Building a Strategic Follow-up to Year-end Reviews

It’s fall – the time when both Human Resources leaders and football coaches start to focus on their game plans for the current “season” into 2017. To those responsible for their organization’s professional development programs, that means evaluating blueprints and drafting budgets for training – and, increasingly, to many organizations that includes coaching.

In Coaching for Professional Development, Joel DiGirolamo, a director of coaching science, notes that “coaching can be an effective and integral component of leadership development programs…it has a proven track record of success, and many studies have shown how coaching enhances decision-making skills, improves interpersonal effectiveness and increases confidence.”

While training and development support are often used to address performance issues identified in year-end reviews (see “Are You Making the Most of the Midyear Review Period?”), sustained investment in coaching is typically reserved for high-potential employees. Coaching programs with these candidates frequently result in high success rates in individual performance improvement that are commensurate with high return on investment to the business. But there are many different types of coaching – at different investment levels, durations, and points along the employee’s career spectrum – which can, and should, be considered for a broader pool of coaching candidates.

This variety in both coaching structure and candidate profile calls for a coaching game plan. It must be broad enough in scope to meet organizational goals, and tailored adequately to the individual’s specific needs. Typical organizational objectives include:

  • Supporting business results: Directly support top-level growth through coaching tailored to helping top performers and senior level employees sharpen their skills and advance in their roles. Many companies are starting to measure the impact of learning interventions on key business functions.
  • Enhancing recruitment: Create and promote developmental coaching programs, to attract future employees with growth-advancing job perks and personal learning opportunities.
  • Improve retention: Invest in tools to help current employees develop and advance within the company; and remedial coaching, to support up-or-out candidates or employees with differentiated developmental areas, such as foreign nationals with specific communications needs.
  • Building/reinforcing a learning culture: As more organizations push to establish a visible culture of learning, the impact of coaching can extend exponentially beyond the individual and help shape an environment dedicated to improvement and growth.

The Benefits of a Blended Approach

Addressing any one or all of these corporate goals as part of your coaching game plan doesn’t have to be overwhelming, in scope or cost. Although many HR teams view coaching and training within the context of the annual planning and budgeting cycle, coaching can be very effective on an as-needed or “just-in-time” basis as well.

For example, workshops can be developed in response to a specific objective, like a client engagement, or as a follow-up to a team project. Individual coaching intervention, ongoing coaching programs, and group training workshops (a blended approach) can be deployed hand-in-hand, and add up to a comprehensive game plan.

The bottom line: Companies with conservative training and development budgets or that do not currently use individual coaching outside of a select few professionals might consider the blended approach to help them expand their reach in achieving their talent objectives.

Back to Those High-Potentials

So, what’s the best game plan for coaching high potential employees at the individual level? Although, as I noted above, sustained investment is often made in coaching these individuals, short-term programs (sometimes referred to as “coaching light”) that target a specific developmental need and provide tailored individual support, might also be appropriate – and they typically require a modest investment.

Coaching light could be the best approach for addressing specialized needs such as:

  • Enhancement (versus developmental/remedial help) for senior levels who would benefit from, for example, short-burst performance and speech coaching sessions.
  • New, junior level employees who demonstrate very high potential early on (first 3-6 months).
  • Longer-term employees looking for growth opportunities laterally or vertically.

Given that many companies will draw on a mix of approaches in their application of coaching programs to professional development, those responsible for hiring coaching providers should ensure they work with coaches and coaching firms who offer:

  • Flexibility in how they package their coaching offerings (not limited to “fixed” programs). Coaches should also be able to work with you to negotiate a mutually satisfactory budget.
  • Range, in the coach’s ability to deliver blended options – group workshops as well as tailored individual sessions.
  • High quality across the board. Whether an individual is considered a high potential or someone with a specialized need, access to the playing field and rules of the game should feel equal for all. A visibly high quality program promotes a message of investment in the employee base and reinforces a culture of professional growth and development opportunity for all.

One more dimension to consider…

As the number and diversity of foreign nationals entering the U.S. workforce continues, companies are finding valuable ROI in devoting resources to cultural and communications coaching. This specialization is unique as a “coaching” offering, and combines elements of training, mentoring, and consulting with expertise in English language skills (speaking, writing, presentation) and cultural awareness.

Cultural and communications coaching:

  • Reaches the growing number of multicultural employees, improving both recruitment and retention.
  • Requires less of an investment level than executive coaching.
  • Is personalized, sends a message of investment and support.
  • Promotes the culture: employees who received coaching were 90% more likely to refer their employer to alumni and peers (source: Springboards survey).

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