By Christy DeSantis
The beans have been spilled. Executive coaching is no longer a secret weapon for business success. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and other famed CEOs have been touted in the headlines as having executive coaches.
It’s no wonder why they do. Coaching is lauded for driving improvement in productivity, engagement, empowerment, problem-solving, satisfaction, and self-confidence. Studies have shown that the ROI can be over 700%. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have leveraged executive coaching specially to help leaders address workplace shifts and business downturns.
But with so many clear advantages, why is career coaching being reserved exclusively for executives rather than being made available to all employees?
Cost is often cited as a reason. Human Resources departments typically shoulder the cost of career coaches, and their budgets must carry the weight of everything from management training to hiring. With salary budgets expected to grow in 2023, HR teams may need to level their spend in other areas.
But funding career coaching for workers could help organizations increase engagement and productivity. Gallup’s State of the Workplace report 2022 found that only 21% of employees are engaged at work. Those who are engaged, but not thriving, have a 61% higher likelihood of ongoing burnout. If companies want to take employee engagement and attrition seriously, they should invest in their workforce by adopting coaching more broadly across their organizations.
Some businesses are already recognizing and seizing this opportunity.
Corporate-funded career coaching is catching on
Stephanie Smirnov is a coach-In-residence at the earned marketing agency I work for, Lippe Taylor. Her role is a permanent position. After over 25 years as a communications executive, she became a certified coach and now combines her corporate and coaching expertise to help employees resolve day-to-day issues, face client challenges head-on, and dig into their career goals. She is seeing firsthand how employees outside of the C-suite are evolving and growing as a result.
“We see coaching as a business imperative at our agency, which is why our CEO is the executive sponsor of the program, not HR,” says Smirnov. “While turnover continues to be high across multiple industries, employers have a decision to make: dial up recruiting resources or invest in developing people and trust they will grow with you. We have wholeheartedly chosen the latter route at Lippe Taylor.”
Middle-career professions would especially benefit from career coaching. Employees who are in the middle of their careers are poised to propel businesses forward. They are often skilled, independent, and can significantly affect an organization’s financial success and culture. Yet the rates of resignation are highest among these prized, mid-career workers. Empowering them by backing their development is imperative to future-proofing businesses.
Carta, a San Francisco-based technology company, is also investing in coaching for their early- and mid-career employees. Through AccelerateHer, an internal equity accelerator program, they host coaching circles and coach-facilitated workshops for all interested employees on common-ground topics, such as visibility, finding your voice, and self-confidence at work.
“When we think about the impact that our early- and mid-career employees can have on our organizations, from improving conflict resolution to maximizing team performance, I believe they should have access to all tools that help them do so,” shares Mita Mallick, head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta. “We all deserve to reap the benefits of coaching support.”
How to make career coaching more cost-effective
There are ways to democratize coaching so that it isn’t an insurmountable financial hurdle for organizations.
The aforementioned coaching circles approach, which Carta has implemented, is one that works well. Group coaching can leverage one coach for a group of employees and allows multiple employees to simultaneously engage around a prevailing theme, goal, or skill, and costs significantly less than 1:1 coaching. It also enables employees to hear about shared experiences and learn from their peers.
Redefining career coaching
When we think about business coaching, we often default to centering it around efficiency: to improve productivity, leadership, or people management. Those are certainly essential skills, but career coaching can also be an opportunity to strengthen proficiencies that are driving cultural change today, such as how to be an ally to others, how to address microaggressions, and how to be visible, vocal, and team-oriented.
Ways to measure success
As with other programs, measuring the effectiveness of coaching is critical to maintaining investment. Beyond ROI, this includes setting specific goals and tracking progress, understanding the behaviors or actions to transform, and assessing employee reactions.
If improving employee satisfaction is a goal, for example, then an internal company survey can be one of the tools to assess if coaching is moving the needle over time. Peer-to-peer feedback or client evaluations can also be ways to measure change. Most importantly, asking employees directly how coaching has helped them, both in their daily interactions and at a high level, will be worthwhile.
As employees continue to prioritize companies that provide benefits that support their development, those employers who embrace coaching for all levels may find themselves at the head of the pack.
Christy DeSantis is the founder of Fiducia Coaching and the head of credentialing at Lippe Taylor Group.