The Art and Science of Building A Coaching Culture

Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing, Numly, Inc.-


VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity have grasped the world in its claws.

As turbulence, high-velocity markets, and hyper-competition – the by-products of VUCA surround us, organizations globally are trying to increase their capacity to manage the challenges and stay on the path to profitability. They are making technology investments and looking out for avenues to increase their agility.

However, alongside this, organizations also have to focus on building their resilience to stay ahead of the curve.

(R to L)Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing at Numly, Inc, in conversation with Varnika Garg, Product Leader Intern, Numly, Inc.

But organizational resilience is directly proportional to employee resilience. Hence it is important for companies to upskill their employees and coach them to navigate today’s treacherous landscape.

For this, it is imperative to build a coaching culture.

When I look back at my decade long career, I realize that coaching from my peers and managers has been pivotal in defining the trajectory of my career growth. At organizations where my strengths were celebrated and my weaknesses were worked upon, I flourished. At Numly™, I got the opportunity to be a part of a coaching culture that was adopted, not as an afterthought but as a deliberate strategy across functions. This was especially seen when we had to bring onboard Product Leader Interns while embracing WFH.

When I got the chance to be a coach to Varnika Garg, who joined my team as a marketing intern, the virtual coaching, mentoring and 1:1 sessions with her became the highlight of our joint collaboration. Coaching is no more about catching up for work-related meetings, but also for developing a healthy personal and professional relationship with each other. These frequent sessions with her are a mix of work-related tasks and some fun, light-hearted conversations where I coach her on various skills and talk about her experiences as well. Consequently, even in a short time span, we have developed a beautiful relationship, wherein she has shown excellent growth and I have learned to be a better mentor.

What is a coaching culture?

Similar to how an athlete or a sportsperson needs a coach to help them reach success, employees need coaching to help them navigate the complexities of their career growth.

Creating a coaching culture means providing the support employees need to learn new skills and navigate personal and professional landmines and become assets for the organization.

This culture places great emphasis on training, proactive feedback, and the creation of growth opportunities. A more engaged, productive, and energized workforce emerges as a by-product of creating a coaching culture.

The ABC of building a coaching culture

Building a coaching culture is more than identifying a handful of coaches within the organization and pushing the responsibility of coaching the entire workforce on them. A coaching culture is also not about implementing week-long training programs to ‘fix’ skill deficiencies.

It is about building an ecosystem where employees can learn from the experience of their coaches. It is about empowering employees with meaningful coaching conversations.

Creating a coaching culture is both an art and science since it involves taking creative and yet, calculated and measured steps to deliver tangible results.

But which part is the art, and what falls under science?

The art of creating a coaching culture 

Creating a coaching culture demands coaching to be integrated into the workplace culture. Coaching is not like adding carrots to a stew.

  • It involves educating teams on how coaching can add value to their lives.
  • It is all about developing greater accountability and initiating a behavioral change.
  • It is about enhancing skills and increasing knowledge.
  • It is about having development-oriented continuous conversations by helping employees identify both challenges and opportunities for growth.

Creating a coaching culture also demands building the right connections and relationships. Whether it is training for hard skills or power skills, reskilling, or upskilling the workforce, coaching has to bring about sustained change – and it happens only when the right coach is paired with the right employee.

Continuous, contextual, and personalized interactions, proactive feedback, and a high degree of trust contribute to creating sustainable and strong coaching cultures.

Such a culture has to also be inclusive in nature – it has to account for the entire employee demographic and ensure that it is helping in building diversity and empowering employees to chart successful career graphs.

Creating coaching cultures also involves understanding the workforce’s mindset, motivators, key challenges, and career journeys with empathy. Such a culture also helps in knowledge retention and enhances knowledge application.

All of these aspects are the art behind creating a coaching culture. But then, what goes into the science of creating this culture?

The science of creating a coaching culture

Since we can manage only what we can measure, creating a coaching culture based on guesswork and gut feeling won’t deliver the desired outcome.

The success of the coaching culture also depends on the right coach-employee pairing.

Employees need to be given the flexibility to access coaches who ‘they’ feel can benefit their career paths and who they revere. This is where science comes into play.

The first part of the process, which is to ensure the right coach-employee pairing comes from understanding ‘where’ employees need coaching. This understanding was once based on guesswork, manager feedback, and asking the employees where they ‘felt’ they needed coaching support. The results were often always less than satisfactory. This is because we need to identify coaching needs based on data – not gut feel.

Leveraging tests such as Personality Assessment tests or Behavioural Analysis tests provide a concrete base for identifying the employees’ skilling needs. Gaining this clarity then helps to get skill-specific coach-employee pairings.

Technologies such as AI and Machine Learning are also helping develop strong coaching cultures by extending their support to power coaching platforms. With these technologies, we can build rich engagement tools such as AI bots that assist in identifying skills gaps and individual employees’ learning paths.

Humans have short attention spans, and the only way to ensure behavioral change is through repetition. AI-powered platforms come of use here to deliver timely nudges and personalized and contextual ‘nurture actions’ to increase the success rate of the training program.

We also cannot ignore the data privacy aspect. Coaching cultures can only bear fruit when they are steeped in trust. Hence, ensuring the security of data and the privacy of all coaching conversations become of paramount importance.

In data lies the answer to measure the effectiveness of the coaching program as well. Since AI and Machine Learning platforms are data-rich, organizations have to build capabilities to enable rich data analytics. With insights on employee engagement, performance management, and more gleaned from data, HR teams can manage, control, and change the effectiveness of their coaching programs.

With such deep engagement insights, it also becomes possible to deliver a transformational employee experience that fuels employee engagement.

Creating a coaching culture is an established method to help organizations measurably improve their employee engagement and employee performance levels.

However, creating such a culture necessitates balancing the art and the science aspects. Numly™’s AI-powered coaching platform – NumlyEngage provides coaching programs tailored to different organizational functions, that deliver a tangible impact and help companies fill their leadership pipeline with high-potential employees and connect the enterprise through shared values.




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