Corporate Coaching Culture – Getting It Right

3 Minutes

The corporate world is undergoing a major cultural shift – in the way we communicate, ...

The corporate world is undergoing a major cultural shift – in the way we communicate, the way we consume information and the way we define our priorities in life. Millennials in particular have grasped that careers are no longer linear (#GigEconomy) and work is no longer defined by your geographical location or the confines of 9-5 (#WorkFromAnywhere).

The pace of life has accelerated and a steady pay check are no longer what will retain a Millennial or anyone who thinks like one. Why is this relevant to HR and what does this have to do with coaching I hear you ask? I truly believe that HR needs to respond to this shift by asking itself how to differentiate itself from other organisations.

According to Deloitte's 2017 survey of Millennials, 75% of respondents believed that their organisations could do more to develop future leaders. I think those Millennials are on to something that rings true across all generations in the workforce today. There is a huge potential for organisations ,who have the scale, to leverage the technical and behavioural leadership know-how that has been accumulated over the course of decades. We recently partnered with ProgressU, who work with multinationals across Asia to develop internal coaching capabilities. As part of this collaboration to explore what best practice looks like, we hosted an arm chair discussion with Elisabeth Bourdin, who leads corporate coaching at BASF. It was really insightful to see what can be achieved when large, complex organisations commit to developing coaching as a corporate culture.

Here are three takeaways from the conversation:

1. Coaching is not just a style, it is a skill

While some leaders naturally have a coaching style, it is a skill and one that can be learned. Organisations that have committed to using corporate coaching as part of their strategy to engage hi-potential talent, recognise the need for investing in specific training that enables leaders to draw out potential through coaching. Whilst it is important to invest in hiring people with technical experience in coaching and developing this skill in others (i.e. HR), successful organisations recognise that ultimately coaches should be grown within the business, not just in HR – which brings me to the next point.

2. Coaching needs to be driven by the Business

In order to be successful, it is important that the commitment to embed a coaching culture be driven by the business. There are very measurable benefits to the business in the short to medium term. Quick wins can be gained with a pilot, for example, that enables a manager to turn around an underperforming team. Engagement scores and retention of high-potential employees that the company has invested in are definitely “quick wins” that can be measured within a relatively short period of time. These should prove helpful in obtaining buy-in from the business. Longer term benefits that are not so easily captured in numbers, should not be disregarded. Progressive organisations that understand what is gaining in importance for employees are likely to recognise this.

3. It takes time to see all of the benefits – but you will

Successes can, to a certain extent, be documented in numbers, such as engagement scores and improved sales figures, but many times results are “aha moments” that only truly unfold their power years down the line. How do you measure ROI on something that is essentially difficult to measure? Ideally, high potentials who have been coached should be easily retained employees. This is not always the case, as some may, as a result of the process, realise that they need to move outside the organisation to fully realise their potential. This doesn’t diminish their value. Even in the case of high potential employees who move on, the employer brand that enabled this growth is ultimately the beneficiary.

Does your organisation have a corporate coaching culture? What are your views in the value of embedding this to develop leadership and increase engagement from within your organisation? 

You can get in touch with me at