5 Steps to Integrating Coaching into Your Talent Management Strategy

By Renée Robertson Jun 26, 2015
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Coaching means many things to many people. Many times a certain technique that is referred to as “coaching” isn’t really coaching at all; it’s actually counseling or feedback.

For example, you may have heard or had this happen to you—a manager will say, “Let me give you some coaching around ABC,” and then proceeds to explain to an employee why the employee failed to accomplish a task. The manager next explains the way ABC needs to be done. More times than not, the recipient of this so-called coaching walks away disillusioned—and perhaps also deflated and unmotivated—by what he or she thinks was a coaching experience. As a result, coaching can get a bad rap as a reason why employees may begin to disengage. So what does a real coaching conversation look like?

Well, it should go something like this: “So, how do you think your presentation on ABC went?” It is crucial that the employee is given time to reflect, respond and be an active participant in the conversation. The manager continues to ask thoughtful questions such as: “What would you have done differently?,” “What actions will you take?,” or “How can I support you?”

This is a coaching conversation—the employee is empowered to act while being supported by his or her manager. The employee gains confidence knowing that he or she owns the outcome while feeling acknowledged and supported by the manager.

Now more than ever, there is a great opportunity to bring coaching into organizations. According to Gallup’s study on the global workplace, only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work or are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations. Therefore, that means that 87 percent of employees are not engaged.

Considering this, why not integrate coaching into your talent management strategy, not only to increase employee engagement but to achieve other talent development goals—such as developing certain competencies like problem-solving and strategic thinking— or to fill your talent pipeline with ready-now talent for upward or lateral assignments?

In order to integrate coaching into your talent management strategy, the following five steps should be taken:

Educate your leaders. Start at the top and educate your executives on the differences and benefits of coaching versus counseling. Interview them on their perspectives on coaching and assess their willingness to participate in and support a coaching initiative. Explain the benefits of coaching and ask them where they see applications for coaching inside the organization.

Identify coaches, participants and executive sponsors. Look for individuals and managers who can be trained to become internal coaches inside your company. These individuals may be inside your talent management and organizational development areas. Consider having talent management or human resources executives trained and credentialed by the International Coach Federation as professional coaches. As a result, they will be in an excellent position to coach executives in the company. Alternatively, you may choose to utilize external coaches. If so, you can submit a request via the International Coach Federation Coach Referral Service website or ask colleagues for recommendations.

Simultaneously, you will want to identify candidates to participate in the coaching program. Therefore, review your succession plan and consider top talent managers, directors and executives. Participants should be excited to be part of the program and willing to make a commitment. Just as important as identifying the coaches and participants is to make certain that you have executive sponsorship. Determine which executives would like to sponsor the program and which would like to be a participant. Request that they support you in your coach and participant identification, marketing efforts, during participant enrollment, and throughout the program’s life cycle.

Manage expectations. Be sure to clearly set expectations with your internal coaches, individuals being coached, the executive sponsors and, of course, your managers and colleagues. It is best to run the initial program as a pilot and build upon its success. Make certain everyone is clear on the goals of the program, the time commitment, and their roles and responsibilities.

Train. Enroll your internal coach candidates in a coach-training program; ensure they’re being coached by someone with experience coaching internal coaches. In addition, be sure to train the individuals who are to be coached on the role and responsibilities of the participant. While training your coaches, be sure to establish a clear and consistent process for enrolling clients, coaching time and exiting clients. The key here is to ensure that everyone participating has a similar experience.

Measure success. Prior to starting the program, determine how you will measure its success. It may be done simply by using a net promoter score or setting up a simple impact study. It doesn’t have to be a rigorous measurement such as a return on investment. If your program is embraced and utilized (meaning that coaching clients show up and participate in the coaching), then that’s a great sign. Interviewing them or surveying them on the benefits they received once the coaching is completed is also an excellent idea. In addition, be sure to ask the managers of the program’s participants about the changes they may have noticed in their employees’ behaviors after being coached.

Renée Robertson is the president and CEO at Trilogy Development, a learning and consulting firm and the founder of The Robertson Coach Institute.

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