Group training takes a lot less time than individual coaching. But it’s impossible to make sure you’re speaking to each employee’s level and skills in a group setting—making it harder for each to grow to their full potential.

You’re probably more familiar with team training, where you present a topic or teach a skill to multiple employees through a presentation or group exercise. One-on-one coaching places you with one employee to provide a higher level of support and customization in each session. These two types of sessions could cover the same topic and be in the same format, but a 1-on-1 coaching session will allow for a higher degree of flexibility.

For example, during a group training session, you might teach everyone in your team how to use project management software. In coaching sessions, one employee may concentrate on advanced management strategies in the software while another requires more basic coaching on the tool itself. In both cases, you’ve focused your one-on-one time on the skills and tricks specific to their preexisting knowledge.

Increase the chances of reaching your one-on-one coaching goals with these four tested strategies that create an open, positive, and well-planned coaching environment.

1. Create clear coaching plans

Teachers are required to have an approved lesson plan before they start their semester to make sure the appropriate topics are being covered. You should use this idea to improve the chances of success by setting the overarching goal of the one-on-one coaching program and creating tentative agendas. With a plan in hand, you’re more likely to go into each session ready and better able to help the employee—not looking for examples or projects at the last moment.

Start with what each employee needs to improve or learn. Then, look at what specific skills or ideas will help them accomplish that goal. For example, if an employee needs to improve their presentation skills, then learning about power points, practicing speeches, and mastering speech strategies are all skills and concepts they’ll need.

Use each individual skill or idea as the basis for a session and the overall agenda. Come prepared with slides, activities, or examples to provide structure to the meeting. Finally, think about what could go wrong as a way to determine any last-minute changes or additions to your coaching plan.

With a plan in hand, you’re more likely to go into each session ready and better able to help the employee—not looking for examples or projects at the last moment.

2. Set a regular schedule

If you’ve ever tried to learn a new skill, then you know it’s hard—if not impossible—with an inconsistent schedule or infrequent practice. Keep your coaching sessions consistently timed and frequent—biweekly, weekly, or even more often—to encourage consistent improvement in your employees.

In the late 1800s, the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve was developed as a way to explain why we forget so much of what we learn. Though unsatisfying, researchers found that we forget because our brain is designed to forget. Overcoming this is best done through repeated learning sessions over time. Think weekly, progressive coaching on the same topic over one-off lunch-and-learns or webinars.

Aim for regular sessions, and find what works for your program based on the complexity of the topic and the time you have available. For example, learning new interpersonal skills might not be as challenging as learning a new coding language for one of your employees. Practicing communication skills with them twice a month might make sense. Alternatively, coaching for C++ might need to be done more than once a week to make sure the employee retains and learns what they need to learn.

3. Make feedback a two-way street

Create opportunities for employees to feel heard and improve your one-on-one coaching sessions by encouraging the employee to give feedback. According to Balanced Careers, two-way feedback, also known as 360-feedback, is a good way to see potential problems early, as this approach allows coaches and employees to gather opinions and views from multiple angles. It’s becoming more and more popular because it provides accountability to both sides (the employee and the manager) and helps the employee feel heard.

When looking to implement 360 feedback, keep in mind it needs a specific goal and must be well-planned. In addition, consider keeping the process anonymous. Anonymity allows employees to feel like they can be honest without getting in trouble for negative feedback directed at managers. All in all, this could look like asking all employees who’ve been through 1:1 coaching if they thought their sessions were long enough and contained information valuable to them.

peer feedback asset

The template you need to make sure your peer feedback isn't shooting you in the foot.

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4. Praise employees for their achievements

According to a study by Motivaction, close to 65% of employees in the Netherlands think that using feedback tools positively impacts employee behavior. And research from Walden University has shown that recognition and rewards are effective ways of engaging employees. This could be because employees desire to know they’re seen as human and as valuable beyond just the tasks checked off their list.

One effective way to instill this praise throughout your company and coaching sessions is through gamification. Just like your favorite phone app, small rewards are given to employees for the completion of coaching sessions or training programs to make the process feel more positive—like instant gratification. This could be as simple as a note of appreciation in a public channel.

Remember to keep in mind the company goals and employee mindset when developing your gamification programs. On the one hand, an eCommerce store with highly engaged and competitive employees might thrive on seeing who gets the most up-sells. On the other, a software agency with employees more focused on teamwork might want to tailor gamification in a way that fits with the team ethos.

Related: A Practical Guide to Employee Coaching for L&D Teams

Make your coaching program simple and scalable

Group training will always be faster and easier than one-on-one coaching. And even short one-on-one coaching plans can quickly become overwhelming in the face of large employee headcounts. Get the best of both worlds by using software solutions that enable your L&D team to put time where it’s needed—guiding employees to grow. 360Learning’s collaborative learning LMS supports your one-on-one sessions by providing a centralized space to create and house useful courses you can use in your coaching, in addition to video recording features, screencast capabilities, a mobile app, and much more.