Coaching goes mainstream: Harnessing the power of coaching as a talent management tool

Coaching can be an important tool for equitable access to opportunity, career pathways and employee retention.

Workplace coaching has gone mainstream. Nearly 80 percent of top U.S. companies, according to LinkedIn, are now investing in coaching for their employees. 

The application of coaching as an employee benefit is nothing new; it traces its roots back decades to the world of executive-style management coaching. But what was once the province of high-performers and the highly compensated of the Fortune 500 is increasingly being made available as a more broad-based employee benefit. Recognizing that coaching can be an important tool for equitable access to opportunity, career pathways and employee retention, employers are now providing coaching at scale. 

These coaching sessions have the added benefit of creating a community of learners, which helps employees develop their network, feel less alone in traversing their career challenges, and expand their perspective about what careers are possible at their employer. Here’s what talent and HR leaders need to know about these new forms of scalable coaching.

Integrated into the workday

Workers, it turns out, have little time in their day to spend on activities like coaching. In fact, a Deloitte study found the average employee can devote just one percent of their workweek to professional development. 

In a typical 40-hour work week, that’s less than five minutes a day. Fortunately, today’s forms of coaching are not constricted to rigid and time-consuming counseling sessions. Advances in technology allow coaching to take many flexible—and virtual—forms, from a 20-minute video call to a quick series of check-ins through text messages. 

Coaching should be focused, targeted and easily integrated into the existing workday. It should feel like a natural part of the job, not an additional task or after-hours obligation.

Closing the soft skills gap

Employers have long said they struggle to find employees who possess the right skill sets for the jobs they are hiring for. But they don’t just mean technical skills. 

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, nearly 90 percent of recruiters say when a hire doesn’t end up working out, it’s primarily because of a lack of soft skills. Employers are increasingly looking for employees who possess skills such as teamwork, collaboration, leadership, problem-solving and flexibility. 

While it’s certainly helpful when employees can show up with these attributes on day one, employers can also take the matter into their own hands and develop the team members they want to see in the world. Employers should invest in their workers’ potential, not simply expect them to arrive at the office fully developed.

Coaching ensures talented employees develop the soft skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Ultimately, coaching is about self-mastery, helping employees set goals, determining what impediments are in the way of those goals and working to eliminate them.

A DEI imperative

In the wake of 2020’s protests and demands for racial justice, employers have continued to double down on their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. More and more companies have made it a priority to not only hire more people from diverse backgrounds but to ensure those workers have clear pathways for advancement. 

Researchers have found mentoring and coaching programs are among the most impactful DEI initiatives a company can pursue, with such programs increasing racial diversity at the management level by as much as 24 percent. 

They can help workers gain the skills they need to advance to more senior levels, as well as increase their sense of belonging within the organization. Unfortunately, few people of color ever receive this sort of coaching. More than half of Black workers, for example, report never having a mentor. Virtual success coaching is, at last, helping close this gap.

Coaching is an impactful way of improving retention, diversity and the overall health of a company. It helps unlock new skills, new relationships and new avenues for growth. 

Investing in accessible scalable forms of coaching can help to meet the needs of the modern workforce — and ensure employees receive the guidance they need to achieve their full potential on the job. Employers are quickly learning that coaching is not only beneficial for employee well-being, but ultimately a strategic investment in business success.