Many companies have embraced coaching as a way to accelerate the learning and development processes of their employees.
The return on the investment is clear to the companies: however the investment in itself can become difficult to justify, especially in times of companies performances lower than expected.
Sometimes companies then decide to develop an internal coaching team as part of their Learning and Development / Human Resources team, in order to lower the cost impact, compared to hiring external coaches.
I would like to share a few considerations on the approach to setting up coaching support in your company.
What are the potential risks of setting up internal coaches ? how to mitigate the risks ?
The main potential risk of this set up is about trust of the coachee in the internal coach, mainly due to the following issues:
- How is confidentiality guaranteed ? from this perspective how is the internal coach going to manage the hierarchical relationship with the Learning and Development / Human Resources Manager ?
- How is the coach going to be influenced by the information available in the company about organizational development, especially as a member of the Human Resources team ? What is the risk of a conflict of interest, the risk of a conversation led by the coach in a certain direction ?
- If the coach has also a managerial role, how is this role going to influence him/her in his/her coaching process ?
These are plausible questions, especially at the early stages of setting up an internal coaching team, so what could be potential ways to mitigate these risks:
- The internal coaches should have a specific coach training path according to a standard that explicitly requires the coach to a very strict code of conduct in terms of confidentiality of the coach-coachee relationship
- Coaching should be a full-time job, the coaching team should be independent from the Learning and Development / Human Resources team, reporting directly to the Company Board
- Objectives for the coaching support should be agreed by the coach, the coachee and the sponsor (the direct boss or the LD/HR department) with the utmost transparency
- Objectives and performance measurement of the coaching team should be the result of a collective evaluation by the Company Board
- Regularly re-shuffle the pairs coach-coachee
What about the alternative approach of employing external freelance coaches ? Does the framework change ?
One element of risk of trust of the coachee in the external coach remains: how is the external coach going to be influenced by the contractual relationship with the Learning and Development / Human Resources Manager or with the Line Manager ?
In fact from this perspective the contract with the company can be the best ally for the coach, the coachee and the company: in the contract the external coach must make sure that objectives, confidentiality and conflict of interest be regulated by the coach code of conduct.
And this must be communicated to the coachees in a transparent way.
If these conditions are not met in the delivery of the coaching project, the external coach has then the freedom to walk away, to stick to his/her principles, let alone the contractual agreement.
This is a strong safeguard towards the coachee and the quality of the coaching service.
My final remark.
Setting up a coaching support in your company is a great step forward but it needs to be done under certain conditions, to safeguard one of the foundations of coaching: the trust between the coach and the coachee.