A new tool called “Stevig in de steigers” facilitates the coaching of low-skilled workers

Highly trained employees are used to coaching and personal development programmes in the workplace. Lifelong learning, however, is also a must for low-skilled workers, in order to be able to work and survive in the labour market of the future. But it is difficult to organise in practice, and often they are not open to the idea. With the support of the European Social Fund (ESF) Vlerick Business School, together with the not-for-profit association “Wonen en Werken Opleiding”, developed a tool called “Stevig in de steigers”. This fun and user-friendly low-threshold tool provides support to executives during their coaching conversations with their employees. This allows employees to develop themselves as well as building an effective team and contributing to their organisation.

A tailor-made coaching programme was necessary

“Stevig in de steigers” provides a unique response to the fact that low-skilled workers are increasingly required to develop a wide(r) range of skills. This is largely due to a number of recent trends in the labour market:

  • Low-skilled workers increasingly often end up in companies or industries with less stable employment.
  • The emphasis is shifting to highly-trained workers, meaning certain skills are gradually becoming obsolete.
  • The increasing automation has reduced the number of routine tasks and increased the number of complex tasks.
  • Competencies such as learning capability, problem-solving skills and creativity are becoming more important.
  • New labour models such as job rotation require workers to be more flexible.

In spite of the fact that self-management is becoming more important low-skilled workers are often lagging in this respect, says Wim Vroonen, a researcher at Vlerick Business School, who helped develop the tool. “Low-skilled workers or low-educated workers usually have limited or more technical skills that are required to perform their job. Just think of cleaners, construction workers or factory workers. Often their experiences in school or with training were also negative and they lack confidence when it comes to their own skills. Research has indicated that coaching is an excellent way of providing an answer to this but so far the right tools were not available.”

Throughout the development process seven companies provided qualitative and quantitative input as well as organising testing sessions. The Centrum voor Informatieve Spelen (C.I.S.) was asked to finalise the process, transforming “Stevig in de Steigers” into a real tool. Wim Vroonen: “This new tool, which is actually a do-box, helps executives coach their employees and expand their competences in a positive, non-educational way. In the long term they will be more motivated and more flexible. A win-win for the organisation and the employee in other words.

Getting started

Alongside the digital PC version a physical version of “Stevig in de Steigers”, consisting of a box and cards, is also available. The tool can therefore be used in any setting. Because executives also can use some guidance Vlerick Business School also developed a comprehensive guide for companies and coaches, which contains step-by-step information about the tool on the one hand and about the coaching of low-skilled workers on the other hand. The tool consists of a 3-stage process:

  1. “who am I and what am I capable of?”: the emphasis is on personality, ambitions, motivations and skills;
  2. “working with a challenge”, to define goals and actions, which are also effectively achieved on the workfloor in between coaching conversations;
  3. “follow-up”, which focuses on the results of the actions that were taken and adaptations where necessary.

Each stage takes about 20 to 30 minutes. The entire process lasts anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks, depending on how it can be incorporated into the participant’s work schedule.

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