Beyond the C-Suite: why coaching skills training should extend to all employees

19th June by Karen Smart

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For decades investment in coaching for leadership development has been a clear-cut choice, but is there a better way of making a bigger impact here and helping your budget go further?

The positive impact of coaching can’t be denied. It is widely recognised for improving performance, productivity and engagement, but employers need to realise that coaching can go far beyond the glass ceiling of executive and director level.

2023 - the year of efficiency

As the founder of Meta/Facebook Mark Zuckerberg says, 2023 has shaped up to be a year of efficiency. A time for belt-tightening in response to fragile economic conditions where tough decisions must be made.

The initial temptation for organisations might be to reduce their spend on learning and development, but a word of caution here. The so-called skills-based organisations will have the advantage.

Skills are changing rapidly and employers must have a better understanding of skills, job roles and organisational solutions for the future. The skills and capabilities of our employees is more imperative in determining commercial success because employers need people who can problem solve and work on their own initiative. And it is exactly here where people can draw on their coaching skills to be more self-aware and responsible, that it really pays dividends.

Greater returns than exclusive executive coaching

Thinking of the old proverb about teaching a man to fish so they can feed themselves for a lifetime, I’m reminded of a recent conversation I had with a client.

They talked about how much more they are achieving at a regional level compared to their head office where coaching has been reserved for the higher echelons of the board.

The client estimated that their much more modest investment in coaching skills was yielding far greater returns than the engagement of executive coaches for the company’s senior leaders because it was helping them develop the communication skills that managers need.

The ROI of coaching is incredibly subjective and not always measurable in financial terms. However, they believed that dollar for dollar, the fraction they were investing in equipping their managers with coaching skills was producing better results on a bigger scale.

This was seen in a shift in mindset where managers were adapting their behaviours to become enablers. The move to coaching style conversations was facilitating the growth of their people. The upsides were apparent from better engagement, performance and higher retention. 

The future is worker empowerment

Coaching skills are something every employee should have the chance to develop and it is integral in weaving together people and organisational performance.

The level of use and lifecycle of coaching will vary organisation to organisation, but those that make the effort in training their people in the basic core coaching skills are laying down a solid foundation for a resilient future.

When you consider that the corporate training market is expected to grow to a massive $475bn by 2027, it makes sense to look at coaching in some form as you build and curate content for your employee experience. Coaching skills training is a very personalised approach to employee development and it should be viewed as an important skills development need of the wider workforce.

Employees simply don’t want to make do with mediocracy anymore. They don’t want fixed careers. For them, work has to be meaningful and have purpose. Workers also want autonomy and roles where they can continue to grow and develop in a professional and personal capacity.

For employers, coaching skills can help them to take a more agile approach to talent so they can attract and retain their top people.

There is of course the potential for difficulty in delivering all of these when faced with a complex business environment, but coaching skills are a gift. The learning here is sticky and in the context of working with change, challenge and uncertainty, coaching skills become a great enabler for employees to be at their best.

Unlike most job functions and associated skillsets, coaching skills are unlikely to become obsolete. They favour working with higher complexity and decision-making so are ideal as humans work more in tandem with artificial intelligence. Coaching skills offer superior agility in the talent pipeline and suit future planning as it helps to upskill, reskill and to redeploy employees where they are needed most.

Investing in coaching skills can be an easy, high-impact, scalable, and cost-effective way of improving your business. So if you really want to promote your organisation as a people-pro place to work, then think about what coaching skills can do for you beyond your senior leadership.