By Aja Duncan, Principal, Limitless Leadership Training & Coaching and Steve O’Brian, VP of Client Services, Chronus
Planning = Successful Corporate Coaching Programs
Many organizations are discovering that the secret sauce to talent development is creating a successful corporate coaching program — one that not only engages key talent but also drives strong organizational outcomes. A study from Bersin and Deloitte recently found that organizations with “excellent cultural support for coaching had a 75% higher rating for talent management results than those with no or weak support for coaching. Further, they had 13 percent stronger business results and 39 percent stronger employee results. The more cultural support for coaching, the stronger the results.”*
To help you get started, we’ve gathered up our best practices advice and summed it up in 10 key ingredients that you can use as you develop your own organization’s recipe for successful coaching programs.
10 Essential Ingredients for Creating a Successful Corporate Coaching Program
1. Define clear program goals and objectives
2. Target coaching population(s) at mid-level talent to increase impact
3. Craft compelling communication to promote your program
4. Involve talent in the coach selection process
5. Establish clear expectations of particular engagements
6. Effectively manage, track and measure progress
7. Continuously refine program in response to feedback
8. Communicate throughout the course of the program
9. Evaluate impact
10. Share your successes
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1. Define clear goals and objectives.
Without a clear goal it is impossible to know where you are heading or whether or not you ever arrive. Having specific program goals (overarching priorities) and defined objectives (specific targets) is like having a precise destination and good directions.
For example, the program goal (overarching priority) might be to prepare middle managers for advanced leadership positions. As a result, the one defined objective (specific target) might be to improve participating middle managers’ abilities in motivating and inspiring others toward a shared vision and strategy.
The best goals are ones that are created in partnership with key program stakeholders. Whose buy-in do you need for the program to be successful? Involve representatives from these key groups in the early stages of program planning. These representatives will in turn become your program champions because they have a stake in the program’s success.
2. Target coaching populations at mid-level to increase impact.
Coaching is often used in organizations as if a precious salt, sprinkled in small amounts only at the top. However to have the biggest organizational impact, coaching should be used more liberally, specifically targeting mid-level managers. These are the supervisors who have the greatest impact on employee engagement and productivity and who, with development, will continue to advance in the organization to ensure its future success.
When a leading national university faced increasing economic challenges and the need to make significant operational changes, it invested its limited resources in leadership development and coaching for mid-level managers. In its evaluation of program results, the university found that those managers who participated in the program had higher employee engagement scores, higher productivity, and improved departmental outcomes. In addition, more than 30% of the coached managers advanced to more senior positions in the organization.
3. Craft compelling communication to promote your program
For coaching programs to be effective, they must be high-profile development activities that engage your best talent. Even in instances where the development is a top down activity, it is important that the target audience understand the coaching program and why they should be a part of it. Crafting compelling communication for dissemination in a variety of vehicles – staff meetings, success stories shared via email, etc. — will ensure that talent is enthusiastic and committed to coaching. This sets the stage for the best possible outcomes.
4. Involve talent in the coach selection process.
Effective coaching hinges on a strong relationship between coach and employee, a relationship born of respect and trust. In order to create the most fertile ground for this kind of relationship it is recommended that employees have some level of participation in the coach selection process. If possible, provide employees with a small, select pool of potential coaches, and let them make the final decision. To create impactful and lasting learning, a positive coaching relationship with great chemistry is essential.
Online tools, such as Chronus software for coaching, can provide a valuable means of effective matching, allowing employees to search through available coaches by region, areas of expertise, and other relevant criteria. Coaching software also enables program managers to track coach availability and make coach recommendations based on potential compatibility.
5. Establish clear expectations of a particular engagement.
Successful corporate coaching programs are about clarity, learning and action. In order to set the stage for effective coaching engagements, it is important that the coach and employee refine the development focus. While leadership may identify a broader skill area such as “influence,” it is up to the employee and coach to identify which elements of influence would be the most effective focal areas. Such refinement is essential for development planning and establishing clear success measures.
6. Effectively manage, track, and measure progress.
Wide-scale coaching programs require regular administrative oversight to ensure they are effectively managed. It is important to know if connections have been established, coaching engagements are taking place and progress is being made. This critical step will help you make program adjustments and broadcast program success later.
Use coaching software to help you effectively track coaching engagements and measure progress. Embedded reporting functionality can provide engagement metrics and online survey tools can ensure managers have real-time feedback from employees and coaches regarding results.
7. Continuously refine your program in response to feedback.
Don’t wait until the coaching engagements have come to an end before finding out how things are going. By getting regular feedback from program stakeholders plus participants and their coaches—through survey tools described above—you can identify any problems, misunderstandings, or subtle misalignments. Sometimes, the smallest programmatic adjustments can have a huge impact on the overall efficacy of the coaching program.
8. Communicate throughout the course of the program.
As George Bernard Shaw so astutely reminds us, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Be sure to communicate regularly with employees in coaching engagements, with coaches, with program stakeholders, and to the organization overall regarding your important investment in talent development.
While such regular communication can seem daunting, if you manage your program online, you can easily provide valuable progress metrics and streamline communication to keep the program visible and on track.
9. Evaluate impact.
By now you know how many people have been coached, what percent of the target population they represent, how many times they have been coached and their evaluation of the coaching engagement. You even know how much the program cost. But what about program impact? What effect did coaching have on departmental outcomes and organizational objectives?
To truly understand impact, gather input from additional sources outside of the program participants. What do their direct reports say? What do their managers say? The use of online survey tools can help you easily gather and analyze this information. Additionally, evaluate other departmental metrics—such as increased sales, reduced cost, increased productivity, etc. — to evaluate the impact of the coaching program.
10. Share your successes.
Sharing success stories is one of the most effective ways of motivating and inspiring others—whether you are seeking to expand coaching program reach, ensure leadership commitment, or even strengthen the reputation of the HR or learning and development function. Effective success stories show benefit, provide a memorable fact/truth, provide metrics, include an emotional hook, and create a sense of urgency. Coaching program participants are the best source of these stories and also can serve as one of the best means of getting these stories out into the organization. Profile participants’ experience in a video on the company blog, have them participate in noontime panel discussions, or post their stories on the walls of the cafeteria. Be creative and get these stories heard.
Now that you’ve learned about the 10 key ingredients for creating a successful corporate coaching program, it is useful to consider employing a program management tool, such as Chronus software for coaching, to lessen the administrative effort and expense. Best of luck to you and your program!
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* “High-Impact Performance Management: Maximizing Performance Coaching,” Stacia Garr, Bersin by Deloitte, 2011.