear project plan and communication campaign were run within the organisation to ensure continued momentum and adoption of the coaching culture. This included ongoing delivery of clear and concise messaging that highlighted the benefits and purpose of the coaching culture, tailored to different stakeholder groups and regional geographies. The campaign included multiple channels of communication, including town hall meetings, email updates, intranet announcements, spotlights through existing workshops and learning initiatives, and targeted training sessions to ensure widespread awareness and understanding. Additionally, we were able to address potential concerns or resistance, solicit feedback and questions, and offer ongoing communication to keep employees engaged and informed throughout the implementation process of the new coaching culture.

facilitator offering personal support on an employee in front of a computer

Results and Achievements:

The implementation with this client resulted in several positive outcomes. These included increased employee engagement measured year-on-year, a qualitative perception of enhanced communication, feedback from managers and HR about improved problem-solving abilities amongst staff undertaking coaching, and a higher level of employee satisfaction overall. The program saw positive results within 12 months, and has now been tracked over a 3-year period as the coaching culture continues to mature.

The journey towards building a coaching culture was not without challenges. Resistance to change from some business units and geographies was evident, and we encountered limited buy-in from some employee pools, such as early careers and the manufacturing floor staff. Overcoming these challenges required strong leadership support, effective communication, and ongoing reinforcement of the coaching principles. We also needed to innovate to bring the coaching culture into these talent pools, where traditional 1:1 coaching isn’t always applicable. We did this by working with managers on their coaching style and by delivering an ‘on-demand’ coaching model where staff could use coaching credits.

Unique Aspects Of The Industrial Organisation Setting:

In the industrial manufacturing environment of this organisation,  where corporate staff and front-line manufacturing employees work together, the coaching culture developed with some unique elements due to the nature of the work environment and the specific needs of the employees. Here are some elements that we found were distinct in this setting:

Safety and technical skills focus: The client needed to be able to develop supervisors with coaching skills that were applicable to a risky environment. Manufacturing environments often prioritize safety protocols and technical skills development, using training and procedure to overcome risk. With these initiatives already in place as a baseline, coaching was then used as a technique from management to emphasize training points on safety procedures. In this way, we were able to see that the coaching culture didn’t only apply to the ‘office’ employees, but was used by engineering and supervisory staff on the manufacturing floor.

Teamwork and collaboration: While teamwork is required for all organisations to operate effectively, it is an acute need in a high-risk and repetitive task environment. Manufacturing often involves teamwork and collaboration among employees working on different stages of the production line, and we were able to see that by building peer coaching skills amongst front-line workers, their ability to communicate effectively as a team increased. Coaching fostered a culture of effective collaboration, cementing the team processes already in place on the shop floor, and emphasizing the importance of coordinated efforts and mutual support to achieve production goals.

Shift and rotation considerations: This organisation operates in shifts on both the shop manufacturing floor and some teams within their corporate structure, such as customer support. Coaching skills from managers was found to support effective shift transition, and created a consistent management style across shifts, where staff could sometimes be rotating to work with different managers and peers from shift to shift. Maintaining consistency of management style through the coaching culture ensured smooth transitions between shifts and better engagement of the team.

This case study demonstrates the successful implementation of a coaching culture within a large client operating in the industrial sector with a global footprint. By adopting a systematic approach and integrating coaching practices into various organisational processes, the client achieved significant improvements in employee development, performance, and the overall work environment year after year. The findings highlight the importance of leadership support for this initiative, training and skill development to ensure management and HRBP’s have a strong grasp of coaching principles, and ongoing reinforcement in establishing and sustaining a coaching culture through a clear communication campaign.

If you are seeking to cultivate a coaching culture within your industrial organisation, trust BOLDLY to be your partner in this transformative journey towards sustainable growth and development. With our expertise in implementing effective coaching strategies and our unwavering passion for unleashing the full potential of individuals and teams, we are uniquely positioned to support you. Contact us today at connect@boldly.app to embark on a path to building a coaching culture that drives unparalleled success in the industrial sector.