Coaching vs. Managing: To Engage Employees Break the Performance Management Mold

November 10, 2022

The competition for top talent is fierce. Here’s how to engage employees and keep your best staff from flying the coop.

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Modern workers don’t just want to be managed — they also want to be coached.

No longer is it enough for managers to simply delegate tasks. With five active generations in the workforce — including millennials, the largest slice of the workforce and Gen Z, the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce — much more is expected of today’s leaders, including training and development opportunities.

A 2018 LinkedIn study showed that 94% of employees would stay with their companies longer if they felt the organization was invested in their career development.

What Is the Difference Between Managing and Coaching?

While “managers” focus primarily on authority and directing, “coaches” focus on teaching and facilitating, wrote Holly Green for Forbes. “In business, we have to be both coaches and managers. To lead effectively, we need to know when to wear which hat,” she said.

Think of coaches and managers as two sides of the same coin: both drive employee efficiency, efficacy, and ultimately performance both on an individual and team level. But their roles and approaches differ in a few important ways.

What Are the Duties of a Manager?

Managers capture employees’ potential by:

  • Delegating
  • Assigning tasks
  • Onboarding and training new employees in the fundamentals of their role
  • Problem-solving when there are challenges or crises
  • Mediating conflict
  • Meeting targets, quotas, and deadlines—and ensuring the team contributes
  • Monitoring and evaluating individual and team performance, including during annual reviews

Situations That Call For Employee Management

Situations that require a manager’s expertise include:

  • Deciding which employee can take on the role of team lead
  • Onboarding a new employee, including providing logins and passwords, orienting the employee to their work environment, and introducing them to team members
  • Scheduling team meetings, providing an agenda, and leading the meeting
  • Arranging formal performance reviews and documenting the results
  • Defining team goals and holding the necessary parties accountable
  • Guiding decision-making and problem-solving during an emergency, such as a delayed shipment of essential supplies that requires immediate action
  • Establishing project deadlines and following up with team members to make sure they are met


There’s no question coaching skills are valuable to the modern manager, the employees they supervise, and the organizations they work for. At the same time, there’s a time and a place for a manager to focus on their role and responsibilities as a director.

What Are the Duties of a Coach?

Coaches bring out the best in employees by:

  • Collaborating with employees on learning and development goals
  • Providing real-time and ongoing feedback
  • Facilitating and guiding employees on the professional development journey
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Providing strategic support to organizations on learning and development processes

It’s important to know what situations call for donning the manager hat and which call for the coaching hat.

Situations That Call For Employee Coaching

For managers to reinforce the behaviors they want to see in their employees, the secret isn’t annual reviews: It’s instant (and frequent) performance feedback that can be related back to an employee’s specific goals. Today’s workers expect leadership to provide them with personal growth opportunities and coaching in areas that matter most to them.
For the modern manager (slash, coach), putting these pieces together in the workforce can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. In fact, organizations should be setting managers up to coach employees easily and effectively when it’s useful.

Some situations that call for a manager to step into a coaching role include:

  • Sitting down with an employee one-on-one to give feedback on a recent work task
  • Helping an employee to develop soft skills that would enable them to reach their full potential
  • Assisting an employee to set professional development goals and find resources to achieve them
  • Holding a workshop for a team or department to improve collaboration efforts
  • Asking an employee open-ended questions to give them to opportunity to identify what went well, what could be improved, and what next steps they’d like to take

Tips for Building Coaching and Managing Skills In Your Organization

A strong performance management model requires supervisors to act as both managers and coaches. While there is some overlap in each role’s skillsets, mastering the unique qualities of both makes for a more effective leader.

Managers should focus on the below skills to supervise their employees:

  • Giving direction
  • Delegating tasks
  • Motivating others
  • Problem-solving
  • Goal-setting
  • Conflict management and resolution

Coaches need the following skills to be guides and mentors:

  • Empathy
  • Accountability
  • Active listening
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Asking questions

What unites coaching and managing is the need for highly advanced communication skills, including awareness of both verbal and nonverbal communication, listening, clarity, and more. These skills are just applied in different situations.

Tools to Facilitate Employee Coaching

In addition to more than just a one-off annual performance review, today’s workers expect quick access to learning and development opportunities, as well as feedback from leadership.

Valerie Bolden-Barrett of HR Dive pointed out that “... trainers will need to respond to these new workers in the tech-based milieu they're comfortable with, which includes social media and smartphones.”

In other words, employers need to think outside of the box and use new, previously unconventional platforms and formats for communication. Thanks to HR tools that can be integrated into the technology that workers are already familiar with, managers have resources to make this tall order much more, well, manageable.

  1. Integrated employee engagement tools act as a one-stop shop where employees can message and interact with their managers and colleagues anytime, anywhere.
  2. Centralized performance management and peer recognition make the feedback and evaluation process well-rounded and breaks the top-down mold.
  3. Mobile HCM platforms offer an easily accessible experience that integrates seamlessly into the programs employees use every day. And leadership now has tools to monitor employee performance and provide that continuous feedback today’s workers crave.
  4. With an integrated learning management system (LMS), managers can foster learning and development through custom training videos created and shared by workers, a library of on-demand training content tailored to different learning styles, and dashboards that track employee progress and assign courses based on an employee’s unique challenges and focuses.

Integrated HR tools make for a seamless experience across roles and departments, setting the stage for successful managing and coaching.

Coach and Manage Employees More Effectively With The Right HR Tech

With an up-and-coming workforce that wants always-on access to more frequent guidance, feedback, and development, it’s critical for organizational leadership to take both the relational and technological realities into account when creating talent development strategies.

New generations of workers are soon to dominate the workforce, and they expect a lot more than an annual performance review when it comes to their personal and professional development. They want their managers to be personally involved in their professional development and to provide frequent feedback that relates to their goals and sets a clear path forward.

The best way to achieve this? An HR solution that houses responsive, accessible, tailored, and on-demand tools and learning opportunities reflecting the consumer technology your employees are accustomed to.

Download our eBook on delivering a consumer-driven employee experience to learn more about how you can create an ecosystem that facilitates feedback and coaching while delivering the consumer-driven employee experience your workers crave.

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