Instructor-led classroom training is the default for many companies seeking to improve team performance. But training alone is not enough. Knowledge retention is notoriously low without consistent practice and reinforcement. Coaching, on the other hand, provides great results, especially if the learning takes place using video.
Everyone in business has experienced their version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, listening to the drone of a presentation, and wishing they were anywhere else. Unfortunately, a lot of training follows this model. Even if the lecture is a good one, we seldom retain everything. In a recent study by Sales Performance International, participants in conventional sales training forgot half of what was taught within five weeks. 55% listed “lack of post training implementation” as one of the top weaknesses of sales training.
So, what’s the answer? A growing consensus indicates that coaching—one-on-one interaction with a knowledgeable leader or mentor—is far more effective than training alone. But often there’s not enough time for a leader or mentor to provide coaching. There has to be a way to keep people engaged, or we run the risk of losing them for lack of one-on-one interaction.
So, here are three good reasons to apply coaching, and some suggestions on how to get it done.
1. Active Listening Works
One of the basic tenets of coaching is the process known as “active listening.” A core competency listed by the International Coach Federation, it includes the “ability to focus completely on what the client is saying,” without anticipating or prejudging their motives.
Although managers and team leaders do not have to be certified coaches, they can still use coaching techniques with great effect. A 2007 Leadership Council Study found that employees will yield a 57% greater discretionary effort if they are engaged with management and continuously learning. This can only happen if management is truly listening.
But how does that work if the team is not co-located? Active listening can happen on the phone or voice chat, of course, but time zones and schedules too often interfere. One sure way to supplement in-person coaching is through the use of video. If team members can record their practice sessions—and if the team leader actively listens and responds in kind—then a true coaching/mentoring process can occur.
Another benefit of video is that a coach/mentor can replay the practice recording multiple times. The first play would provide an overall impression. With subsequent plays, the coach/mentor can focus on specific skills.
2. Goal-Setting and Accountability
Another aspect of coaching is the process of setting goals—and being accountable for meeting those goals. Following any training event, the team that sets specific, measurable, articulated, and reality-based goals, with an actual timeline, is much more likely to succeed.
The best way to do that, especially in a sales group whose members are busy and geographically distant, is to assign practice reinforcement drills. Using an asynchronous video approach allows this to happen on a regular basis, without impinging on the salesperson’s effectiveness in the field.
According to Ventana Research, when sales managers are used to reinforce sales training, retention is increased by as much as 63%. The same study found that ROI on training quadruples—from 22% to 88%—when reinforced by in-field coaching and reinforcement. Since a manager cannot be everywhere at once, using asynchronous video makes the most sense.
3. Training and Coaching Go Together
Pure coaching is not always possible, especially in fast-moving companies where each team member is juggling multiple tasks. However, coaching should never be regarded as only something for senior executives. A healthy mentoring relationship is always part of a team’s success.
When combined with formal training, coaching and practice reinforcement can produce remarkable results. According to the Centre for Management and Organizational Effectiveness, the combination of training plus coaching can lead to an 88% increase in productivity, contrasted with 23% from training alone.
That can be a tall order, however. Very few companies have the luxury of having all the people in the same place, at the same time, and with the leisure to interact on a daily basis. However, by using online video to share best practices, invite practice exercises, and actively participate in a give-and-take, constructive environment, companies can realize that very desirable goal.