Coaching delivers tangible benefits for all participating employees within an organization. It provides measurable benefits for the company, as well.
According to our 2022 Worklife Coaching Report, 93% of employees find coaching very or extremely valuable - and nearly all employers (99%) see coaching as having a positive or very positive impact on the wider business. Of those employees currently being coached, the top benefit they cited was that they feel more confident in their work. In addition, 44% feel they have improved communication within their team and 40% feel more engaged at work.
Coaching also impacts retention. Through coaching, 38% of employees are more likely to stay with their employer and 32% feel more connected to the overall company.
And it’s not just our research that shines a light on the positive attributes of coaching. As cited in Forbes, 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence while more than 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships and communication skills. Coaching is also reported to have substantial ROI - 86% of companies report recouping their coaching investment.
Despite these proven benefits, it can be tricky to demonstrate coaching ROI when compared to other employee investments, like skills training programs. That’s why it’s important to first create a valid business case to help gain executive buy-in, approval, and funding. Once you’ve accomplished that, it’s time for the most important step: getting employees on board.
Getting employees to adopt and participate in a coaching program can be one of the biggest challenges. Our research shows that only a quarter of eligible employees will take advantage of a coaching opportunity if it’s offered, leaving many to miss out on strategies to improve productivity, communication, and job satisfaction, and leaving organizations to fall short of achieving the best possible workforce outcomes. The key to improving employee uptake in coaching programs hinges on clear communication and thorough change management to increase awareness, understanding, and excitement.
two main barriers to employee coaching adoption
While many reasons may exist for employees to be reticent about engaging in coaching, there are two dominant roadblocks that consistently challenge an organization’s ability to get workers on board
1. Preconceived notions and stigmas around coaching.
Across the board, 30% of those eligible for coaching are simply not participating, and over half opt out of their employer’s coaching program. A big reason for this is the stigma about why it’s offered and confidentiality concerns about what is shared: 28% feel like being offered a coach means they’re not doing well in their job, 23% feel their time would be better spent elsewhere, 23% don’t know how to get started, 21% feel a coach would share information with their manager or HR, and 15% don’t see the value or benefit of coaching. Choosing a third-party coaching program can help address many of these concerns.
2. It’s unclear whether coaching is offered, or if it’s available to everyone.
It’s important to give all employees equal access to coaching and to ensure this is clearly communicated. Of those employees we surveyed, nearly one quarter (24%) are unsure if coaching is even offered at all. And only 60% are eligible to participate in coaching in the first place. To overcome these roadblocks, more organizations need to consider moving from a traditional leadership-centric coaching offering to a more democratized coaching approach.
5 tips for increasing employee uptake of worklife coaching
There will always be instant adopters who jump at the chance to work with a coach. For those in the middle of the spectrum who might need a bit more convincing, however, career coaching offers the greatest potential for individual and organizational benefit. Garnering the buy-in of this group relies on how clearly you communicate the value of coaching and the specifics of the coaching program you choose.
1. Go the third-party route.
First and foremost, look for a provider that offers third-party coaches as part of their program. Third-party coaches are completely confidential and employees can talk about any work-related topic—career, workload, relationships — with 100% confidence that nothing they say will ever be shared with their manager, HR, or employer. After all, the #1 reason employees do not participate in available coaching is that coaches are people from within the company and they don’t feel comfortable sharing openly with them.
2. Ensure it's employee-centric.
The right coaching program is one that’s built for employees. Leadership should not dictate what topics are covered or what the goals should be. Employees get to decide that for themselves, whether that’s working on a peer relationship, discovering ways to advance their career, addressing family pressures impacting work, or tackling stress. Every worker can leverage their coach in the way that best serves them and can schedule sessions as they want—whether that’s once a week or just a single session.
3. Show you value the commitment.
Let them know you support coaching and that it’s as valuable as work itself. It’s worth their time, if they give it a chance, whether that’s 15 minutes or an hour. And, also let workers know they aren’t beholden to a certain number of hours or sessions. It’s at the employee’s pace, and it’s flexible.
4. Provide coaching variety.
Select a program provider that offers a variety of certified coaches with expertise that spans personal and work situations, industries and job roles, and niche areas. Allow employees to review coaches’ written or video profiles, and let them choose the coach that best aligns with their goals. And be sure they understand they can have more than one coach—perhaps one coach is adept in honing skills for career advancement while another is well-versed in financial fitness or time management. Employees can be coached by a variety of individuals and should be free to change or add coaches at any time.
5. Invest in change management.
Communication and preparation are crucial to successful adoption. Begin communicating program availability and benefits well in advance. Make it clear that worklife coaching is open to every employee. Communication should come from leadership, managers, and even coworkers who have been coached before. Find a cadence that works for your organization, and vary the communication modes—emails, texts, videos, webinars, flyers, and posts on internal company sites are all great ways to garner and keep employee interest. Consider setting up peer-to-peer Facebook groups, Slack channels, or intranet chats to allow employees to share their experiences and ask questions as the program launches. And, continue communicating well past the program rollout date—it can take some workers months to decide that coaching is really for them.
For more on how to maximize coaching adoption and dispel some of the myths that cause people to hesitate, review our coaching adoption checklist.
maximize your investment
A coaching program is an investment in every employee’s success and an investment in the success of the company as a whole. Coaching has been shown to improve critical HR priorities, including retention, engagement, and internal mobility, career progression, and inclusion. That’s why committing to creating a coaching culture within your organization can help reduce turnover and recruitment costs, as well as increase employee resilience and agility—few other investments can go so far in benefitting both employees and employers.
But, be sure to give the program time to take hold and gain momentum before you measure its success. It could take anywhere from three to 12 months to get employees to sign on. Be patient, solicit feedback, and remember that if it’s been two months and only a few employees have participated, it’s not a failure—it’s actually the point where things are just getting started.