coaching culture revolution discussion in the Dart workplace

Creating a coaching culture

A small revolution is taking place in the Dart workplace. Where once employee success was measured using a conventional annual appraisal, a new coaching culture is taking root.

Imagine a workplace where you are inspired and supported to do your very best work every day. A place that fosters personal and professional development, where work done well is rewarded as it happens and where your employer believes that what matters to you is as important as simply getting the job done.

This workplace is the vision of Dart’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Juliet Du Feu. Since 2016 she has been leading a move away from traditional performance appraisals and laying the foundation for creating a coaching culture across a 400-strong employee group at Dart.

“I think we all felt a sense of dread at the approach of the annual, time-consuming performance appraisals which reduced an individual’s year-round efforts to a single rating number,” says Juliet. “Our leadership realised that it wasn’t actually driving employee engagement or performance. We needed to find a simpler way to support and nurture our people that would keep pace with the innovation happening in our portfolio of companies.”

In good company

Dart is not alone in rethinking performance management; increasingly, companies, like Deloitte, Adobe and Accenture, are moving towards new performance models to help address specific challenges related to talent retention and skills gaps.

Continuous feedback between managers and employees, known at Dart as “check-ins,” creates year-round dialogue and greater clarity of purpose and expectation. It prompts managers to think more consciously about the skills required to get work done, whether their employees possess those skills and if not how to develop or otherwise obtain them.

These check-in conversations don’t need to be formal or long, but they do need to be meaningful and two-way. Coaching is real-time development by all team members to all team members with a focus on recognising and building employees strengths, instead of primarily focusing on weaknesses.

It’s a paradigm shift at Dart and its successful rollout is an ongoing collaborative process where the coaching basics are being instilled across the organisation to help create a workplace that walks the talk. Managers and supervisors started the year talking about “GAPS” — Goals, Abilities, Perceptions and Success Factors — all through the lens of understanding what matters to individuals and what matters to those around them to help fuel energy and drive performance. As the managers begin to model how to listen, ask questions and encourage others to reflect and develop insights before taking action, a coaching culture is emerging.

Impact on business

Chris Palmer, Financial Controller at Dart Real Estate is impressed by the rollout and its immediate impact.

“The GAPS focus is teaching people across the organisation to really listen to each other, instead of just waiting for their turn to talk” says Chris. “It’s having a really positive influence on our output, the way we problem solve and get things done.”

Chris notes that as a result of the programme he has already seen more self-awareness among his team and an increased openness to receiving and giving constructive feedback. “Long-term, I think this model will provide the support and resources needed to build and more effectively manage high performance teams across the business and retain staff in a competitive market”.

Juliet recognises that successfully changing the culture will take time, but is encouraged by the connections that are already taking shape between employee advancement and corporate advantage.

“We want to create a work environment where talent can flourish. Our hope is that these check-in or coaching conversations will become a part of our “DNA”, resulting in stronger relationships, higher levels of trust and ultimately an even greater place to work”.