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Embed coaching as a corporate strategic investment

This can give organisations a decisive edge in tapping and retaining a talent pool

Gulf News

The market is unpredictable and you’re trying to do less with more, including tightening up the training budget. Should you dedicate your time to making the business more money or invest effort in developing your team?

The good news is that implementing a robust coaching programme centred on business metrics means you can do both — while also reaping the financial benefits of increased productivity and an energised team. Can you afford not to invest in your people?

In the digital age, most products and services have rapidly become commoditised. Companies must be efficient in the way they deliver to market or face severe margin erosion. Your customers are now hyper-connected, which means that a quality customer experience is paramount to differentiate your brand.

It’s very easy for people to be vocal about their customer encounters. Improving customer experience depends on improving your processes, which relies heavily on developing people.

However a generic improvement training programme is not enough. Your investment must have a strategic intent to improve customer experience: this is where a targeted programme can be incredibly effective. The added bonus is appealing to employee aspirations — talented people want to work at successful companies who tie development to a well-thought out career path.

First, it’s important to understand the differences between coaching and training. Training helps people learn specific tasks and is often delivered in a structured format, like a group setting. However, as Laurie Glover suggests, coaching is about improving behaviour and performance using informal one-to-one sessions. It is adapted to each person’s needs and focus on developing critical thinking rather than technical knowledge.

Many people have the outdated idea that coaching is used to manage low performers. However, as a 2009 survey conducted by Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman found, coaches are now usually hired to develop high potential employees, support transitions to new leadership roles or during mergers and acquisitions. Good coaching is regular, asks people questions about the support they need and makes them accountable for working toward their goals.

As Raf Seymus puts it, “coaching is helping someone get better at what they do”

Many benefits are in the form of time and cost savings, for instance, fast tracking the productivity of new hires or further developing (and holding onto) your high performers. As Dr. Steve Nguyen suggests, if you can delegate more to employees with boosted skills, this frees you to focus on other moneymaking managerial responsibilities, such as fund-raising or strategy.

Similarly, when you move up the ladder, you will need a “bench” able to assume more responsibility, continuing to deliver on your team’s customer experience promise.

Coaching return on investment can be controversial. Some studies have shown programmes with RoIs as high as 600-800 per cent.

Is this too good to be true? Increasingly organisations are quantifying coaching benefits as real investments in their business. A 2015 study by the International Coach Federation and the Human Capital Institute found that 60 per cent of companies surveyed with strong coaching programmes had above average revenue as compared with their peers.

In another study, 60 per cent of respondents at a Fortune 500 company were able to identify specific financial benefits as a result of coaching, including increased productivity (with half citing annual financial results) and work output.

Don’t discount the indirect benefits from coaching which flow to your bottom-line. Claire Collins argues that coaching can drive better interpersonal relationships, improved resilience and communication; this in turn can improve your people’s engagement, effectiveness and performance.

People who feel encouraged to grow are more likely to be happy at work and motivated to provide quality customer service. This leads to higher customer satisfaction, a better customer experience and increased revenue.

As Doug Montgomery suggests, create a coaching programme with meaningful metrics by ”starting with the end in mind”. What are you trying to change through coaching and what is this change’s value to your organisation? Use your answers to help you frame how you will measure progress and evaluate success.

This also extends to choosing your coaches. As P. Anne Scoular warns, make sure they can describe their activities, articulate the results you can expect and provide regular updates.

If the coaches are your managers, do they understand the business case for developing direct reports and how the results link to your overall business strategy?

As Candice Frankovelgia asserts, what knowledge or practices do your managers need to share and coach their teams with to build the required skills? To embed coaching as the way of life in your organisation, include it as a performance metric for your leadership team.

The writer is CEO of HNI Training & Coaching.