Tailoring bespoke coaching programmes

Developing and running coaching programmes can furrow the brows of even the most seasoned practitioners.

In the modern workplace, job roles are diverse across all tiers of employment – from managing andmarketing, to buying, sellingand directing, not to mention leading and communicating. The typical question to ask when coaching people across such a wide spectrum inside an organisation is ‘where to start?’.

Whether the challenge is to roll out generic programmes for an entire workforce, covering elements such as soft skills, or more bespoke modules for teams, tackling leadership and motivation, the process is daunting.

Helen Whitten, managing director of Positiveworks, says internal and external coaches should take a strategic evaluation of an organisation’s employees, business and working culture before developing programmes.

“The most effective way to get to know a company, its employees and their roles is to conduct a fact-finding mission,” she says. “This should involve extensive consultation with HR, line managers and key heads of department who understand their business and specific job roles.”

Once the practitioner has an understanding of the job role and the company’s business, assessment methods such as psychometric profiling, Myers Briggs personality questionnaires and 360-degree evaluation are effective ways of discovering people’s coaching needs.

Positiveworks uses the Herman Brain Dominance Instrument, which provides an insight into identifying brain dominance and thinking styles.

Research and development

Before programmes are tailored to individual roles, Whitten believes effective research and development should involve discovering the organisation’s business objectives, its continuing professional development plan, and how employees’ values should be aligned with those of their employer.

“It is essential to find out the business aims of the organisation, as well as explain the purpose and benefits of coaching,” she explains. “Some HR managers might be new to coaching, so they may need to be briefed about what the process involves. HR will have a better idea of their needs once they understand the value of coaching.”

Research should involve personality-style thinking, golden aspirations and personal values, she says.

Inevitably, for most practitioners, the challenge is deciding whether to run all-embracing programmes for the entire workforce, or more specific modules aimed at individual job roles, or both.

Gillian Brown, director of New-U Coaching, believes that understanding employee personalities and their job roles is essential to rolling out a successful programme.

“Coaches do not need to be expert in fields such as marketing, finance or accountancy to understand job roles, but they must have a good grasp of modern work practices. The key to coaching across a range of positions is to help people achieve agreed goals,” she says.

For senior employees – for example, a board of directors – destined for leadership coaching, a common technique is to use strategic visioning, so they can effectively map out their company’s future direction. Alternatively, for other job roles, coaching programmes can:

  • help technical staff develop better interpersonal or managerial skills

  • provide career support

  • develop succession planning and handle conflict situations so that they are resolved effectively.

Fortunately, for most coaching practitioners, there are areas thattranscend practically all employment positions. These include coaching on aspects such as flexible working, work-life balance, communication and delegation skills.

Soft skills

Similarly, Brown believes that practitioners should include soft skills elements in their programmes thatare common to all employees. Soft skills may include those for problem solving, communication, team playing, conflict management, planning and organisation, together with leadership and motivation.

“Identifying the coaching needs across different roles can also be established through common indicators such as routine appraisals,” she adds. “HR should then take a strategic look at the job role, its main challenges and the measurable outcomes of coaching that person.”

Frank Docherty, managing director of Career Associates, believes that gauging and monitoring coaching needs can be conducted through appraisals once a year, or every six months if greater feedback is required. “For those who start in new roles, more frequent appraisals are often needed as the person learns their position. Coaching practices can be fine-tuned through close consultation with peer workers and the HR team,” he says.

Again, the challenge with coaching people in different roles is deciding on either a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy, or developing bespoke programmes to suit teams or individuals.

The right timing

Docherty also believes the amount of time allotted to coaching individuals or teams should reflect the complexity of the job rolesand business objectives.

“A starting point for deciding the length and frequency of programmes is to base them on the client’s needs and availability,” he says. “A travelling salesperson will be hard to pin down, while someone in a desk job will be more available to participate in programmes.”

For organisations that outsource coaching, careful and methodical research should be invested to find a practitioner capable of coaching a diverse workforce.

Docherty says: “Coaching people, whether individually or collectively, requires a competent practitioner with a wide range of skills. The coach must be well-qualified and know the process and the philosophy behind coaching both teams and individuals.”

Positiveworks believes that, regardless of the job role, practitioners should tailor programmes to encompass succession planning. They should be targeted at employees who move both slowly and quickly up the career ladder.

While most programmes embrace mid- to senior-level management, Whitten believes that coaching can be equally effective across lower tiers. This includes entry- to middle-level positions including PAs, secretaries and junior managers.

A growing trend for many employers is coaching graduates so they can effectively bed into their new organisation, and adapt to the transition from study to work.”HR is investing more than an ever in coaching graduates,” Whitten says. “For young high-fliers destined for fast-track promotion, coaching programmes ensure they adopt a company’s culture and ascend up the career ladder.”

Measuring ROI

Measuring return on investment (ROI) for coaching those in different roles can be a fine science. With the average spend on management and leadership costing £1,120 per head, the Chartered Management Institute advises that HR should use “quantifiable indicators” that can be matched to business objectives.

New-U Coaching commands between £1,200 to £2,000 per person for coaching over a period of a year.

“Most HR departments are likely to see their investment in a person doubled after they have undergone coaching,” claims Brown. “ROI may beseen through employees’ performance improvement, effort and the changes they bring to an organisation.”

Return on Investment Tips

  • Calculate payback over a set period

  • Use quantifiable indicators for coaching

  • Assess improvements in both behaviour/performance

  • Link productivity with profitability

  • Develop programmes with director-level input

  • Monitor employee feedback from coaching

Case study: Kwik-fit insurance services

The insurance division of car repair company Kwik-Fit (KFIS) has a large call centre based at Uddingston, near Glasgow. It launched its Craving for Coaching programme in a bid to boost staff retention and performance.

The company employs a diverse workforce of more than 800 people, who work in both inbound and outbound call centre departments. It had experienced high levels of staff turnover.

Faced with an influx of new call centres, KFIS took action to prevent employees moving to competitors, which included recruiting more people for its expanding enterprise.

The company reports it was spending £5,000 to recruit each of the 200-300 new employees every year – a sum that proved a costly headache for HR. This was reduced by 12% over a year, which resulted in a £470,000 saving in training and recruitment costs.

The challenge was to adopt a consistent approach to coaching staff based on improving output, rather than seeking to punish poor performers. KFIS required its team leaders to adopt an advising and coaching role, rather than a ‘fire-fighting or telling’ role.

The main measurement used to gauge the success of Craving for Coaching was sales per hour (SPH) worked. In the programme’s first two years of operation, the group claims SPH increased by 15% and 23% respectively. The team leader’s role changed from an instructing basis to one which motivates, coaches and guides team members.

By Andy Moore

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