Employee training serves so many valuable functions for a middle market company — it enhances the skills of individuals within your organization, and it's a retention tool that directly engages your workforce in a career-long developmental process. When you provide employee training, your company invests in its people, and subsequently your people decide to invest their best efforts in your company.

Be sure to make coach education a part of employee training, and have students offer feedback at the end of a teaching session.

Training is a resource larger companies often have, so mimicking their process can help retain your talent pool when enterprises try to draw people away. This also helps make it the best succession plan your company can have. Education builds your internal talent and talent-in-waiting, and it provides you with easily accessible candidates who are ready to fill open positions as they arise. This saves you from hiring expensive outside talent and keeps your top people with you. So if training and coaching are important goals, how can your company prioritize them?

  1. Create a culture of learning. Your company should maintain an atmosphere that values personal development, whether it's from training, coaching or peer-to-peer mentoring. Set up formal structures that support learning, but also create incentives for those who can teach and share their knowledge informally. When you evaluate your staff, one key performance indicator should be peer coaching. If someone spends extra time mentoring coworkers, even though it's outside the job description, be sure to offer a reward. Coaching has a large ripple effect; it helps individuals develop and it also boosts organizational growth, leading to bigger profit margins. Mentoring is a key leadership skill, so recognize, compensate and promote those who share knowledge.
  2. Know the skills you need and identify who has them. Begin the process by drafting an inventory of the skills most valuable to your various departments. Once the list is made, identify those who exemplify the necessary experience. You can designate these employees as ambassadors for a particular skill, and then set up opportunities — consider brown-bag lunches or quick coffee sessions — where they can share their know-how with others. In addition, an ambassadorship is a great form of recognition. When your best negotiators, presenters or computer programmers share what they know, the whole company benefits. You might also consider offering an ambassador bonus based on how much coaching these individuals do. For ambassadors, coaching is a way to improve their internal network and build their reputation.
  3. Teach people how to coach. Coaching is not natural for everyone, so your company should train knowledgeable people in how to do it. Teach potential mentors how to give timely feedback, how to offer specific critiques on exercises and how to analyze performance rather than the person learning. New coaches should also learn how to offer actionable suggestions that guide the student in the future. Trust is the foundation of all teaching and feedback, so coaches must have their students' best interests in mind, and students must believe the process is productive in turn.
  4. Teach people how to receive feedback. Students should listen carefully when being offered feedback. They should also avoid becoming defensive during critiques. Silence is often the learner's best ally, and coaches should be careful to give students sufficient time to absorb and reflect. Positive reinforcement is important when an individual improves performance because it helps emphasize active listening. It isn't easy to give or receive feedback, so your company should be emphasizing the dos and don'ts of the teacher-student relationship. Have your best learners offer their coaches feedback and focus on their feelings when they're being critiqued.

By following the four steps above, your company can be more adaptable, keep and develop its talent and gain a competitive advantage over others in your market. Team members will also form stronger bonds with each other as they learn to trust constructive feedback. A united group will likely boost productivity and efficiency, improving your bottom line along the way.

Have you ever received poor or inappropriately constructed feedback? How did you approach the situation? Let us know by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education.