“Making employees feel valued and important is crucial”: Interview with CoachHub’s co-founder Yannis

Coachhub-founders

Keeping your employees engaged and motivated is an important task at the best of times, let alone during a crisis.

It used to be that an offer of stability (including a regular salary, a health insurance package and pension contributions) would do the trick, but nowadays it’s a little more complicated. Employees seek a sense of purpose, belonging, inclusion and personal growth – they want to grow alongside of a community that is going somewhere, and doing something important.

So how do you address each employee’s individual growth plan? In 2018, entrepreneurs Yannis Niebelschuetz and Matti Niebelschuetz created CoachHub, a talent development platform that allows organizations to create a personalized, measurable and scalable coaching programme for the entire team, no matter seniority level. Benefits include higher productivity, performance, staff retention and more meaningful relationships.

We were able to sit down with CoachHub’s co-founder Yannis Niebelschuetz to ask him about the biggest de-motivators for teams, why founders should care about coaching their team, coaching leading to more diversity in leadership, and their survival tips during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thank you for joining us Yannis! We’re excited to learn from your experience at CoachHub. To start us off, could you briefly pitch us on why founders should care about coaching their team?

Coaching is proven to be the most effective people development method to ensure long-term behavioural changes and the targeted transfer of learning. Personalised coaching not only develops employee skills and improves company efficiency, but it also boosts employee satisfaction and talent retention. In times of change, individual coaching promotes successful adaptation and gives your workforce sustainable development opportunities that benefit the individual as well as the business as a whole.

Historically, coaching has only been available to the most senior employees in large businesses, due to cost and logistical challenges of hosting sessions. However, that is no longer the case, as technology like CoachHub democratises this access to expertise in a way never before possible.

You’ve talked before about the drivers behind employee satisfaction and engagement evolving over time. We’ve gone from caring about our paycheck, to wondering about the impact of our work. Could you tell us more?

There have been lots of studies linking purpose to productivity, and it’s no secret that people are now realising that money in the bank is far from the most important thing in a job. It’s not about one thing or the other though – paying well and providing tangible benefits, such as extra holiday, is still very important. But the advantage of tailoring your offering to help people find job satisfaction is that engaged employees are not only happier and therefore more likely to stay, but are also more productive for the business.

On the other side, what do you think are the biggest de-motivators at work nowadays?

On the flip side, the killer of productivity is poor internal communication. It underpins everything that a business does, and is the key to ensuring your employees feel valued and, crucially, that they know what they are working towards. A lack of belief or understanding about the bigger organisational goal, and where each individual fits within the greater team, is usually a trigger for disengaged and disinterested employees.

In a nutshell, how do you think founders can make sure their remote team members can stay engaged and productive?

Again, the most important thing is communication – it’s easy to underestimate how much communication takes place in an office, whether catch ups round the proverbial water cooler, or even just the cues we get from tone or body language. Founders should make an extra effort to have regular face time with their staff and make sure the team dynamic isn’t lost.

Making employees feel valued and important is crucial to maintaining engagement and productivity, but it is also important to remember that in these times of immense change, not everything will stay the same. Keeping to routines is important, where possible, but founders should remember that not everyone will be working from the same situation. Adjust your standards accordingly and always try to remember that there is a human behind every screen.

Given that many teams are now working remotely due to the pandemic, how do you see this playing out? And how is tech adapting to the challenge?

This is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of our lifetimes, both medical and economic. That said, I have always been a huge believer in the ability of talented people to find solutions to every challenge and this is no different. As we are seeing with the huge switch to remote working, there are a number of innovations emerging to help tackle the challenges of living and working in isolation from your friends and colleagues.

We certainly don’t expect to see everything revert to how it was, once this is over. It has taken some extreme circumstances to force digitalisation across industries, but in many cases, these tech solutions will become the established norms. This crisis has unfolded extremely quickly, so it is understandably taking a little while for technology to adapt and catch up. But it will do, and we are likely to see some significant advances in innovation in the course of this year.

How has your startup been specifically affected, and do you have any survival tips for founders?

All businesses have been affected, and CoachHub is no different. Our team is all working remotely, of course, but, given that we provide a technology solution, we’ve not seen a dip in our sales. There have certainly been some sectors where conversations have slowed, and others which have thrived. It’s a case of staying as agile as possible, being sensible with managing outgoings and, crucially, trusting in your processes, your product and your team.

The workforce of the future could be quite different to what we are used to today. What do you predict for the next 5-10 years, and how do you think HR tech will need to evolve?

The major challenge facing HR tech is achieving personalisation at scale. The core value of HR is always going to be the ‘human’; traditional analogue methods worked well on a small scale, but are ineffective in larger situations. Coaching is a prime example of this – the cost and logistics of organising face-to-face coaching means that it isn’t a viable option at scale. Equally, the human element of coaching has to remain, as people don’t want to talk to a chatbot. The challenge is how you can effectively take this human element to everyone.

AI and machine learning is developing in use cases in the sector, but are still both best applied to supplement a personalisation or human element. The evolution of HR technology will see this personalised and predictive element installed across the sector, providing truly tailored offerings to each and every employee.

Thinking now about leadership, what advice do you have for startup founders leading their first team?

Communicate and delegate. Starting a business can be an all-consuming job, and it becomes your life. But the urge to shoulder everything yourself must be tempered – share updates with your teams and trust them to do their jobs. Make sure everyone knows what the vision is and that everyone is pulling in the same direction to achieve a common goal.

Taking into consideration more diversity in leadership, do you think coaching could have a hand in levelling the playing field?

Coaching is a brilliant development tool because it deals with the individual, and we all have different strengths and weaknesses. But coaching has traditionally only been open to the select few in senior positions, who are statistically more likely to be white, middle-class men. With digital coaching, the aim is to democratise personal development and enable anyone, at any level in a business to improve their skills, and therefore help the next generation of leaders to emerge.