Coaches assisting in employee retention

They don’t carry whistles or clipboards, nor do they follow the rule that no pain means no gain. But they are coaches.

Picture a kinder, gentler person who wants you to win, but doesn’t care what team you’re playing for, and you’re looking at a career performance coach.

“A coach is to be an unconditional, supportive partner in helping a client achieve a balanced, perfect life, whatever that is — and it’s different for everybody. A coach can help someone define what it is and go get it,” said Karen Wright, president of Parachute Executive Coaching in Toronto.

“Good coaches will never tell. They might advise, they might suggest or request, but it’s not about consulting or giving answers. It’s absolutely about evoking what the client really wants.”

And finding out what individuals want is a growing priority for many organizations today, specifically those within the IT industry which are struggling to retain talented employees.

In fact, employee retention is “exactly why an awful lot of organizations are getting into coaching and trying to create a coaching culture,” Wright said.

According to Sheila Goldgrab, a Toronto-based career performance coach who performs executive and business coaching, “with IT, it’s fast growth…it’s an employee’s market and employers are struggling (to keep them).”

And the amount of money an organization is willing to spend to keep an employee is not infinite, and throwing money is not the proper response, Goldgrab said.

“It isn’t the complete solution. It’s what you do with the person inside the organization once he or she is there. In other words, are they getting the opportunities they want to advance their career?”

Bev Knox, a professional coach and host of the Toronto Chapter of the International Coach Federation, a professional organization that certifies coaches, said many companies are now offering a personal coach to employees as part of the benefits package. The rationale behind this is employees will be more effective in their jobs because “what we’re trying to do is take potential and turn it into actual performance.”

Through weekly half-hour telephone sessions, at prices ranging from $200 to $500 per month, coaches give their clients the opportunity to discuss personal or professional obstacles that may be hindering their performance or standing in the way of their goals.

While many organizations offer counselling services within their human resources departments to address issues of job satisfaction or promotion, personal coaching can deal with any aspect of the client’s life.

“Coaching is not consulting or counselling. There are coaching skills that can be used effectively within HR departments or organizations,” Knox said. “The difference with an external coach is that the external coach has absolutely no agenda of their own.”

Therein lies the advantage, Goldgrab said. Although there is space for external and internal coaches just as there is for external and internal consultants, seeking a coach outside the organization has a lot to offer.

“Someone might have some issues they don’t want to go to their boss with, and they don’t want to go to the interim manager because it’s too volatile. It could be personal, it could be professional. It doesn’t matter…they don’t want to share it with anybody on the inside.”

Executives, for example, may have their vice-presidents to talk with, but “the risk is always that they have their own agenda,” Goldgrab said.

“As an external coach, I have no agenda except to further the agenda of my client…I have no axes to grind and one way or the other, it doesn’t have an impact on my life. My only interest is the achievement of the goal of my client, who in this case is a CEO,” she explained.

This type of relationship demands that individuals make an effort to seek out a coach who is right for them. According to Wright, the process involves three steps.

First, she suggests, interview two or three coaches because “you want to make sure a coach has a personality and style that you connect with.”

Second, find a coach who has been trained by a coaching or training organization, Wright said. She is also a trainer at the Toronto office of Coach University, a virtual organization that trains coaches around the world via teleconferences and the Web.

“While there are a lot of people who are capable of helping, supporting and nurturing on some level, unless they’ve had coaching training which is specific to this new profession they are going to be lacking.”

Finally, Wright said, look at the coach’s own personal and professional experience, as that may play a role in the relationship. “If you have something you’re particularly interested in working on you might want to look for a coach that has some kind of relevant experience or interest.”