Coaching in the Workplace

Best Practices For Building An Internal Coaching Program

Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant shift in the way many organizations view coaching.

From what was once a privilege reserved only for senior leaders, coaching is now being made available to employees at every level through internal coaching programs. But what makes a good coaching program?

Whilst the attributes of a good coaching program will vary from one organization to the next, here are eight best practices for you to consider when building your internal coaching program:


1. A Clear Purpose

The purpose of your coaching program should influence the overall design and management of the program. With this in mind, it is imperative that the purpose be absolutely clear. There should be no ambiguity! Ask yourself:

  • What’s our motivation for a coaching program?
  • What specifically are we hoping to achieve?
  • What problems are we hoping to address?
  • What does success look like?
  • How will we know we have been successful?

Best Practice: Representatives from the senior leadership team and every part of the business should be involved in defining the purpose.


2. Senior Leadership Commitment

An internal coaching program is no different from any other organizational initiative in that without a commitment from the senior leadership team, it is doomed to fail.

  • How committed are leaders to the program?
  • What do leaders expect from the program?
  • How aligned are leaders on the purpose?
  • What role do leaders play?
  • How should leaders be updated?

Best Practice: A champion should be appointed to represent the senior leadership team. Their role is to work with coaching ambassadors to lead the design, rollout and administration of the program.


3. Building The Bench

Building your internal coaching bench is a key factor behind the success and sustainability of your coaching program. The right people with the right intent can make all the difference.

  • What sort of people would we like on our coaching bench?
  • How will we attract this sort of people to join our coaching bench?
  • What sort of commitment should be required from them?
  • How do we develop their coaching ability and mindset?
  • What will someone get out of being on our coaching bench?

Best Practice: Internal coaching benches should be voluntary. Participants should have a genuine curiosity and interest in helping others. They should have the support of their manager, and their time and effort on the coaching bench should be recognized.


4. Building Out The Bench

Now the idea of using external coaches on an internal coaching program might sound a little counterproductive, but there are benefits and drawbacks to having both.

  • Internal coaches are familiar with the organization and have the context that external coaches do not have. The flipside here is they may be prone to being biased and subjective. Also, some employees (particularly senior leaders) may not feel comfortable opening up to internal coaches.
  • External coaches bring a fresh perspective and unbiased objectivity that internal coaches may not possess. They can be a great compliment to any coaching bench. The flipside is they lack organizational insight.

Best Practice: Build a solid foundation with well-trained internal coaches and coaching processes and supplement it with highly experienced external coaches. External coaches can play an important role in helping develop internal coaches.


5. Matching

When it comes to matching coaches with coachees, you have to decide whether you’re going to use algorithmic-based matching or self-selection. Each of these approaches has benefits and drawbacks.

  • Self-selection coaching is very intimate and requires a personal connection. This is hard to achieve when you use an algorithmic approach. The flipside is that coachees may end up choosing people just like them and this could limit their thinking and growth opportunities.
  • An algorithmic approach uses criteria to closely align the needs of the coachee with the experience of the coach. However, this approach can be problematic if there is no chemistry between the coach and coachee.

Best Practice: Use a hybrid approach. Start by applying an algorithmic approach to group coaches and coachees based on the needs of the coachee with the experience of the coach. Then, create an opportunity for coachees to have chemistry sessions with the coaches before choosing.


6. A Peer Support Group

Being a coach can be challenging. There will be times when coaches need to talk to other coaches about their experience. This is why setting up a peer support group is crucial to the sustainability of your program.

  • Who can coaches approach when they need coaching advice?
  • What sort of information should coaches share with one another?
  • How can we help coaches become better coaches?

Best Practice: Appoint ambassadors to support the coaching network and engage external coaches to help develop internal coaches.


7. Structure And Guidelines

To set coaches and coachees up for success, there should be some general structure and guidelines to help manage expectations and ensure consistency.

  • How frequently should coaches and coachees meet?
  • How should coaches and coachees track progress?
  • How should potential challenges be managed?

Best Practice: This should ultimately be left up to the coach and coachee to decide, but there should be some general guidelines and documentation for them to adhere to as a jumping-off point.


8. Measuring Impact

If it’s not being measured, there's a good chance it will be viewed as not important. The sustainability of any program depends on the ability to measure its success. 

  • What metrics do we need to measure at a program level?
  • How will we collect feedback from participants?
  • How can we help coachee’s track their goals?
  • What platform will we use to manage the program?

Best Practice: Ensure your metrics are in line with the purpose and expectations of the senior leadership team. If the purpose of the program is to develop competencies, then your metrics should revolve around measuring competencies.


There you have it: eight best practices to consider when building an internal coaching practice. This is by no means the definitive list, but it should get you started in the right direction.

First seen in Forbes: Read it here

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