How to Create Effective Employee Coaching Plans (3 Examples)

Ben Goodey
Published on 
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.
Employee coaching plans have the power to turn your managers into leaders and your people into high performers. In this guide, we'll show you how to create employee coaching plans to boost performance, develop leaders, and nurture engagement. At the end, you'll find tips and resources to help managers become better coaches.
Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Employee Coaching Plan?

An employee coaching plan is a framework managers can use to guide and support the professional development of an employee—usually their direct reports.

It involves:

  • setting goals
  • identifying areas for improvement
  • outlining actionable steps to achieve set goals and identified capabilities
  • providing timely feedback and encouragement
  • regular coaching sessions in 1:1s
  • reliable performance tracking

A well-thought-out coaching plan that includes all these aspects can help managers become better coaches. 

And research shows employees who report to managers who coach effectively are 40% more engaged, exhibit 38% more discretionary effort, and are 20% more likely to stay at the organization.

However, there are challenges.

“Much of today’s coaching simply isn’t effective, even though we know that when managers get it right, the benefits of good coaching are clear,” says Jaime Roca, Senior Vice President of Research & Advisory at Gartner HR Practice.

According to Forbes, coaching plans fail because of these key reasons: 

  1. Undefined goals and objectives: Most of the time, the company has a clear objective, but this isn't clearly communicated to the employee who will be coached. Hence, employees feel they have no stake in the game and are not motivated to be coached.
  2. One-size-fits-all approach: Every employee is unique, and every goal is unique. For instance, you can’t use the same plan for improving Max’s performance as you would for developing Melissa into a leader. Personalized and flexible coaching is key.
  3. Lack of organizational support: You can have the best coaches and willing participants, but if the organization itself doesn’t have the proper systems and processes in place to support coaching, it will not work.
  4. Late intervention: Coaching should be continuous and proactive, not a last resort. Waiting until problems are deeply rooted actually makes them harder to fix in the long run.

For coaching to be truly effective, you need a coaching plan that addresses these issues and an employee coaching software that will enable managers to become better coaches and employees to become high performers. 

For instance, on our coaching and performance platform, Mesh, managers can co-create goals with each individual employee, coach them consistently through regular 1:1s and real-time feedback, and receive “nudges” on when and who to coach. 

In the next section, we’ll give you three examples of how to create employee coaching plans that eliminate the four challenges, using Mesh.

Each plan addresses a specific use case with tangible business results:

  1. Employee Coaching Plan to Boost Individual Performance
  2. Employee Coaching Plan to Develop Leaders
  3. Employee Coaching Plan to Nurture Employee Engagement

Example 1: How to Create an Employee Coaching Plan That Increases Individual Performance

If your people struggle to perform, so will your business. If your people flourish, so will your business. 

In 2023, McKinsey released a report, Performance through People, that showed companies who have a dual focus on people and performance are 4.3x more likely than average companies to maintain top-tier financial performance in nine out of ten years.

Employee coaching plans give you that dual focus because rather than shoving performance expectations down your people’s throats, you’re looking at each person to understand how they can be supported and enabled to reach those expectations. 

Here’s how you can create an employee coaching plan that increases individual performance:

Step 1: Assess Employee’s Current Performance

While performance reviews get a bad reputation, if you collect performance data continuously from multiple sources they can actually shed light on how an individual is doing and provide insightful information the employee can use to improve. 

You should gather feedback from supervisors, peers, and the employee themself to get a comprehensive understanding of each individual’s performance as it currently stands. 

Then each coach can assess that information and use it to form a plan on what part of their direct report’s performance needs their attention and support most. 

Mesh has 360 performance reviews and continuous feedback functionality that streamlines this entire process. Employees will be able to request and give feedback while managers will be able to see what feedback and reviews are received. 

You’ll also be able to look at capability tracking over time and use that information to inform what managers want to develop in their people.

Step 2: Get SMART About Goals

Once you have a clear picture of the employee's current performance, it's time to set goals. These goals should align with both the employee's career aspirations and the organization's objectives. 

Ensure that each goal follows the SMART criteria:

  • Specific: Clearly define what needs to be accomplished
  • Measurable: Include concrete criteria for measuring progress
  • Achievable: Set realistic and attainable goals
  • Relevant: Ensure goals are aligned with broader business objectives
  • Time-bound: Set specific deadlines for goal completion

In Mesh, employees can collaborate with their manager to set goals in alignment with the needs of the organization. 

Once the goals are set, the platform helps hold employees accountable by sending regular reminders to update goal progress. 

It also surfaces this information to managers, providing valuable data they can take into coaching conversations.

You might also like: 6 Best SMART Goal Software for 2024 (Achieve More, Faster)

Step 3: Learn Each Employee’s Coaching Preferences

Effective coaching is not one-size-fits-all and each employee should get a personalized coaching experience. 

You can learn coaching preferences by having employees fill out a form answering questions about how they prefer to receive feedback, what areas they want coached on most, and more. 

Or you can have managers have these conversations in a 1:1 where they run through a similar list of questions and create a coaching plan that the employee is more likely to engage with and benefit from.

Step 4: Encourage Managers to Create Focused 1:1s

As part of a coaching plan, managers should schedule in regular coaching sessions. This is usually a 1:1 that happens weekly or bi-weekly where the manager can bring up concerns, support the concerns of the employee, review development needs, and offer advice or encouragement. 

It’s also a time for the employee to give feedback on the manager’s coaching style. 

To make sure they occur and are used efficiently, you can use a platform like Mesh. 

With Mesh your managers can schedule recurring 1:1s and create focused agendas that keep their coaching conversations on track.

They’ll also be able to refer back to those agendas and the action items created off the back of conversations to hold themselves and their direct reports accountable in future conversations. 

Step 5: Document Personalized ‘Plans’

Create a written record of each employee's coaching plan and keep it in an easy to find place such as your Notion or Coda database.

This document should include the employee's goals, action steps, and any specific areas of focus the manager and employee have identified. You can create a template for this plan and share it with managers to fill out.

It's important to keep this information confidential, as it may contain sensitive details about the employee's challenges or development areas.

Step 6: Monitor Progress and Adjust the Plan

All good plans require follow-up. You want to make sure they’re working after all. 

I recommend tracking employee progress on their goals and capabilities. Both quantifiable and qualitative data is important here to give a comprehensive picture of performance. 

Be prepared to adjust the coaching plan based on ongoing evaluations and changing circumstances. This flexibility ensures that the coaching plan remains relevant and effective.

Mesh can assist in this process by automatically tracking performance metrics and presenting them in easy-to-understand formats such as tables and graphs:

These are data points you as an HR leader can use to see if coaching plans are improving performance or not while managers can use it to adjust their approach.

Performance Employee Coaching Plan Example

Here’s a template you can use to create an employee coaching plan that increases individual performance:

You might also like: 5 Best Employee Coaching Software Platforms for Managers 

Example 2: How to Create an Employee Coaching Plan That Develops Leaders

One of the most common pain points in organizations is the promotion of individuals to management positions without adequate preparation. 

And when this happens, the new manager takes a hit to their confidence and the people they lead are frustrated by the lack of support and effective leadership given. 

Ultimately, the business suffers as the affected teams experience poorer performance, lower engagement, and sometimes higher turnover. 

By identifying and nurturing leadership potential early, organizations can ensure a pipeline of well-prepared, confident leaders ready to take on management roles when the time comes.

Here’s how you can create an employee coaching plan that develops leaders early:

Step 1: Identify Leadership Potential

Great leaders aren’t born, they’re nurtured—but it’s much easier to nurture leadership skills in someone who is:

1. interested in becoming a manager and

2. already demonstrating key leadership capabilities.

So your first step in developing an employee coaching plan for leadership development is to identify who needs coaching. 

You can assess leadership potential by conducting 360 performance reviews, referring to continuous feedback data, sending out personality assessments, and even holding interviews.

Mesh can be an invaluable tool in this identification process. 

The platform allows managers to easily access and analyze data on employee competencies and performance. This comprehensive view of employee skills and achievements makes it easier to spot those with leadership potential. 

Managers can use this information to identify which roles employees are best suited for as they grow within the organization, ensuring that potential leaders are nurtured and developed effectively.

Step 2: Define What ‘Leadership’ Looks Like and Communicate That to Your Org

To help your managers assess potential and track capabilities effectively, it’s important they know what they’re looking for.

Start by identifying the specific leadership qualities that are most valuable in your organizational context. 

These might include strategic thinking, adaptability, integrity, and the ability to drive innovation. 

Consider also the practical skills leaders in your organization need, such as financial acumen, project management expertise, or industry-specific knowledge.

I would create a leadership competency framework that outlines these expectations in detail. This framework can serve as a guide for both aspiring leaders and those responsible for developing them. It can also be used as a basis for performance evaluations and succession planning.

Step 3: Provide Leadership Training and Education

I know, I know—I said that traditional training is ineffective. 

But that doesn’t mean ALL leadership training is ineffective or that you can’t pair more traditional training with practical application and coaching to turn learnings into behaviors. 

You want to provide your potential leaders with the resources they need to fill skills gaps and start to think like a leader.

This can be formal sessions, books, online courses, shadowing, or anything else your people learn from best.  

You can then use Mesh to track progress on capabilities and set development goals. 

Step 4: Assign Stretch Assignments and Projects

A stretch assignment pushes an employee out of their comfort zones and requires them to exercise leadership skills in real-world situations. 

It’s a great follow-up from the formal training you provided in the previous step. 

Have your current managers find projects that are slightly beyond the current capabilities of your emerging leaders. 

These could be new product launches, process improvement initiatives, or strategic planning exercises. The key is to choose assignments that will challenge the individual while still being achievable with effort and growth.

Step 5: Recognize and Reward Leadership Growth

Social recognition offers encouragement to the individual and signals to others in the organization what leadership growth looks like and that it’s valued.

To incentivize leadership qualities, you can introduce a system of rewards. These could be tangible rewards like bonuses or additional responsibilities, or intangible rewards like public recognition or opportunities to lead high-visibility projects. 

The key is to ensure that the rewards are meaningful to the individual and aligned with your organization's values.

You may also like: Social recognition platform article

Leadership Employee Coaching Plan Example

Here’s a template you can use to create an employee coaching plan that develops leaders. Share it with your managers who will be building out these employee coaching plans:

Example 3: How to Create an Employee Coaching Plan That Improves Employee Engagement

23% higher levels of profitability—that’s what this Gallup study says you stand to gain with high levels of employee engagement. 

How then do you coach for better employee engagement? Here’s where to start:

Step 1: Conduct an Engagement Assessment

The first step in improving employee engagement is to understand the state of engagement in your organization. This isn’t just about if employees are engaged or not, it’s about the exact areas you’re struggling. 

It might be that a certain sector is less engaged than others, it could be that you do well in your L&D offering but employees are unhappy with how they’re recognized for their contributions. It could be a combination of issues.

What’s important is that you understand what those issues are and uncover the why behind them: Is a team struggling under a specific manager? Do employees want recognition from their peers or from senior leadership? 

Your assessment can come in the form of a survey. 

This survey should cover various aspects of the work experience, including job satisfaction, relationship with management, alignment with company values, and opportunities for growth and development. Use a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions to get a well-rounded view of employee sentiment. 

Step 2: Focus on key engagement drivers

Once you have a clear picture of the current engagement levels, the next step is to focus on the key drivers of engagement within your organization. 

While these can vary depending on your specific workplace culture and employee needs, some common engagement drivers include:

  1. Clear communication of company goals and individual roles
  2. Opportunities for professional development and career growth
  3. Regular, constructive feedback and recognition
  4. Autonomy and trust in decision-making
  5. Strong relationships with colleagues and managers
  6. Meaningful work that aligns with personal values

For each of these drivers, develop specific strategies and initiatives. For example, to improve communication of company goals, you might implement regular town hall meetings where leadership shares updates on company performance and strategy. 

To enhance professional development opportunities, you could create individualized learning plans for each employee.

Tailor your approach to address the specific engagement drivers that your assessment identified as most critical for your organization. 

Remember that different employees may be motivated by different factors, so flexibility in your engagement strategies is key.

Step 3: Develop Individualized Engagement Goals

Developing individualized engagement goals is crucial for creating a coaching plan that resonates with each employee.

Your managers can have one-on-one meetings with each employee to discuss their personal aspirations, challenges, and perceptions of their role within the organization. 

They should use the insights gained from the engagement assessment to guide this conversation. For instance, if an employee scored low on "feeling valued at work," they might explore this area more deeply.

During these discussions, help employees articulate specific engagement goals that are meaningful to them. 

For example, instead of a vague goal like "feel more engaged at work," a SMART goal might be "contribute two innovative ideas to team meetings each month for the next quarter."

These goals can of course be set up in the Mesh platform and followed through on via 1:1s and by updating progress whenever Mesh sends notifications that the goal needs updating.

Step 4: Create Action Plans with Managers

Your managers are the one’s on the ground who can influence engagement most and work with their employees to improve most engagement issues. 

Start by breaking down each engagement goal into smaller, manageable tasks or milestones. 

For each of these, define specific actions that the employee can take. 

For instance, if the goal is to "improve cross-departmental collaboration," actions might include "schedule monthly lunch meetings with counterparts in other departments" or "volunteer for a cross-functional project team."

Identify any resources or support the employee might need to accomplish these actions. 

This could include training programs, mentorship opportunities, or access to certain tools or information. Managers should commit to providing or facilitating access to these resources.

Example Framework for Increased Employee Engagement

Here’s a template you can use to create an employee coaching plan that improves engagement:

Coaching Tips from HR Experts

We looked around to see what HR experts have to say about coaching at work to help you build a culture of continuous coaching where employees are always supported and pushed to do their best. 

Here’s what we found.

Abhay Singh, Chief of Staff at Mesh, highlights an often-overlooked aspect of coaching: 

"The coachability of your employees is just as important as the coaching ability of your managers. If your people aren't receptive to coaching or determined to improve, you'll struggle to build a coaching culture that translates to improved performance."

Allan Mackintosh, Corporate Team Performance Specialist, explains the impact of coaching skills on teamwork:

“Team members with enhanced people skills including coaching skills produce more effective teamwork as the personal interactions in team situations are more productive. 
More listening takes place, more questioning for understanding occurs with the result that less reactionary advice ‘giving’ happens, and peer support and challenge occurs more naturally and productively.”

Ally Jones, co-founder of Coachable, on coaching someone you don’t like:

“Remember that effective leadership is about fostering growth, development, and success for your team. Even when you don't naturally click with someone, your role as a leader is to support their professional development and help them achieve their goals within the team.
You don't have to like everyone, but you do have to give an equal level of care and attention.”

Other Resources on Creating Effective Coaching Plans

To help you create highly effective employee coaching plans, we looked around the web and picked out resources we think are the most helpful:

About the Author
Ben Goodey
HR Content Strategist
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.
About the Author
Ben Goodey
HR Content Strategist
Ben is an HR enthusiast & researcher with an obsession with creating human-centred content.

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