How a Culture of Coaching Improves Workplace Safety

14 Jul 2023

Keeping your business up-to-date on safety and compliance begins with a solid training base. Training Tracker is a tool that eases and organizes the process of educating your team, staying on top of changing requirements, and maintaining records of that education. But training is really just the beginning. How can you ensure that the learnings from training sessions really stick, and are put into practice every day?

Training is the sharing of knowledge—step one. Coaching is the changing of behavior. Developing a culture of coaching in the workplace transforms a tool like Training Tracker into more than just a tool, and impacts lasting, real change in your environment.

Five people having a group coaching session.

Training and Coaching: Two Different Tools

A training session is still the most efficient way to impart information to your team and educate employees on the always-changing requirements for workplace safety and compliance. But that session has a starting point and an endpoint. How can you help the learning and development continue into the workday? The answer isn’t necessarily, “More training!”

You may have heard the terms “coaching” and “training” used interchangeably, but they are actually two distinct methods to add to your compliance toolkit. Coaching essentially takes the educational foundation built in a training session and helps individual team members apply that knowledge in specific situations.

Here are some of the differences between these two essential tools:

  • Training involves an expert imparting information to a group; coaching is usually a one-on-one interaction between a coach and a team member

  • The communication in a training is mostly one-way, from trainer to trainee; coaching involves a back-and-forth between both parties

  • A trainer provides external information about tools, techniques, and requirements, while a coach helps the trainee pull their knowledge from within, supporting the growth of self-awareness and the ability to apply information to their own experiences

  • A training is a structured session with clear-cut objectives; a coaching session is generally unstructured, following the organic exchange of questions and knowledge between both parties

Think of it like this: A training teaches your team members all about a specific tool or technique for safety, showing them how it applies to their job, providing examples and practice sessions to illustrate its implementation. But once that tool or technique is in the team member’s hands, they are essentially on their own. In addition to building their confidence to use new tools and techniques, coaching opens up a space for them to ask questions, discover new applications, and solve problems—with a little input, help, and direction.

A Culture of Coaching

While a good training session will include plenty of case studies and examples to help workers understand how what they’ve learned applies to their work, it cannot cover every single instance that can come up in a regular workday, and it won’t necessarily help individual workers make those connections a few weeks or months down the road. That’s where coaching comes in.

The power of coaching doesn’t come from a single session, like a training that can be completed and ticked off the to-do list. “Contrary to popular belief, coaching isn’t exclusively for development purposes—it’s also for everyday challenges,” says Frédéric Funck of the Forbes Coaching Council. This is why coaching should be thought of as part of a company’s everyday culture, rather than just a one-time meeting or coaching session.

When a company develops a real culture of coaching, employees and management recognize the workplace as a safe space for giving—and receiving!—feedback; supporting and helping to expand team members’ thinking; and engaging in conversations that may take up a small amount of time, but have a large impact. It’s important to remember that coaching goes both ways: development becomes a goal from the top down, and everyone has the capacity to learn.

How to Make Coaching Part of Your Company’s Culture

As a training coordinator, you can help develop a culture of coaching in your workplace. Deborah Boccongelle, an executive coach at Development Dimensions International - Canada, outlines the “ACE” method for creating a coaching culture in your workplaces:

  • A is for asking questions. Rather than dictating rules or explaining requirements, coaching begins with asking the coachee questions. This way, the coach both gets a better understanding of what challenges a team member is facing and their level of self confidence, and has the chance to see new ways to implement problem solving and tools in unique situations.

  • C is for connecting. A culture of coaching means establishing meaningful connections between employees, through empathy, more listening than telling, and sharing development stories that coachees can relate to and learn from—all without belittling or disregarding their concerns.

  • E is for Energizing. Practicing good communication, through asking questions and connecting with empathy, energizes employees to access their knowledge, find new solutions, and look for ways to develop in their day-to-day work.

You can begin implementing these methods even as you conclude a training session. Ask the trainees what they’ve gained from the experience, but also be sure to ask how the training could be improved. This opens the door for respectful, shared communication, and makes everyday coaching easier to imagine.

The majority of the conversation around a culture of coaching is taking place in the executive environment, but this way of thinking is absolutely applicable to food safety and workplace compliance. The goal with any training—and, by extension, regular coaching—is to create a habit. Simply telling a team member to remember to do something is only the beginning; with coaching, through asking questions, listening, and pulling knowledge from within, you’re helping bridge the gap between knowing something should be done and actually doing it automatically.

Most of all, remember that coaching is a practice, not an end goal. “Being a great coach isn’t easy, and the best ones I know are constantly working on themselves,” says Boccongelle. “This growth mindset is exactly what helps to create a coaching culture.”

Are you ready to build the foundation for your company’s culture of coaching? Reach out for a Training Tracker consultation today.