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How does your business know that its coaching and mentoring investment is fit for purpose?

Written by Diane Newell, Managing Director, OCM Discovery  at The OCM Group

Coaching and mentoring can be powerful tools for developing a strong leadership culture and fostering personal and professional growth, in service of business success.

Organisations, large and small, have seen their use of coaching, especially external coaching and mentoring, grow exponentially over the last five years or so. Investment in coaching and mentoring is an increasing part of many organisation’s HR, L&D or Talent budgets.

The potential for coaching and mentoring is well supported by studies that confirm their power in making learning opportunities count, building engagement and nurturing diverse talent.

A Berson & Associate study found managers with coaching skills increased business performance by 130%. Another study showed 80% of employees reporting higher performance at work, higher productivity, improved communication, and improved well-being[i].


Historically, organisations have often turned to coaching and mentoring as a reactive or opportunistic solution when facing business challenges like under performance, organisational change, or M&A. It is effective in meeting situational or short-term needs but can mean the organisation’s strategic goals and objectives for coaching and mentoring investment haven’t been properly thought through.  This makes it difficult for HR leaders to assess the full value and ROI of the coaching.


How will they know, for example, that their investment in coaching and mentoring is fit for purpose? Is it maximising benefits with the right mix of initiatives for their organisation? Is it making the most of the resources they have, in line with the organisation’s overarching strategy and priorities?

These are all questions that need to be answered to ensure every drop of investment counts at a time when many organisations are facing financial pressures.


Barriers to overcome

Understanding coaching and mentoring investment can feel like a job for the ‘too hard’ pile. It can be a real challenge to find and bring together the data on where investment is being made, so that you can get an overview of the whole process and an understanding of the opportunities for greater return. There can also be barriers to getting a focus on and coalition for change around coaching and mentoring.

In some organisations the biggest hurdle is a structural issue – there simply isn’t anyone with overall accountability for coaching and mentoring, nowhere to hold responsibility or gather information.

In other organisations, it is cultural: leaders wanting to ‘own’ their own investment in coaching may resist what they see as ‘interference’ from HR or L&D functions.


Also, barriers can be created by a more general absence of strategic linkage between HR, talent or L&D investment and strategic purpose and goals – which means that there’s no ‘organisational energy’ for the issue.

But whatever the barriers, building a coaching and mentoring strategy with policies and resources that deliver against the organisation’s purpose and priorities is one of the most powerful contributions to organisational agility and adaptability HR can make to the business.

It’s akin to increasing the talent bandwidth; change and adaptation flow faster allowing much more to be done by more people simultaneously, which ultimately drives organisational success.


A checklist for success

Because it can be hard to know where to start with this, it’s useful to have a simple checklist to work against as you think about how to ensure your investment in coaching and mentoring is effective and fit for purpose.

  1. Set clear objectives – establish the desired changes in behaviour, impact and culture that would deliver greater success and ensure coaching and mentoring initiatives match. Clarity of purpose is essential both for effective programme design and for learning or evaluation.
  2. Align with organisational goals – clarify the purpose of coaching and mentoring and ensure it is aligned with organisational goals. The desired changes in behaviour, impact and culture of the workforce must deliver against the strategic goals, purpose and values of your organisation.
  3. Review individual coaching contracts – individual coaching contracts or programmes need clear intent.  Some of that intent will be individual or contextual but it must align with the purpose of coaching and mentoring at an organisational level.
  4. Track investment – it’s vital to know how much is being invested in coaching and mentoring across the organisation, on who and why. Ensure someone has responsibility for this and it can be easily accessed at any time.
  5. Acquire insight through data – you can’t learn from what you don’t review. Collate data on the impact of coaching and mentoring by measuring the changes in behaviour, impact and culture against those that the organisation seeks.
  6. Ensure full transparency – have a clear policy that is transparent across the organisation to explain where and who you make coaching and mentoring investment in, and why.
  7. Check inclusivity – understand whether any groups are disadvantaged in terms of access, and whether disadvantaged or under-represented groups are receiving the coaching and mentoring support that meets their needs.
  8. Establish professional standards – standards drive impact through good practice but also ensure boundaries are set safely and risk is well managed. Coaching and mentoring standards and processes need to be consistent with professional and ethical practice, and all your coaches and mentors, internal and external, must be held accountable for doing so.


[i] https://www.td.org/insights/why-you-need-a-coaching-culture