Featured on The People Bulletin, online site for HR professionals.
Wendy Reeves looks at how organisations can engender a more supportive and nurturing working environment, reduce stress and enable employees to fulfil their potential
The current economic downturn has had a major impact on business. Saving on expenditure is being sought across every echelon of the business, and employees’ outgoings are being scrutinised. But isn’t this just good practise in any event?
Today, companies need to work smarter and leaner, and – more than ever – they need to retain the creme de la creme of their workforce.
We all appreciate that the key to a successful business is the people behind it, and the most switched on employers understand that looking after their employees will always be a worthwhile investment.
Increasingly, companies are seeking the assistance of coaching, because they recognise that it can help as part of a programme to keep their top performers healthy and balanced, in order to maintain their high-level contribution to the company. Never has there been a better time to be pro-active.
Too often companies offer support, such as counselling to its employees, when the stress has become so apparent that it is resulting in absenteeism. By this time, the damage has usually been done to that individual and – ultimately – it has an impact on the company’s performance. To ignore the well being of your staff, particularly those that hold demanding roles and are key to the company’s bottom line, is self-sabotaging.
What is Coaching?
Coaching is a focused conversation that facilitates people to realise their own true potential. This is achieved through asking the right questions, intense listening, challenging conversation, encouragement and support. A coach encourages you to explore options for moving forward, helps you make the right decisions and to set realistic goals. It is a tool that anyone can use to make positive practical changes to their lives.
Unless you’ve experienced coaching it can often be confused with counselling, consulting or training. Coaching works on the future, it works on what ‘is’ possible, as opposed to dealing with issues from the past. That is not to say that coaching doesn’t refer to the past, but it does so in order to learn from and to help individuals to move forward.
A non-directive approach works on the principle that you have the ability to come up with your own ideas and solutions. It raises awareness and motivates you to increase your potential.
Stress in the workplace
As we know, stress can cause problems with health, both physically and emotionally. A recent article published by Anastasia Stephens of The Independent states: “The effects of constant pressure – a form of chronic stress – are well-known.”
Robert Sapolsky, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University and an authority on stress, puts it like this: “In fight-or-flight, your body turns off all the long-term building and repair projects. Constant high levels of cortisol take your body’s eye off the ball. Memory and accuracy are both impaired. Patrols for invaders aren’t sent out, you tire more easily, you can become depressed and reproduction gets downgraded.”
Stephen’s article went on to say: “Exposed to chronic stress for years, high blood levels of glucose and fatty acids increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A recent study at University College London found that stress raised cholesterol levels, another factor that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease”.
Take, for example, a high performance car, we recognise the importance of an annual service to maintain its engine and look after our investment. We need the same care and attention to ensure health, productivity and sustainability. Coaching is a pre-emptive tool dealing with issues before they become deep-rooted and destructive.
Tips on how to look for signs of stress in an employee:
Of course, an easy assumption to make is that there could be personal problems. That doesn’t negate the help and support offered by employers. Our work and personal lives dovetail, and whatever the long-term cause or problem, our performance in the work place will eventually be affected.
A company’s aim should not only be to address problems or under performers, but also to unleash employee’s potential. Business owners and managers need to help successful staff become even more successful. Sports coaching offers a good example – top performing athletes all have coaches to keep them at the top of their game, and I would argue that there should be no difference in business.
Staff should be allowed sessions which provide 100% focus on them, allowing them to open up in a secure private environment that is non-judgemental and non-directional. This will help them to become enlightened, empowered, grow in confidence and to achieve results.
Top tips for creating an affective coaching culture:
After a successful career in Human Resources, Wendy runs her own coaching practice helping individuals on a personal level, sole traders and small business owners. As a consultant she has coached management at organisations, including: Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco’s and United Biscuits.