Shalini Ramakrishnan- Director of Product Marketing, Numly, Inc. –
For the first time in his 15-year career, John is working from home. It’s an adjustment, but nothing too difficult physically. Initially, he wholeheartedly enjoyed being at home with family and wearing whatever he felt like while powering through his tasks. But over time, as the hours turned into days of solitude, he started missing his office. He longed for his tea break, where he would let off steam by chatting with his co-workers. He missed speaking to his mentors and drawing inspiration from them. He even missed the nosy HR officer keeping a check on him now and then. He started to feel lonely, desolate, and alienated.
John’s case is familiar for many who have newly joined the world of remote working. Although freeing in many ways, it has certain drawbacks. The most glaringly obvious one is a lack of human connection. Human beings are, after all, highly social entities, and we require stimulation from our peers.
Additional issues are there, such as an inability to reach out to peers in real-time. But regardless of these issues, most people do appreciate remote working. A study revealed that 97% of workers – both employees and entrepreneurs – say they don’t want to return to the office full-time. 74% of professionals expect remote work to become standard.
Companies like Quora and Dropbox have decided to adopt a remote-first style of working. As Quora’s CEO, Adam D’Angelo, puts it: “Remote work will be the primary orientation of our company — the default for all choices.” Many other companies are adopting an office-occasional and office-first model, depending on their needs.
It looks like hybrid working is here to stay in some form or another. But what about the employees like John who find it hard to manage the alienation? Surely their needs are valid and important to address. Luckily – there is a way for companies to make everyone happy. That is adopting well-thought-out peer coaching practices.
What is Peer Coaching?
The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science defines peer coaching as “a type of helping relationship in which two people of equal status actively participate in helping each other on specific tasks or problems, with a mutual desire to be helpful.”
In peer coaching, certain ground rules must be followed by all participants. These can differ from organization to organization – but there are a few key principles here:
- The advice must be candid and straightforward.
- The peer coach gives advice that is beneficial for the organization.
- Peer coaches have one another’s best interests at heart.
Peer coaching doesn’t have the rank dynamics of manager-to-employee or executive coaching. They may be from the same department or function or a different one. It’s an ongoing process with one aim in mind: to help the peer succeed.
Someone like John would greatly benefit from such a practice. Peer coaching would allow John to engage in meaningful discussion with a peer. It would also help him take stock of his growth at his job. Not only would it keep away feelings of alienation – it would actively nourish him with the feedback that’s required to succeed in his career. But how else would peer coaching help employees?
Benefits of Peer Coaching
Practice and Reflection
Since feedback is shared in a constant cycle and each set has actionable insights that again, are assessed – there is space for practice and reflection. Each action is noticed by the other. Then the peers can discuss these actions. That allows them to recognize what is working for them, and what is not. It guides their growth deeply and holistically. While practice and reflection are beneficial outcomes themselves, these lead to another desirable outcome – boosting productivity.
In a study, research showed that employees who spent 15 minutes reflecting at the end of the day performed 23% better.
With peer coaching, since feedback cycles tend to be quick and accurate, it speeds up the learning. One could include peer coaching as a part of another larger coaching setup or growth plan. Learning also becomes more personal and intimate – therefore creating a basis for personal development. Questions can help people identify problem areas that they didn’t realize existed. These can set up an environment that will help peers establish or change their goals and objectives.
Peer coaching lets an individual gain helpful advice from a relevant perspective. The feedback is coming from a trusted source, someone from who the peer is comfortable with receiving feedback. Plus, this source is most probably an employee as well, who has a working knowledge of the demands of the role being analyzed. That creates an air of accountability when the feedback is being given and received. This also encourages the peers to put into practice the suggestions put forward and to keep a check on each other.
As peer coaching fosters engagement, it automatically creates an air of friendship. It also involves many personal topics, and this impacts people both professionally and personally. Therefore, one can say peer coaching is great at creating strong and healthy bonds between team members. It’s also a good way to help individuals feel friendly enough to point out the other person’s best characteristics, such as the ability to be a leader. It helps individuals build new relationships, too.
Helps Identify Important Skills
This is an environment where people can point out and build on certain skill sets, such as leadership skills, communication skills, critical thinking, and more. It teaches individuals how to give honest feedback, which is constructive and well-worded. Space is also created with several opportunities for teamwork. An individual can help their peer with a specific project, or they can come together to brainstorm a solution for a mutual problem.
With so many benefits that all can benefit from – Peer Coaching is surely a must-have for the future. It has tremendous potential for the overall growth of the company. Most importantly, it creates a healthy and safe space for employees like John, who can easily be overlooked in the busy corporate hive. It empowers every single individual in an organization – thus creating a powerful and strong workforce.