Returning From Furlough:
How Coaching Can Help Re-engage Your Workforce

How do you successfully re-engage employees after an extended period of absence from work? This is something organizations have been grappling with for years, whether it be post-maternity, parental or long-term sick leave. What can we learn from here and apply to those returning from furlough?

Returning from any leave of absence can be highly stressful; those returning from furlough are likely to experience even greater anxiety given the probable uncertainty that surrounds their jobs and their company’s survival post-COVID. A Google search for ‘Bringing employees back from furlough’ produces a plethora of links to articles providing advice on the practical and legal aspects of the task.

There is, though, very little addressing employee engagement and the psychological factors involved. It is inevitable that employees will feel different as a result of their time away from the business. Disengagement can cost employers $400-500 billion annually*, so it’s critical for employers to consider how they can address and mitigate this alongside the practical and legal elements required.

One intervention often hailed as hugely successful for new working mothers is maternity coaching. A lot of larger organizations have coaching programs in place specifically to support mothers, both during maternity leave and as they rejoin the workforce. The Big Four firm EY, which has run a maternity coaching program since 2011, reports improved retention rates of talented women within the two years following the return to work2.

Coaching can often be considered expensive. Traditional programs are often exclusive to senior teams requiring significant resource. Recognizing ways to break down these barriers and facilitate on-demand and accessible coaching for all can deliver great benefits.

Leaders are recognizing the positive impact coaching can have on employee engagement, motivation and job performance, and are seeking to create coaching cultures within organizations. These coaching cultures rely on managers being able to coach their teams on a regular basis, rather than employees having formal sessions with an accredited coach. The ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study found that the positive impacts of coaching include:

  • 37% increased wellbeing
  • 39% optimized work performance
  • 43% increased productivity

Organizations who invest time in coaching and supporting their teams may well find that they are more successful in bringing their employees back from furlough. So how do you get it right?

The traditional barriers associated with coaching need to be broken down and some of the core components of successful coaching need to be made accessible to small and large businesses. Organizations should look for ways that make it easier to engender a coaching and developmental culture for everyone that doesn’t require heavy investment or large third-party involvement. Solutions which are easy to administer and user-friendly deliver can help:

  • empower managers to have valuable coaching conversations with individuals they manage
  • encourage individuals to self-coach and drive their own personal development
  • provide a structured approach for facilitating activity focused on developing strengths and improving challenge areas

Key to accessibility in the current climate is finding coaching solutions that can be delivered virtually and actively facilitating this. Make sure that whatever initiatives are suggested or made available can work just as well remotely and make sure that those involved feel supported and confident in adapting to this way of coaching.

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    2. Ernst & Young



    Hannah Mullaney

    Managing Consultant
    Saville Assessment, a Willis Towers Watson Company

    Connect with Hannah on LinkedIn