We talk a lot about the positive impact coaching can have in the home care industry. It can improve caregiver retention, engagement, productivity, and commitment, and has even been shown to improve revenue numbers.
Managers and leaders often use the terms ‘training’ and ‘coaching’ interchangeably, and even though they are similar in some ways, they are vastly different in others. Both are essential to the success of any business, as is knowing the difference between them!
Understanding the main differences between training and coaching will not only make sure you are using the right tools for the right tasks, but will also help you decide when to deploy them to achieve maximum results in employee performance and satisfaction.
Training and coaching are frequently used in conjunction with each other, to build a more engaged, talented and agile workforce – leading to a healthy, growing business – but each serves separate and distinct purposes.
Training is used for things like new caregiver orientation, changes in technology, processes or procedures, and new government regulations. It teaches something specific and is often a one-time event.
Coaching is less about ‘how to’ and more about ‘how well’. It is a bottom-up approach, built on caregivers’ needs and questions, to improve overall performance or behavior. It is an ongoing process that follows individual caregiver progress and can be tied to performance reviews/appraisals.
Training aims to establish a well-informed, skilled, high-performing workforce.
Coaching works to maintain, develop, and continually improve it.
Coaching also allows you and your caregivers to identify and address specific issues that training may have missed.
There are two primary coaching scenarios: issue coaching and growth coaching.
This is applied when there are issues with a team member’s performance. It should be continual and not only used when there is a major issue to deal with or resolve. Regular coaching brings performance issues to a team member’s attention when they are still minor. It helps set a direction and path for the caregiver to follow while at the same time growing their skills. Your coaching feedback helps them correct any issues before they become significant detractions from their performance, leading to other interventions, such as performance improvement plans and even termination.
Managers use growth coaching to help caregivers, who are already effective contributors, to improve and become even more successful. Performed well, this coaching method can help caregivers continuously improve their skills, experience, and ability to contribute. It can be easy to rule out the need to coach those already doing well, but this can be a costly mistake. You need to coach everyone and spend equal time with your top performers to enhance overall team performance and satisfaction.
Here we share 11 top tips for effective coaching skills, which are central to improving your team’s performance and critical to your home care agency’s long-term success.
Focusing on coaching, you will see a vast improvement in caregiver engagement and increased caregiver satisfaction. Done properly, coaching can overhaul the way caregivers view their job, your agency and their connection with their clients.
Remember, caregivers who feel engaged and valued have a higher retention rate and are more likely to refer friends and family, contributing to a healthy, successful and growing home care agency.
Coaching caregivers at different levels
One of the wonderful things about caregiving is its diversity. Employee performance levels vary, and coaching to these different styles and levels is not a ‘one size fits all’ process. Where your caregivers are in their job role and overall career will vary greatly, and they will each have different needs and levels of input.
The five levels of caregiver performance you are likely to be working with are:
To be a great coach, you need to be mindful of meeting each caregiver where they are at, and aligning/adapting your coaching to meet their individual needs – flexibility is key.
11 tips for effectively coaching caregivers
Whether you are coaching a novice, an experienced team member or someone who is just not meeting your required performance levels, the following 11 tips will help you fine-tune your skills and coach them more effectively, to improve overall team performance.
1. Do it often and be consistent
Fifteen minutes a week of consistent coaching has been shown to be more effective than an hour a month.
By using consistent coaching processes and questions, your caregivers will quickly learn exactly what information you need in order to help them, and they can proactively prepare to provide it. This dramatically speeds up the sessions and significantly reduces the amount of time you need to spend planning.
Like you, your caregivers are short on free time, so you need to make sure your coaching sessions are an appealing, worthwhile and productive experience. It shouldn’t feel like a hassle or a stealer of precious time.
Ideally, coaching sessions should feel relaxed and not pressured. For example, try having them in a comfy, relaxed space and provide drinks and/or food treats and see its impact on the caregiver. Other times coaching will need to be done over the phone. Ensure both you and your caregiver are relaxed, not rushing between locations, and have the required time to focus. While sessions might not take long, do make them something caregivers look forward to and feel positive about.
3. Plan carefully
In life, as in business, what you get out of something is almost always directly reflected by what you first put into it.
While the caregiver should typically lead the coaching sessions, some preparation and planning will be required on your part. For example, you need to review notes from the last meeting, pre-determine objectives, allocate sufficient, uninterrupted time, etc.
Your caregivers will appreciate and value you taking time to prepare for their coaching.
Devoting an appropriate amount of time and attention to planning will see you reap the rewards later on, with caregivers who are more motivated, engaged and capable of performing their duties to a high standard.
4. Ask the right questions
Taking a page from salespeople, the best questions to gain more detailed and thoughtful answers are open-ended, guiding questions. As the coach, it’s important to get to the detail, understand your caregivers, build a relationship with each of them and develop strong trust. This will help you guide them in the direction of the best possible outcome, helping them come to their own conclusions and identify the next steps.
Asking good, open-ended questions that get your team talking is step one. This can then be followed by really listening to the answers given – ‘active listening’ where you focus completely on what the caregiver is saying rather than on how you will respond.
Questions might include:
Using these types of questions will guide the conversation and encourage your caregivers to reflect and examine their own development more effectively. By uncovering the answers for themselves, and having those ‘Aha!’ moments, real progress can be made moving forward.
5. Highlight the good
The best coaches are those who able to strike a balance between criticism and praise. By their nature, people respond better to positives rather than negatives, so start your coaching conversation by focusing on what is going well. Successes, however small, can be used as a springboard into how they can build on them to improve.
Let your caregivers know that you see their efforts and appreciate them.
When offering praise, always be authentic. Authentic leadership builds the relationship between you and your caregivers. Refrain from giving complements on things you don’t actually believe. Stick to specific, positive things to build the bridge of appreciation with each member of your care team.
6. Active listening
When you are actively listening, you are completely focused on what your caregiver is saying. You’re not thinking about how to respond or what to say next. You are building that trust relationship and respect, so the coaching moves toward an empowerment and encouragement conversation.
Prompt them to share their thoughts and opinions, ask questions and give feedback on how, together, you can achieve better outcomes with clients and your overall agency operations.
You will find that some of the best ideas to move your home care business forward will come from your team. Make sure you get that input not only from those who are most vocal but also from the caregivers that are less likely to speak their minds.
7. Understand the caregiver perspective
When coaching, put yourself in your caregivers’ shoes, understanding things from their perspective rather than your own.
People are unique, with different motivations, personalities, preferences and views.
Looking at things through their lens will give you a better understanding of where they are coming from and why they view situations the way they do. From this perspective, you can work with them more effectively and better guide and motivate them to achieve the changes and direction you’re both aiming for.
As you start the coaching conversation, ask the caregiver to give their perspective. Frame it as what they thought went well, and what they thought they could do differently next time. In this way, you are not only getting their perspective but also helping them uncover solutions themselves that will aid them when the next situation arises.
8. Coach in the moment
The best coaching happens as a situation arises, at the moment of the activity or immediately after. Here the situation, ideas and outcomes are foremost in our minds, and it is easier to remember and discuss exactly what happened. If left until a later date, our mind tends to replace the details with things we thought happened or believed happened that may actually differ from the facts!
Likewise, if a caregiver comes to you with a question about a particular procedure or protocol, for example, use this as an opportunity to coach.
Whenever possible, have those coaching conversation immediately. If you can’t do it right away, then schedule some time as soon as possible to carry out the coaching discussion.
9. Agree and clarify the next steps
As you coach your caregivers, the expectation is to make improvements over time. That is what coaching conversations should do; create lasting change and improved results. To make this happen, you and your caregivers will need to clearly define what the ideal outcome looks like and the steps needed to get there.
Leaving a good 10–15% of the coaching session to explore the next steps and insights can be powerful. This can make all the difference in whether caregivers experience a good coaching session or just ‘a good chat’. Focus on specific areas of improvement, with benchmark goals for measuring progress.
Once agreed, ask your caregiver to repeat what they believe are the next steps and actions. This will ensure that you are both on the same page and have the same understanding and expectations.
Take into account what is practicable to expect, and if any further training is required.
10. Refine over time
Nothing is perfect straight away and, as you continue with your caregiver coaching sessions, it will become clear where modifications are required. This allows you to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) over time, which will be your guidelines to ensure a consistent coaching experience is delivered every time you work with each caregiver.
Implementing SOPs as soon as possible will give you efficiency and efficacy in your coaching process as your business grows.
11. Lead by example
Commit to your own continuous learning, improving your own skills and abilities. If you’re not making an effort to continually learn and improve, why should your staff?
Specific to coaching, for example, you might look to improving your emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is a crucial aspect of coaching that boosts engagement, builds relationships and improves performance. Coaching skills and EQ go hand in hand.
For all caregivers, learning to provide the very best care for their clients is an ongoing process. Caregiving is a fluid process, within which things are constantly changing and adapting. Your coaching style ideally needs to reflect this.
If your caregivers are repeatedly falling below expectations, stagnating in their progress towards their goals, appearing disengaged, failing to grasp the skills you need them to have or leaving your agency altogether – the problem will typically lie in how they are being trained and what kind of coaching they are (or aren’t!) receiving to reinforce that training.
Effective coaching has been proven to benefit caregivers, and clients, and support a smooth, stable work environment. Taking the time to get it right will boost your business in so many ways, including:
In 2020, caregiver satisfaction was shown, in part, to be driven by proper training and coaching on the job. People make your agency, and a satisfied, engaged and inspired team is everything. Those home care agencies that have figured out how to take good care of their caregivers, including proper training and coaching, are going in a much stronger position moving into 2021.
Homecare software platforms can help you manage your coaching efforts. System’s like Smartcare’s HR suite will help as you manage and track those areas that are most important to measure your staff’s progress, for example, all interactions with your caregiver can be recorded as part of their HR file. If you have a caregiver that sometimes clocks-in late, you will be able to see this activity, dates and times. You can then explore these specific instances to see why and how to change that behavior. Likewise, if you have a caregiver who is doing really well with one client, Smartcare will show you the client and family’s feedback, helping you emphasize and focus on the actions that are getting such a good outcome.
Here are just a few issues that your home care platform should be tracking to help inform your coaching:
Having a complete HR platform to track each employee and access it from any device will help you coach your team to success. For example, when you are doing a field day, accessing your notes on each caregiver before connecting with them will give you the information you need at your fingertips to have an effective coaching conversation.
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