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Coaching is still not a top priority for many employers

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Employers continue merely to pay lip service to coaching, new research reveals.

According to Henley Business School, while 61% of respondents said developing a coaching culture was one of their top five priorities, only 9% made it their first or second priority.

Henley has suggested this reflects an uncertainty about how to go about creating a coaching culture and concern as to whether the senior team will support the initiative. In addition, a quarter of respondents made ‘developing leadership coaching skills' their first or second priority.

Patricia Bossons, director of coaching services at Henley Business School, said: "I am hearing from clients and students alike that coaching has never been more important since it helps maintain clarity and resourcefulness in people driving business recovery. The fact that so many in the survey recognise the importance of coaching yet few appear to make it a high priority may be because coaching is seen as a process, rather than a specific management development area, such as strategic thinking or managing change. It is also still perceived by many to be something that lies in the hands of HR, or external coaches, so coaching skills development can easily be seen as someone else's responsibility."

She added: "Coaching can be the oil that enables the rest of a management development agenda deliver tangible outcomes and results. A senior strategic leadership programme, for example, is going to have much longer lasting impact, and a much greater return on investment, if an independent coach supports each individual as they go through their programme.

"Individuals recognise this, which is why the statistics in the research show leadership coaching skills development as a high priority."

Engineering company Atkins approached Henley Business School because it wanted to be able to have more open, adult and constructive conversations with its top 100 managers and an honest exchange of views about current performance and future potential. The senior team felt that understanding exactly where their leaders saw their own future and articulating how the organisation saw those leaders developing was critical in building a succession strategy that would deliver business goals. 

The Dialogue Programme was created, which included a two-day workshop preceded by a detailed process of data-gathering and working to guidelines given by Henley. This included career history to date, current aspirations, psychometric and 360-degree feedback data. During the two-day workshop, there were self-awareness raising and skills development sessions facilitated by the tutor and two one-to-one sessions with a personal coach.

The coaching sessions were designed to help the individual reflect about the issues being raised by the programme.

Brian Fitzgerald, HR director, group talent management at Atkins, said: "For the company, an in-depth dialogue with top talent is now providing insights that didn't previously exist on a consistent basis. This enhances knowledge of current capabilities and aids succession planning aligned with the company's future strategy."