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For supervisors of student employees, coaching can be a useful skill to guide student employees, deliver feedback, and allow students the opportunity to grow in their positions. It can be used as a tool to celebrate accomplishments and allow your student employees to clarify their voices in decision making around their student employment experience. Coaching can also allow student employees to reflect on how their student employment experience relates to their academics and career paths. 

Coaching Your Student Employees: Principles

  • Coaching takes place in a conversation where a supervisor asks questions and guides the discussion to allow student employees to come to a conclusion on their own.
  • With the focus on helping your student employees discover answers for themselves, students may be more likely to engage in solutions and plans they come up with themselves during coaching conversations rather than those imposed upon them by others.
  • Student employee supervision and coaching skills are collaborative practices. You can create a plan with your student employees to hold you each accountable by collaborating with them on shaping their employment experience.
  • Coaching encourages self-reflection and learning.
  • Coaching can be used to help supervisors uncover how a student's previous life and employment experience has shaped his or her current behavior in the workplace. It can also be used by supervisors to help student employees explore career goals and ambitions. 
  • Coaching can include appreciative inquiry–based questioning to focus on positive aspects of your student employees and their performance to guide future behavior. 

EMSWorld.com provides steps and practical considerations for coaching conversations for supervisors of student employees.

Mindtools, What is Coaching? http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_15.htm
EMSWorld.com, The Supervisor as a Coach http://www.emsworld.com/article/10320278/part-6-the-supervisor-as-a-coach

Coaching Conversations in Action

      Rather than focusing a conversation on the deficits and inefficiencies of a student employee or a specific behavior, coaching skills can be applied to create a more positive conversation. See examples below of cases where coaching skills could be leveraged:

 “This isn’t what I asked for. You didn’t follow instructions. Please go back and redo this task.”
Utilizing Coaching Skills: "This is a little different than I was expecting. Could you walk me through the steps you took to get to this point? Are there other alternative ways of doing this you considered, but did not use? Would you do things differently if you could? What would that look like?”

“I don’t have time to write down my instructions because this needs to get done, so don’t worry about it—I’ll just do it.”
Utilizing Coaching Skills: “I won’t do this all for you, because it is your assignment, but I can help you figure out the steps to get started. What do you think the end product of this might look like? How could you get started to get there? What obstacles exist that I could help remove for you?” 

“I noticed you’re struggling with coming in on time, so I have to give you a final warning. It cannot happen again.”
Utilizing Coaching Skills: “Tell me about your past work and class experiences related to time management. For your first month here, you showed up about 10 minutes early. What were the conditions then that made that possible? How could we work toward creating similar conditions to help you be successful in your position here and create a plan for that?”

Before: “You took a marketing class, so why are you struggling with telling others about our services?"
Utilizing Coaching Skills: “I remember you telling me you got an excellent grade in your marketing class last semester. What did you enjoy about that work? I want to help you apply what you did so great in that class to your work experience in our department, because every department needs a marketing mind-set. Let’s brainstorm ways we could leverage what you learned.”   

The coaching skills mentioned above can be used by supervisors throughout a student employee’s experience, not just when performance issues or concerns arise. Scenarios do exist, however, in which coaching may not be the best approach to communicating with student employees, such as when a student employee is far along in a progressive discipline process or when an escalated performance issue arises. Whatever the topic at hand is, supervisors can decide when it may be useful for them to reframe their role as coach, rather than boss. 

Additional Coaching Resources