HomeEmployee ExperienceDEI&BDiversity & InclusionThe cost of unequal access: Why and how to democratize coaching

The cost of unequal access: Why and how to democratize coaching

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Coaching is often seen as a perk reserved for top executives or struggling employees. But as organizations face challenges such as high turnover, low engagement, and the need to develop talent at all levels, democratizing coaching could be the key to unlocking potential and improving retention.

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If you’ve ever received coaching from an external party on workplace issues and opportunities, you have likely said to yourself that everyone should benefit from the space, open questions, support, and challenge that it provides.

However, most organizations only provide coaching to senior colleagues, talent, and leaders at the top. Companies use it to support succession, as a reward when achieving a promotion, and very occasionally as a remedial intervention.

Part of the reason that coaching is reserved for a select few is that it is not cheap, and rightly so. Coaches have extensive training and expertise, help you achieve your goals, and provide a bespoke one-to-one relationship.

Consider the current context. The great resignation is driving high turnover in many organizations. There is a loss of engagement from staff and inconsistent performance. There is also a renewed focus on inclusivity and a rapid pace of change.

Democratizing coaching so that it is not just available to a select few in your organization, but to everyone, is a vital part of the answer to developing, retaining, and unlocking the potential in your staff.

Here are six ways to democratize coaching in your organization.

1. Establish group coaching

Group coaching is an effective way to begin to democratize coaching in organizations. It can stimulate constructive change and an entrepreneurial outlook in staff. What’s more, it breaks down a silo mentality among departments. It encourages peer consultation and collaboration. It can integrate professional development and performance.

This makes it a good option for those who want to build and accelerate the organization’s learning capacity and share intelligence across generations and levels of employees. As it is not one-to-one, you can impact more individuals for the same budget. But you must seek a coach that is skilled at managing group dynamics.

2. Leverage emerging technology

Coaching went online during the global pandemic. For most coaches, it has stayed that way. It has proved to be a time and cost-efficient approach. Use the vast array of tools now available to automate routine processes such as scheduling sessions, tracking goals, sending invoices, and storing coaching notes.

Technology can also provide the tools needed to gauge impact. Consider using platforms that connect staff to coaches for just-in-time coaching or internal supporting materials and enable tracking by the organization

Limited artificial intelligence coaching is also on the market, usually via chatbots and on extremely specific topics. At present artificial reality is likely to complement and sustain real-life coaching rather than replace it.

3. Embrace diversity coaching

Historically, there has been little diversity in the coaching field. But this is changing.

Part of democratizing coaching is ensuring that your staff has a diverse range of coaches to choose from. Many employees require coaches whose lived experience reflects their own.

It is unrealistic to expect your coaches to always belong to the same demographic as those at the top of the organization whilst possessing the expertise you need. Part of the work of democratizing coaching in your organization is understanding that you may need to diversify your criteria for coaches. Organizations like the diverse executive coach directory are springing up to aid the process.

4. Employ managers who coach

A coaching culture improves not only the way employees interact with each other but also the interactions they have with customers and potential clients. Building conversational and coaching skills daily can enable radical organizational transformation as well as increase staff retention. These skills should be in all your manager’s toolkits.

5. Use internal coaches

Internal coaches understand the organization’s culture and processes better than their external counterparts.

Because of their immersion in the organization’s culture, they know what kind of training programs and coaching methods are best for the organization and its employees. They are also a sustainable way of employing coaching in your organizations. A drawback of using internal coaches is confidentiality. This safety can be more difficult to nurture when working with internal coaches. The point is to use the right balance and blend for your company and people.

6. Run one-off sessions

A final approach is to offer fewer sessions. A typical relationship consists of six sessions over six months. Many organizations are beginning to offer one-off sessions, with a maximum of two follow on sessions if needed. Organizations are also being specific on topics coaches should focus on, be it well-being or managing people. While not ideal, it does mean that as many staff as experience the sessions as possible.

Whatever you do to democratize coaching in your organization, ensure that you measure its impact so that you can understand what works and do more of it.


Jenny Garrett OBE is an award-winning career coach, leadership trainer, speaker & author of Equality vs Equity: Tackling Issues of Race in the Workplace.

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