Second wave coaching and mentoring

In the recent years and particularly in the past 18 months or so, many organisations have been taking a close look at the way they approach coaching and mentoring. They are driven by two reasons. One is that the economic climate has put every discretionary spend under the microscope of value for money and return on investment. The other is the recognition that, while coaching and mentoring do contribute significantly to performance, employee retention and other influencers on the bottom line, they could contribute much more.

“Second Wave” employers have taken a hard look at their coaching and mentoring provision and compared it with global good practice. The result is many cases is a radical redesign of their approach that emphasises:

  • Integration of coaching and mentoring – instead of being separate activities, they are now seen as mutually supportive elements in the developmental package, especially for high potential employees. Coaching tends to focus on performance and short-term developmental objectives; mentoring on career and longer-term career objectives. Providing opportunities for both coaching and mentoring is making a substantial impact on corporate strategies for diversity management, for succession planning, and for employee engagement and retention.
  • Integration of internal and external coaching – internal and external coaches, who have a professional qualification, have a lot to learn from each other. With appropriate support, internal coaches can be as effective as all but the top 10% of external coaches – and a lot more effective (and cost-effective) than the majority of externals.
  • Integration of internally-focused and CSR-focused mentoring – people, who are receiving mentoring from senior managers, can learn to be better mentees by becoming mentors to people in the wider community
  • Sustainable skills development for coaches and mentors, but also for coachees and mentees – training only coaches or mentors reduces the impact and sustainability considerably. If coachees and mentees understand how to manage the learning relationship, it delivers far more value for money.
  • Creating a coaching culture – increasingly, the focus for making this happen is a corporate level strategy that emphasises the work team as the place, where durable coaching and mentoring cultures are created
  • Measurement and quality control – Second Wave companies monitor progress towards a coaching and mentoring culture. Some seek accreditation under the International Standards for Mentoring Programs in Employment, both as a recognition of quality, but also as a means of benchmarking against evolving good practice.
  • Opportunities for continuous upskilling – proving a developmental ladder for managers, who want to become better as coaches and mentors. In some cases, this extends to the equivalent of a masters degree, for the small proportion, who want to become professional internal coaches
  • Program management – Second Wave companies tend to have a lead manager and support team, responsible for overseeing coaching and mentoring and ensuring that the entire HR team is confident in promoting a coaching mindset. Some of these program managers have undertaken specific training for the role.  A major challenge for them is preventing the purchasing function commoditising the hiring of external coaches to the point where it compromises quality.
  • Integration of multiple media both in how coaching and mentoring are delivered and in support platforms – major cost savings and improvements in efficiency can be gained by increased use of IT to motivate and inform participants
  • One to one direct support for leaders, as champions of coaching and mentoring – leaders are often reluctant to attend workshops, so customised individual support is an increasingly popular means of developing a coaching and mentoring mindset and role models at this level.

Joining the Second Wave requires HR to commit to creating and marketing a comprehensive coaching and mentoring strategy, based on evidence of what works and on a systemic perspective of how people learn and grow. The good news is that – in contrast to the enormous sums many organisations invested in the first wave – the Second Wave is relatively inexpensive, because we now have a much better understanding of which levers produce the greatest impact on both individuals and the organisation.

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