Want to improve employee stress? Look at coaching, development

Ben Brooks

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With the world more than six months into the coronavirus pandemic and a workforce that remains mostly remote, HR leaders are continuing to face unprecedented challenges, which could inhibit long-term success without a smart strategy.

“Many organizations are now hiring a ‘head of remote work’ to figure out how the heck to make this sustainable and effective,” Top 100 HR Tech Influencer Ben Brooks said in a recent live Twitter chat with Human Resource Executive®. “Most orgs are in biz as usual mode–few are innovating, growing, merging right now. How does that work virtually? Likely a mess without a strategy!”

Related: Learn more from HR leaders at virtual HR Tech Conference.

While some HR tech tools may have seemed like a godsend in forming a strategy to support remote workers in the early days of the pandemic, the founder and CEO of the career development platform PILOT warns that others like Slack may be more problematic than first realized.

“Employees feel like they are always on and constantly monitored,” he tweeted. “Plus, everyone gets to opine on everything. This is upending cultures in a way that’s disruptive, and not by design.”

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As employers look to improve, from retention to morale–in addition to doing what feels like everything else under the sun–coaching and mentoring initiatives are picking up steam, Brooks said.

“#Coaching & #mentoring are on [right now], as #careerdevelopment is key lever for attraction, engagement, & retention, plus DEI efforts,” he tweeted.

Traditionally, top talent development programs are high-touch, in-person and costly, he said, cautioning that that must change. “We’ll never develop diverse pipelines if we’re just lavishing ‘frequent fliers’ at top of orgs with big ticket programs. We must push further down the hierarchy.”

And, it’s what employees crave: Career development nearly always ranks as a top-three pain point on engagement surveys, he said. “Everyone wants it, but very hard for #HR to solve and scale. And it also must be measured as data is required to get more budget and prove efficacy. Just delivering offering not enough; prove impact.”

RELATED: This is the big opportunity employers are missing out on

In fact, a recent report, Career Development in a Pandemic, found that employee expectations for career development are strikingly different from what their employers offer during the pandemic.

Half of the employees surveyed say mentorship from their manager has become more important to them during the pandemic; however, employers are falling short of meeting those expectations, with 49% of employees saying they aren’t getting enough training, coaching and mentoring to advance their careers in these uncertain times.

In addition to enhancing the focus on employees, Brooks warns it isn’t sustainable for HR leaders to “ ‘burn hot’ like redlining a car for too much longer” and that they must also consider their own needs.

“If you haven’t taken time off, do,” he said. “Set boundaries. Advocate for yourself. Delegate. And prioritize.”

Related: Here’s the best thing you can do for your staff today

That approach should also be tapped when looking ahead to 2021 and budgets. Be sure to “ask for more,” Brooks advised. And “remember to use the benefits you provide to employees–be that mental health, EAP lines, coaches, etc. You deserve your own support, HR peeps!”


Follow us on Twitter here, and use the hashtags #HRTechInfluencers and #HRTechConf to follow along in our next chat with HR Tech influencer and Valoir CEO Rebecca Wettemann (@rebeccawetteman) at noon Oct. 1.

For more information or to register for the virtual HR Tech Conference, click here.

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Nick Otto
Nick Otto is HRE’s former senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.