By Julius Ordoñez, MCC, ACTC

*As published by ICF Philippines on their website in May 2023

The way professional coaching is perceived and experienced in the workplace has significantly changed in the last 10 years. It used to be an intervention reserved for either top leaders needing to work on certain areas for development, or hi-potentials needing to prepare for a more senior role. Add to that the confidentiality and high costs involved in coaching back then, and naturally the whole process was shrouded in a kind of mystery that few “regular workers” neither understood nor had the possibility to access.

Several factors since then have brought about the change in the image of coaching at work. With the advancement of technology, a bigger population of the workforce is doing less manual/clerical labor and performing more complex roles involving thinking, strategizing and decision making, even at staff levels. Average costs per coachee have also gone down since, especially with a higher volume of trained and credentialed professional coaches compared to before, plus the arrival of several coaching-on-demand platforms in the market.

But perhaps one of the biggest factors that drove a spike in awareness of the need for coaching was the pandemic. With more people needing support to cope with the transition of remote work, companies were more willing to invest in coaching for their teams and saw how it helped in developing a faster, more agile, creative, independent and resilient organization. It has become clear to everyone how integrated one’s personal and work life actually is and how important it is to support the total person, not only upskilling them for work related competencies, but also promoting well-being and personal growth. In a coaching study commissioned by Benchmark Consulting in 2022 by Kantar, one of the world’s leading research institutions, results indicated that participation in coaching among the sample size approached had grown from 3% to 6% in the last 4 years.

Today, coaching in the workplace has become imperative in order to cope with the speed of change and foster a thinking, learning organization. There are many ways to approach introducing coaching in the workplace. The most common involves hiring an external coach or coaches to work with a specified number of individuals in the organization, whose coaching engagement is sponsored by the company. The second is to train key individuals within the organization to become certified professional coaches, so that they can do internal coaching for whoever needs it. Usually this role is integrated with another role (learning and development or succession management, for example) and is treated as an expansion of scope, so that the coaching resource is readily available. In both cases, the company is involved and usually wants to see specific, measurable outcomes, so the coaching goals need to be made clear among all parties, with agreed metrics, a progress check and a post-coaching assessment. A third option is to provide external coaching as a company benefit to individuals for their personal development, where the company does not get involved in the goals of the individuals, rather wants to provide its employees with support in whatever they want to work on. This is usually the category where online coaching-on-demand services fall. And lastly, another option is to train leaders all across the organization for coaching skills so that they can apply coaching principles and skills daily with their own teams.

All options are effective and perfectly viable, and the best and most lasting results occur when a company decides to use all of these methods, or at least a mix of them, to maximize the use of coaching and makes it more accessible to everyone in the organization. It is also very important that for all of these options, companies ensure that there is continuing education so that coaching methods in the workplace are kept dynamic and evergreen.

Over the years of leading coaching initiatives across different organizations all over the world, I have personally witnessed many stories of transformation and growth as a result of these programs. Line leaders have come up to me to tell me that their subordinates now do not simply bring problems to them, they also bring solutions and options with them, so the leaders just help them process their thoughts and help them determine which solutions are the most viable. HR leaders report a marked increase in employee engagement and commitment to goals. One HR business partner shared that the increase in their engagement measure went from 81% to 92% in one year since they launched a coaching culture in the company. In another company, their happiness index increased by at least 30%– employees were happier when their leaders applied coaching methods in their conversations because they felt that they were finally being heard. Leaders gave us feedback that they have overcome the fear of failure and impostor syndrome that used to hold them back. Yet another company told me that they had saved so much money on fixed costs because one of their workers in the shop floor came forward with an incredibly simple but effective solution to a persistent problem that they were planning to spend a huge amount on to upgrade the machines. Interestingly, in the same coaching study commissioned by Benchmark consulting, participants of coaching in the workplace reported that they not only achieved the initial objective that they set out to work on, but also achieved multiple other outcomes as a result of the coaching engagement. A whopping 97% reported that they have been able to sustain the impact of their coaching engagement even several months afterwards.

That is the superpower of coaching—it helps people discover that they are creative, resourceful and whole regardless of their level and role in the organization, and makes them go beyond being just order-takers into thinkers and problem-solvers. Now imagine if that superpower were unlocked for hundreds of people in the company, not just a few handpicked ones…how many more brilliant solutions would come out of your team? How much time, energy and money would be saved, and how much more engaged would team members be knowing they are truly contributing to the organization and bringing it closer to its goals? Given today’s fast-changing, hybrid, complex business environment, there is no better time than NOW to introduce coaching in organizations to unlock the potential of its workforce.