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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Getting coaching right for maximum results
Article Type: HR at work From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 3
Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in HR
With budgets remaining tight but development needs still as pressing as ever, being able to deliver effective coaching assignments that really hit the mark is essential. Being able to do this, however, begins with selecting the right coach from the outset – something with which human resource (HR) professionals may feel they need support if they have not been involved in the coach selection process before.
Making the successful “match” between coach and coachee as well as coach to business is imperative to the success of a coaching assignment and, by getting this right, HR professionals will have the foundations in place for a coaching program that is right on track to deliver its objectives.
Choosing the right fit
Businesses can sometimes embark on a coaching program where the waters around objectives and the evaluation process are unclear, making it almost impossible for HR to measure success and report back when they are inevitably asked to quantify results. Although it may appear to be common sense, in order to get the best results from any coaching assignment, the building blocks on which the project will stand must be in place. For coaching these blocks are credibility, capability and chemistry.
To measure these areas successfully, HR must first work up the coach equivalent of a job specification to clearly outline the experience and criteria that the most appropriate coaches would be able to demonstrate. This is all part of the information and intelligence gathering process and the outcomes of this must be referred to throughout the process to help decide which coaches are right for the assignment and company.
There is a risk, however, of exercising too much caution in the selection process. This should be considered carefully as it is commonplace for coaches to regularly go through rigorous assessment processes, which largely end with them not being selected. Striking a balance between effective selection without unnecessary layers of questioning will deliver time saving benefits for both parties – particularly as it has been shown that there is a 90 percent failure rate in coach selection that is likely in many cases to be down to “extreme assessment” tactics (Acuity, 2008).
Bringing transparency to the process
One of the challenges that the HR industry continues to face is a lack of access and insight into the progress of coaching assignments, making it difficult to review if and how objectives are being met and how they are delivering against budget.
In July 2007, Acuity Coaching developed a “managed coaching solution,” which was created to specifically address industry needs around this and other issues that HR professionals commonly face when sourcing, managing and delivering coaching programs. Acuity Coaching combines best practice in sourcing and selection from the global executive search and executive interim markets with leading edge coaching management processes. Acuity aims to build and maintain a coaching resource around its clients’ needs, which delivers against organizational requirements.
It has been designed to be transparent, allowing coaches and HR professionals to plug into a system that provides easy access to assignments in progress, so their status and delivery against objectives can be reviewed whenever needed and as assignments come to an end.
This helps projects stay on track and allows aims and objectives to be shifted as and when they need to in line with the coachees or company’s needs – it also allows for an effective end of assignment review process. Less than 40 percent of organizations review coaching assignments once completed leaving the majority with no clear idea of what has been achieved (Acuity, 2008).
The Oracle and Acuity coaching project
Oracle, the provider of business software and hardware systems, has been working with Acuity Coaching on an ongoing coaching program for its senior EMEA managers since January 2009. The aim was to source coaches for its senior managers operating in 44 countries throughout EMEA that could deliver at a consistent standard under an “umbrella” system that could be easily monitored, allowing HR to check the status of multiple assignments at any one time. It was also important for Oracle that this consistent approach extended to cost. Research has found that executive coaching rates are actually 40 percent higher when HR is not involved and that 75 percent of organizations paid coaches what they asked for – resulting in huge variations in pricing (Acuity, 2008).
Prior to this project, Oracle had almost 40 coaches already in place who were reviewed as part of the refreshed coaching program alongside brand new coaches as selected by Acuity from its bank of 1,500 coaches globally. Both incumbent and new coaches were appraised taking into account credibility, capability and chemistry. The selection process began with Acuity evaluating all coaches against a set of standard gate criteria, which looked at past experience, training and practical issues like insurance. Following this, Oracle and Acuity ran a selection event giving Oracle the opportunity to meet in person the coaches who had been initially selected to work with them. As these interviews were taking place across EMEA, Oracle representatives in each country met with the coaches in each respective place.
For Acuity, it was also important to look at the coaches in relation to Oracle’s culture – another key consideration for HR professionals to take into account. By the nature of its business, Oracle is a fast-paced and dynamic organization and so the coaches selected to work with its senior team had to reflect the values of the company. This is where the importance of credibility stands up as coaches need to understand a company’s culture to help them fully grasp the wider challenges an individual within that business may be facing and then provide relevant and realistic solutions to them.
The value of getting the basics right
Overall there were 60 coaches selected to go forward and deliver the Oracle coaching program from a total of around 120 who were considered. To date, the coaching program has been a success and is having real impact within the business. Senior managers are now looking at implementing similar assignments as they are seeing the value that it can add in developing top talent.
HR professionals should not underestimate the importance of getting the basics right when looking for a coach – the framework of a detailed person specification and clear objectives are essential. This, together with an uncluttered selection process, alignment with company values and culture, and chemistry meetings between the organization and coach should stand HR in good stead for an effective coaching program that delivers results.
Simon CoopsChief Executive at Acuity Coaching
Debbie PageHead of EMEA Organization and Talent Development at Oracle.
About the authors
Simon Coops is Chief Executive, Acuity Coaching. In his 25 years in HR services, he has been an active player in the transformation of the market, across recruitment, HR consulting and executive coaching. He was a founder of Talisman, a major search and selection company that was acquired by Penna in 1998, where he worked until 2007. He is passionate about transforming the executive coaching market and giving organizations access to best practice across the coaching life cycle. Simon Coops can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie Page is Head of EMEA Organization and Talent Development at Oracle. She is a highly experienced senior executive, having had key roles in all aspects of business and HR management, including HR strategy, organizational restructuring, learning and development, recruitment and retention systems. At Oracle, she has responsibility for the development and delivery of the company’s strategic talent and organizational development strategies across EMEA. Debbie Page can be contacted at: email@example.com
Acuity (2008), Maximizing Performance and Reducing the Cost of Executive Coaching, Acuity Coaching, April