To set out some of the common dilemmas or taxing choices when deciding how to structure and manage coaching in the organization, certain decisions need to be made. For example, will coaching be fully integrated into wider learning and development strategies or will it do better if left as a stand-alone independent intervention?
The following questions should be considered for decision: where are you now and where do you want to be in the future?
How does coaching fit with the HR and learning & development strategy?
If this is highly integrated, coaching is explicitly linked with wider HR and learning & development activities (e.g. performance management and development programs) and coaching is included in the learning & development strategy. This can reinforce coaching and coaching can reinforce learning from these activities. Coaching can also gain credibility form being linked with formal approaches which are accepted in the organization. A negative effect could be that coaching might be constrained if it needs to fit into other programs or strategies.
If this is independent, coaching operates as a separate activity which gives a greater opportunity for flexibility. On the other hand, it might be difficult to monitor and evaluate.
What is the focus of coaching?
If this is organizational development, the focus is on achieving organizational objectives by working with the individual. Evaluation should be at organization level, even if other factors may also influence the outcome. Individual objectives will be set with organizational issues at the forefront.
If this is personal development, the focus is to develop individuals and assuming that coaching will improve their way of working, which will deliver benefits for the organization. Evaluation might be centered on the coaching contract between the coach, coachee (and manager). Coaching objectives will be focused on personal development needs.
Who is offered coaching?
If this is to everyone, this might mean a heavy resource requirement and likely to develop coaching capability internally.
If this is a select group, for example talents, trainees, jr. leaders, groups must be selected appropriately and based on an explicit and clear rationale.
Who delivers coaching?
If this is external professionals, costs per hour might be high, but if numbers being coached is small this may be cost effective and easier to manage,
If this is internal staff, there will be training and support requirements and a need to recognize and formalize time spent on coaching. This might also be a challenge in respect to confidentiality; coaches and coaches must feel confident holding frank conversations.
Where does ownership of coaching sit?
If this is Central (Corporate), challenge is to ensure that processes are responsive to the diverse coaching needs. HR (or Learning & Development) needs to be highly connected to the business.
If this is devolved (Line Management), HR or Learning & Development needs to relinquish to control, ownership is close to the critical relationship between coach and coachee (and manager).
What is the role of HR?
If HR is the manager (control, budget and process) this may stifle creativity in the coaching relationship and creative use of coaching in the line.
If HR is the enabler, they provide enabling frameworks, develop capability and take an organizational overview. They create the conditions for effective coaching but with ownership in the line. This might provide too little structure and support that may fizzle out coaching and the coaching effectiveness might be different across the organization.
What degree of tailoring is offered?
If the coaching offer is standardized, people across the organization will offered the same coaching service, coordinated centrally. The challenge will be to ensure that the approach meets the needs of everyone.
If the coaching offer is bespoke, it will be highly responsive to individual requirements, but this might cause challenges for monitoring and evaluating.
What is the time horizon for evaluation?
If this is long term (> 6 months), this might be appropriate when coaching supports a gradual culture shift, a change in the strategic focus of the organization or an ongoing requirement for development. However, the opportunity to adapt and improve the coaching offer will be reduced.
If this is short term (<6 months), this might be appropriate when coaching is offered to respond to immediate individual development needs. The long term benefit might become more difficult to determine.
Will evaluation assess Individual or Organization needs?
If this is organizational needs, the evaluation process helps determine what has changed in the wider organization as a result of coaching. Evaluation on organizational level however is challenging.
If this is individual needs, the evaluation process helps determine how individual coaches have changed as a result of coaching.
An increasing number of organizations are developing internal coaching services, using either learning & development resources or developing (line) managers to work as the internal coaches for people outside their teams.
In many cases, this has arisen out of a desire to offer formal coaching more widely than could be afforded using expensive external resources. Internal coaches are considered particularly effective where an understanding and knowledge of the organization’s culture, systems and expectations is helpful.
A key challenge that many organizations face is how to generate confidence in and take-up of internal coaching services. In some organizations, these programs are enthusiastically taken up and used with notable success. In others, take-up is felt to be less than it might be.
There appear to be a number of common factors in those organizations where take-up is high:
- The internal coaching program is actively promoted by HR and leadership, to as well potential coaches as coaches
- Coaching is perceived as a development opportunity and not a remedial intervention designed to deal with a performance gap
- Application to become an internal coach is not restricted
- There is a selection process to become an internal coach and not everybody is selected
- Programs are run by a dedicated (passionate) HR resource
- There is a good-quality training program, in line with the organization’s strategic objectives, often run and/or accredited by an outside organization
- There is a clear definition of coaching for the organization
- There is a clear set of common competencies or standards for internal coaches
- Internal coaches are offered as part of structured coaching programs rather than on an occasional basis
The factors summarized above can be related to identification of a clear organizational context for coaching and clear decisions taken find the best starting points for structuring and managing coaching in the organization.
The success of coaching in an organization is not determined by the level of expertise of the coaches involved, but by the organization’s ability to identify and decide on the right organizational context for coaching.
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