Want Professional Development Programs That Works? Add Digital Coaching

CoachHub · 9 May 2022 · 8 min read

Professional development without coaching lacks the focus and insight to navigate the current world of work. 

In recent years, upskilling, reskilling, and other forms of continued education have taken on greater significance within professional development. A global pandemic, mass resignation, and economic uncertainty have made it necessary for employers to focus on building resilient workforces and facilitating personal transformation. For individuals, professional development provides a means of improving technical skills, behavioral capabilities, and confidence. For organizations, investing in development value strengthens employee engagement, adaptability, and retention

However, while employers list upskilling and reskilling employees among their top concerns, 47% of companies are uncertain about how to design development initiatives for emerging roles, according to Deloitte’s “2018 Global Human Capital Trends.”

Digital coaching is an effective solution to span this gap. Through curated resources and one-on-one sessions with industry experts, digital coaching can help coachees set attainable goals, identify valuable skills, stay accountable, and achieve more meaningful and sustainable outcomes.

While coaching is certainly broadly effective, it can be particularly impactful for professionals and organizations alike in specific instances. We highlight three such situations here.

1. Coaching is helping women navigate the post-pandemic workplace

While women collectively made up 47% of the entry-level workforce in 2020, they represented only 21% of C-Suite positions, and women of color represented only 3%, according to data from LeanIn’s and McKinsey’s joint 2020 “Women in the Workplace” study. When it comes to middle management, women don’t fare much better; McKinsey’s and LeanIn’s 2021 “Women In the Workplace” follow-up found women hold 38% of management positions. While the number of women in top management positions rose to 24% in 2021, the gulf remains significant. 

This discrepancy is commonly referred to as the “broken rung” phenomenon. Women are less likely to be promoted from entry-level positions to middle management positions and thus are increasingly less likely to be represented among senior management. 

The pandemic has only made matters more complicated. Research by McKinsey in 2021 shows what you’ve probably already observed in your workplaces; women often bear the majority of responsibility for domestic care. Because of this, one in four women have considered leaving or downshifting their careers. Support for women is more crucial than ever.

Coaching addresses all of these hurdles. Coaching-led development can help women overcome hesitation, self-doubt, and other obstacles to create and maintain goals that enhance their personal and professional lives. It can also empower them to unleash their innate potential. 

Coaching can help women in the workplace by:

  • Encouraging women to choose an area of focus: A coach can help women in the workplace lean into their strengths or improve their weaknesses by taking a targeted approach to common focus areas such as time management, communication, or assertiveness. 
  • Tracking progress: Coaches can serve as personal historians, reflecting on a coachee’s progression and offering advice on proactively pursuing new goals and changing opportunities. 
  • Providing support: Coaches can provide an emotional foundation to support women through the often challenging development process. This support can take the form of insight, accountability, or empathy.

 

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2. Coaching creates a more equitable professional progression

Racial injustice discourse on campuses, in courtrooms, and alongside processions of protestors has highlighted the impact of systemic racism in society. The workplace is no exception. Instead, work environments tend to recreate the prevailing social currents. 

But the workplace can also be a site of change. Consider that Reflecktive’s 2020 “HR Trends Report” found 90% of workplaces considered Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) a top priority for 2021. A Glassdoor survey conducted the same year revealed that 76% of respondents felt diversity was important in weighing potential job opportunities. Add to that Quantum Workplace’s “Diversity + Inclusion” study (2020), which found 61% of employees believe diversity and inclusion strategies are beneficial and essential. You can see the picture that is beginning to emerge: Workplaces are leading the charge when it comes to social change.

DE&I initiatives have helped companies progress, but more can be done to support professionals of color, especially first-generation white-collar workers. Coaches serve as a source of professional guidance and advocacy. Coaching can provide the allyship that underrepresented professionals need to build skills and navigate their careers and bring their authentic selves to the workplace. An African American coach who participated in the Coachhub-commissioned “Racial Justice, Equity and Belonging in Coaching” study (2021) explained:

Coaching, it’s almost going to be a key tool for liberation for us and also connectivity of our community. Because I think that coaching really handles your ability to create, to produce, to be your best self to show up fully.”

Diverse teams of coaches can not only help organizations meet key DE&I goals but are necessary to empower the next generation of leaders.

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3. Coaching cultivates traits highly correlated with success

Three years of global upheaval have reshaped the world of work. Supply chains have been radically rewritten; 92% of supply chain executives confirmed significant changes to their strategies in 2021, according to McKinsey’s “Survey of Global Supply-Chain Leaders.” Not only have workers experienced challenges in accomplishing their everyday tasks, but the nature of how we collaborate has changed. Social distancing and return-to-the-office initiatives have prompted abrupt shifts in work modalities. Pew Research (2021) observed that the US remote workforce increased from 23% prior to the pandemic to 71% in 2020, then down to 59% in 2021. All of these changes are taking their toll; Lyra’s 2020 “American Worker in Crisis” survey found that 81% of respondents experienced mental health issues related to the pandemic, including loneliness, anxiety, burnout, and depression. 

Current global social and economic uncertainties have underscored the importance of purposefully cultivating resilience strategies. Highly trained coaches with expertise in psychology and business can help employees develop four traits of emotional intelligence that directly influence organizational resilience:

  • Self-awareness: Resilient employees are attuned to their personal traits, emotions, and behaviors and possess personal confidence in their holistic selves.
  • Self-management: Personal resiliency necessitates emotional self-control and adaptability to changing and challenging contexts.
  • Social awareness: Empathy and situational awareness are fundamental to navigating collaborative work environments. 
  • Relationship management: Successful employees apply leadership, conflict management, and collaboration skills to resolve friction and achieve common goals.

Our coaches work with leaders at all organizational levels to build emotional intelligence. Through coaching, leaders learn to empower their teams through empathy and openness. They gain insight into emotional cues, how to discern fuzzy interpersonal dynamics, and refocus teams on actionable issues.    

Examples of How Coaching Improves Professional Development

Quantitative metrics support the efficacy of digital coaching. Even so, anecdotal data can add valuable context to its process and impact. The following are three examples of companies and industries helped through coaching.

Case study: Coaching empowerment and inclusion in manufacturing

B.Braun is not a stereotypical manufacturing company. While manufacturing has a well-established association with traditional hierarchical management, Saxony-based B.Braun sought to buck that trend with a flat, bottom-up approach to production floor leadership. 

B.Braun used digital coaching to instill “shop floor empowerment” in its teams, removing supervisors from daily operations and encouraging a culture of autonomy. Coachees were encouraged to explore their own management styles and be aware of the styles of others. In doing so, B.Braun cultivated an atmosphere of collaboration, accountability, and mutual support.

French fiber optics manufacturer Nexans committed to similar institutional change. Through their Women in Nexans (WiN) initiative, Nexans partnered with digital coaching to create a mentor network and leadership pipeline for female employees. With women occupying only 15% of Nexans’ top leadership positions, the goal was to create an inclusive and supportive environment through career empowerment. 

Case study: Coaching equitable leadership in finance

The internationally-positioned European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) found itself at a crossroads in 2020. Initially resistant to digital work, the company realized the pandemic demanded a necessary shift to a new frontier. This transition inspired a closer look at company culture. 

One outcome of EBRD’s introspection was a commitment to have women represent 50% of the candidates for their leadership succession plan. EBRD used digital coaching to identify and address areas where female employees felt less confident, empowering them through the coaching relationship. Coaching made the organizational goal of inclusion actionable.  

Sharing that objective, global commerce marketing firm Criteo likewise wanted to make leadership coaching available to every manager across the company, worldwide. Digital coaching soon rolled out in eight countries. Coachees received qualitative, intensive coaching tailored to their needs and ambitions. The early results are promising, with a reported 35% progress on initial goals. 

Case study: Coaching empathy and resilience in research

VTT presents an interesting case study of emotional intelligence in action. Founded in 1942 and owned by the Finnish state, VTT is a leading European research firm specializing in social and commercial applications.  

In 2016, VTT transitioned to an agile business strategy. Appreciating the shakeup their new model would cause, VTT leaders acknowledged the need to cultivate trust among co-workers and leaders. Despite a highly educated and competent staff, organization leaders realized they lacked some of the critical skills necessary to create that level of trust.

VTT implemented a coaching program that focused on improving emotional intelligence by focusing on the soft skills of maturity, self-reflection, and empathy. The initiative was a marked success: Leaders felt more confident, employees felt more understood, and coachees felt more engaged. 

Japanese Tobacco International found itself in a similar position when it transitioned to a digital and agile organization. JTI was worried about the psychological impact on their teams and looked to coaching to guide their team through the transition. The numbers were encouraging: 83% of coachees felt empowered to try new behaviors, 85% identified new career goals, and 89% of coachees felt that coaching helped them achieve their goals.

For further examples of how coaching improves professional development, CoachHub maintains a growing database of case studies.

Use Coaching to Achieve Professional Development Goals

Business leaders need to proactively respond to the social and economic pressures shaping the current world of work. More egalitarian approaches to professional development are a critical means of enfranchising a greater diversity of employees and tackling the three-fold challenge of engagement, performance, and retention. 

It’s a daunting task, but leaders have support. Coaches with diverse areas of expertise and lived perspectives make upskilling accessible, meaningful, and actionable.  By partnering with digital coaching providers, organizations can realize the full potential of their professional development initiatives, empowering leaders and their teams to adapt and succeed.

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CoachHub is the leading global talent development platform that enables organizations to create a personalized, measurable and scalable coaching program for the entire workforce, regardless of department and seniority level. By doing so, organizations are able to reap a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity, improved job performance and increased retention. CoachHub’s global pool of coaches is comprised of over 3,500 certified business coaches in 90 countries across six continents with coaching sessions available in over 60 languages, to serve more than 500 clients. Our programs are based on advanced R&D from our Coaching Lab, led by Prof. Jonathan Passmore and our Science Council. CoachHub is backed by leading tech investors, including Sofina, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Molten Ventures, Speedinvest, HV Capital, Partech and Silicon Valley Bank/SVB Capital. In September 2021, CoachHub acquired French digital coaching pioneer MoovOne to build a global champion focused on jointly democratizing coaching.
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