Five Steps for Effective Workplace Coaching

Not too long ago, multinational imaging and electronics company Ricoh relied on manual systems for its call centers1. With three U.S. locations employing 300 agents who handled 2.4 million calls annually, the company needed to move toward a more efficient, automated process and improve KPIs, and it turned to a performance management system to effect change.

The turnaround was remarkable: By automating scheduling and performance data processes, it freed up supervisors to focus on higher value activities, including coaching. It also allowed Ricoh to standardize and streamline those coaching and management strategies. The results of the initiative included an 83 percent improvement in average speed of answer, and a 75 percent improvement in abandonment rate. During the process, the company learned the importance of strategic, methodical and informed coaching.

Across industries, there is increasing recognition of the power of coaching to improve employee performance2. A critical component, however, is giving supervisors the opportunity to own the coaching process. Ricoh saw improvements when it not only empowered employees but also the people coaching them3.

Step-by-step coaching for performance improvement

Nearly 90 percent of organizational leaders believe the manager’s most important role is to coach, according to a Contact Center Council survey, but organizations frequently fail to arm their supervisors with tools and time to do so.

Focusing on five key steps of coaching will give managers and supervisors a solid foundation from which to inspire and engage employees to perform better across all KPIs. 

  • Step One: Analyze
    Collect and interpret performance data and segment employees by performance. Identify unique performance gaps for the individual employees who will be coached, then drill into the root cause behaviors behind each gap4. Prioritize the highest impact opportunities for improvement. Ensure that the organization is using the best metrics, ones closely aligned to the desired behaviors – they’re essential for measuring change.
  • Step Two: Prepare
    Before a session, set the coaching session objective, focusing on one or two behaviors per meeting. Plan the interaction, anticipating objections and preparing to overcome them. Consider what feedback to deliver – for example, employees believe corrective feedback does more to improve their performance than positive feedback, by a three-to-one margin – and be respectful of individual characteristics or needs5. Coach to behaviors, rather than metrics: Helping an employee learn to show empathy during a customer interaction is far more effective than simply telling him to improve his Customer Satisfaction score by five points.
  • Step Three: Conduct
    During the session, ask questions to open the dialogue, share perspectives and insight and determine options to move forward. Coaching is a two-way communication process that requires that the supervisor and the employee both be fully engaged and motivated6.
  • Step Four: Document
    Set specific measurable goals, agree on next steps in terms of actions and timing, and gain a commitment. Follow the employee’s progress. Over time, create a list, wiki or library of best practices and learning tips based on experience and employee input.
  • Step Five: Follow up
    Wash, rinse, repeat. Coaching is a process, not a one-time evaluation.

The value-add of performance management tools

Coaching takes time, skill and planning, and the measure of a coaching session’s success lies in its results: If it doesn’t lead to change in the desired behaviors, it hasn’t been effective. To coach well, managers need a transparent, single source of truth: one solution that aggregates data from across the organization (so they don’t have to). Having access to the same set of metrics allows the employee to make his or her own decisions, problem-solve and actively develop skills on the job. Investing in the tools that give your employees immediate input on their performance while coaching them to achieve more will help ensure your organization improves upon its most mission-critical goals.

Adam Aftergut is a product marketing manager for NICE Performance Management, the leading software solution used by contact centers to improve customer satisfaction scores (CSATs) while reducing contact center operational costs.

1 “Ricoh Case Study”, NICE, /sites/default/files/ricoh.pdf
2 Adam Aftergut, “Performance Reviews vs. Performance Management”, NICE, /engage/blog/Performance-Reviews-vs-Performance-Management-2171
3 “RTA Innovation”, NICE,
4 Adam Aftergut, “For High-Performing Teams, Spend Less Time Worrying About Your Worst Performers”, NICE, /engage/blog/For-HighPerforming-Teams-Spend-Less-Time-Worrying-About-Your-Worst-Performers-2157
5 Jack Zenger, Joseph Folkman, “Your Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give”, Harvard Business Review,
6 Diane Coutu, Carol Kauffman, “What Can Coaches Do for You?” Harvard Business Review,