Afiniti Insights

The Benefits of Coaching in the Workplace: Talent Insight

We believe in enabling our clients to do change better by building their internal capability. This, along with our core value of people at the heart, means we take the development of our own people extremely seriously, which allows them to thrive with Afiniti while delivering more for our clients.

One way we do this is through mentoring, which allows newer members of the team to learn directly from more experienced colleagues. Feedback has been extremely positive – senior consultant Eleanor said of her experience:

“I have found huge value in mentoring. Having a safe environment to work through real-world challenges has supported me in navigating a new phase in my career, focusing on tangible outcomes.”

Her mentor, managing consultant and Afiniti partner Sarah Matthews, said:

“It’s been super to see such confidence develop over this mentoring journey – the capability was always there, it has just helped to unlock the self-belief.”

Another mentee, consultant Brionni Simmons explained:

“My confidence has grown immensely since having a mentor. My mentor challenges me in a way that has expanded my thinking.”

Brionni’s mentor, principal consultant Adam Smith, remarked:

“By exploring real-life scenarios we have been able to test new ways of approaching complex situations, and therefore seen different results.”

With the benefits of mentoring very apparent, two members of the team took this one step further and ran a coaching pilot. We spoke with managing consultant Joanna Fay (coach) and senior consultant Amy (coachee) about their experience and some of the benefits of coaching.

Tell me about your recent coaching experience. What were the objectives, and how did coaching help to achieve them?

We want to tap into the unique strengths of each of our consultants to really help them develop and flourish. So, I formally coached Amy over a three-month period last year with the aim of accelerating the experience that often comes with time ‘on the job’.

We committed to three SMART objectives and met weekly so we could really commit. Each session was different based on what came up in my work or even my life, which made the learning directly applicable, though we kept those SMART objectives in mind. I’m delighted to share that I met or exceeded all of my objectives!

What are the differences between coaching vs mentoring?

Coaching is based on the principle that we all have the answer we need inside, and so as a ‘pure’ coach you just need to be an honest, non-judgemental soundboard  who asks meaningful questions to help someone find their own answers. You don’t advise, and you don’t offer solutions.

Mentoring is based on sharing your own experience so others can learn. Again, you don’t advise or offer solutions, however, you do offer your own insights for someone to consider. More often than not, effective mentors will leverage coaching skills.

Coaching presents questions that make you think about situations and map them in your mind in different ways. The coach helps you to draw the answers out. Jo’s blended approach meant I wasn’t focused on what was mentoring vs what was coaching; I just felt like I was building my own toolkit for success.

What are the benefits of coaching in the workplace?

For individuals, it’s dedicated time for development in a space where you can be you, reflect and think aloud to find the answers you need with the help of a soundboard. It’s great to have a cheerleader – someone who can help you be the best you can be and hold yourself to account.

As a coach, I love seeing others develop and feel very privileged to play a small part in helping them realise their potential. I’ve also learned so much from Amy!  

For an organisation, the benefits include increased engagement and productivity. We’re curious beings and tend to seek out the ‘why’ behind tasks so we can connect with a bigger purpose. Coaching is a very effective form of enabling individuals to do this, which leads to increased motivation and productivity.   

Additionally, you would expect retention rate to increase because you’re investing in your workforce; who doesn’t love to feel valued and invested in?

Early in your career, it’s easy to get lost in everything or even feel like an imposter, so having someone who’s been in your shoes made me more confident.

I enjoyed the chance to build softer skills like conflict resolution and emotional resilience; you don’t usually get to work on those unless you’re in a real situation!

This programme was unique because it blended coaching with mentoring and professional with personal development. It was designed to accelerate the experience you can only really gain ‘on the job’ and gave Amy the time to simulate, in a safe space, the kinds of situations she might not have faced for several years.

What are some of the key components and best practices of a coaching programme?

It’s not dissimilar to consulting; as consultants, we listen to what clients need to achieve and then collaborate to help them devise a solution. The ability to really listen, understand and not be afraid to ask difficult questions is key.

The difference is that, as a coach, your role is not to advise on specific solutions; you build the trust and create the right environment for someone to find their own answers.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and as a coach you work with your client/coachee to build this, respecting the confidential boundaries of the relationship.

You also need to be comfortable holding someone to account, which is where establishing a coaching agreement is useful. The agreement sets out what each party is committing and, for example, may outline how someone wants to be held to account.

As a coachee, it’s important to be open to conversations and suggestions. Being honest and unguarded means you can get the most out of it – trust the process!

Did you face any challenges during your coaching experience, and how were these addressed?

Because this was an innovative, blended coaching programme, we didn’t have a blueprint to work from, so those initial conversations were critical to being clear on our objectives. This enabled me to flex the framework and iterate our approach.

Because this was new, there wasn’t a benchmark, however, we had baselined where I was at the start so we could see how far I’d grown and demonstrate the value of coaching.

What steps can organisations take to realise the benefits of coaching in the workplace?

Start doing it! You can’t expect just anyone to be a coach, but you can certainly start getting people to build those skills now.

And be clear about what you want to achieve; what is your why? Be clear on the outcome you want and open to how you’ll find that solution. A good coach will ask the questions to help you define what you want to achieve, why and how you’re going to get there.

If you’d like to be part of an organisation that genuinely puts its people at the heart and invests in their development, find out more about life at Afiniti here.

Amy Mallen
Amy Mallen
Senior Consultant
Amy is a senior consultant who enjoys working with clients to deliver positive change. She has experience in different industries including employee research and the public sector.
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