This is PART 3 in a series exploring employee retention and turnover, based on Leigh Branham’s book “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave”. (Check out PART 1 and PART 2!)

Reason #3: Too Little Coaching and Feedback

Performance coaching and feedback are essential for employees because it helps them answer 4 basic questions (73):

1. Where are we going as a company?
2. How are we going to get there?
3. How do you expect me to contribute?
4. How am I doing?

“The answers to these questions constitute much of what gives meaning to an employee’s efforts. We all have a basic need to exercise competence and to know that our talents have been used to make a valuable contribution.” (Branham 73)

Coaching increases employees’ sense of commitment to their organization[1]. (qtd. in Branham 73)

This is because when you provide coaching and feedback to your employees, you are investing in them.

When you invest in your employees, they naturally want to return the favor by giving back to you (and by association, the company), which translates into greater commitment and engagement.

[Tip: Giving good feedback and coaching is not necessarily about getting results; it’s about an employee and a manager building an open and trusting relationship. (75)]


Actionable tips for employers (Branham 77-89)

Provide intensive feedback and coaching to new hires.

Coaching new hires is very important during the first months at your company because it allows them to learn positive job attitudes and sets high standards for their long-term performance.

Ways to do this include:

  • Plan specifically how you want your new hires to spend their first week; spend quality time with during that week
  • Discuss your performance expectations in detail, and ask the employee to draft a performance agreement that summarizes his or her objectives
  • Pair new hires with an experienced worker that could serve as a mentor for them (at least for the first few months)
  • Let them know that giving feedback is your responsibility and getting feedback is his/her responsibility. Train them to seek out feedback when they feel they aren’t getting enough

Create a culture of continuous feedback and coaching.

Studies show that people prefer informal on-the-job conversations with their supervisor over formal interviews[2] (qtd. in Branham 79). To do this, train all managers in how to give feedback and all employees in how to receive it.

Train managers in performance coaching.
Make sure your managers understand these steps:

Make performance management process less controlling and more of a partnership.

When managers and employees partner in the performance evaluation process, the process itself is more effective and the people involved are happier.

Ideas include:

  • Train managers in the ‘‘Get-Give-Merge-Go’’ technique (start by getting employee’s perspective on performance, then give your perspective, then merge mutual perspectives into an agreement, then go forward with new objectives).
  • Train managers in helping employees set appropriate objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (S-M-A-R-T).
  • Position your managers as counselors and co-problem solvers, rather than judges.

Terminate nonperformers when best efforts to coach or reassign don’t pay off.

  • Although keeping a commitment to coaching is great, it’s equally important to be able to recognize those cases when coaching and feedback are no longer effective, when you must let some employees go.

Keeping non-performers in your workplace may actually cause high-performers to become less committed, since your decision to keep non-performers may indirectly send the message that performance is not truly valued at your company.

Hold managers accountable for coaching and giving feedback

As in the case of setting a new objective or learning a new habit, it’s vital to keep ourselves accountable throughout the process of reaching that goal. That means managers need to be held accountable for their work, too.

Some ways to achieve this include:

  • Allowing employees to give feedback for managers on their coaching and people management skills
  • Incorporating coaching and feedback competencies into the list of key requirements for leaders.

Actionable tips for employees (Branham 90)

  • Whenever you believe you are not receiving the feedback and coaching you need, ask for it.
  • Develop the habit of asking for feedback from peers, customers, direct reports, task force coworkers, administrative assistants, and anyone with whom you might interact, not just the boss.
  • If you have never been invited to write your own performance objectives or begin a performance evaluation by giving your own self-assessment, ask to do so.
  • If you feel that changes in circumstances have necessitated that changes be made in your performance objectives, request a meeting with your supervisor to rewrite the objectives.
  • Ask whether your company provides off-the-shelf personality and work-style inventories, employee development planning guides, or competency assessments you can take.
  • If you feel you are spending more time trying to improve weaknesses than building on your strengths, change your developmental objectives, your supervisor, or your job.
  • If your company retains external coaches to assist current employees, ask if they would be willing to provide such coaching at your level.
  • If your organization does not retain outside coaches at your position level, consider retaining an outside coach of your own.
  • If you work for a supervisor who is not interested in coaching or giving the feedback you need, consider seeking a new position within the company where you can work for a manager who is, or leave the company.


Branham, Leigh. The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act before Its Too Late. AMACOM, 2012.

[1] ‘‘Career Developments,’’ Newsletter of Career Development Services, Inc., September 18, 2003

[2] Richard Beatty, ‘‘Competitive Human Resource Advantage Through the Strategic Management of Performance,’’ Human Resources Planning, Volume 12, November 15, 1989.

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