Vanessa Cuddeford, a leading Confidence Coach, discusses the importance of nurturing employee confidence and the crucial role employers have in building stronger workforces. Vanessa also shares her top tips for improving workplace confidence.

Confidence is a delicate flower: fail to feed and nurture it and it won’t survive for long.

A recent survey by a leading financial services consultancy found that 70% of employees have experienced Imposter Syndrome – they doubt their skills and fear being exposed as frauds.

The term “Imposter Syndrome” was coined in 1978 in a study of high-achieving women. These women had all been recognised for their academic excellence yet still attributed their success to luck rather than their own capabilities. Even the highest external validation seemed not to make them feel capable in their roles.

The impact on businesses today

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has denied workers much of that external validation. Remote working means less contact with more experienced colleagues – mentors who can encourage and guide. Yet the impact of Imposter Syndrome reaches further than the individual. It shapes the make-up of our businesses and boardrooms. Those who struggle are less likely to progress and put themselves forward for senior roles.

Businesses who want to encourage diversity and reap the rewards that plurality of thought brings, need to be setting up the 70% (those who lack confidence) to win.

How businesses are supporting employees’ confidence

Around a third of organisations have increased spending on employee wellbeing since the pandemic. The benefits they offer include fitness programmes, mental health counselling, career coaching and mindfulness classes.

These are useful in supporting employees’ general health and wellbeing, but as tools to improve confidence their value is limited.

Tailored support which helps employees recognise their achievements and rationally assess gaps in their skillset, coupled with training to bridge those gaps, are vital to addressing the confidence deficit.

This role is often left to line managers who lack training and experience to offer the support needed. A study by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) revealed that a third of managers didn’t feel equipped to handle their team’s mental health concerns.

Outsourcing the confidence problem

With inflation rising, few organisations have the budget for full-time confidence coaches. But outsourcing to external consultants who specialise in helping employees appreciate their worth may hold the key to bridging the confidence gap.

Confidence coaches work with individuals to gain a realistic perspective of their abilities and achievements. They may ask them to keep a record of successes and seek feedback from colleagues about how they are perceived and what value they bring to the organisation.

Past failures which may loom large in an employee’s mind, can be re-framed and put in perspective. Often those struggling with Imposter Syndrome view failure as evidence of a fundamental character flaw or lack of ability – rather than the result of a specific set of circumstances which can be changed.

Communication styles can be tweaked to help employees convey greater confidence, creating a virtuous cycle – the more confidently someone comes across, the more confident they feel.

Changes can happen quickly if an employee has the right tools and support.

A confident future for business

Now, more than ever, businesses need to support their employees’ confidence if they want to remain agile in the face of rapid technological change.

AI will revolutionise many jobs, and employees will need to re-skill to keep pace. Where once people had certainty about the nature of their job role and operating models, they’ll need to instead have certainty in their own ability to adapt to new roles and ways of working.

Confidence will be the bedrock on which adaptability and agility will grow. Forward-thinking businesses who choose to empower their workforce to feel confident and capable in the face of change will thrive. After all, confidence is like a delicate flower – tend to it, and it blooms.

Top tips for being confident in the workplace

Seek support and feedback: Surround yourself with a supportive network of colleagues, mentors, or coaches who can provide guidance, constructive feedback, and encouragement. Their insights can help you gain perspective and boost your confidence in your abilities.

Prepare and practise: Thoroughly prepare for meetings and presentations. Practise beforehand to familiarise yourself with the content and build confidence in your delivery.

Know yourself: Set aside time to recognise your strengths, weaknesses, and areas to improve. Knowing yourself better can boost your confidence, help you leverage your strengths and address skills gaps.

Embrace failure as a learning opportunity: Setbacks and mistakes are a normal part of learning. View failures as valuable lessons and opportunities for growth rather than letting them undermine your confidence.

About the expert

Vanessa Cuddeford is a strategic communications adviser and confidence coach. She helps professionals enhance their impact as speakers, enabling them to advance their careers while conquering nerves and self-doubt. Before becoming a coach, Vanessa was a news anchor and reporter for BBC News and ITV News, where she hosted a nightly news programme. During her time on TV Vanessa experienced stage-fright which nearly derailed her career. She spent 18 months developing techniques to overcome her fears and has since guided hundreds of clients to speak persuasively and confidently.