(Photo by Izusek/iStock by Getty Images)

In this time of record high resignations and difficulty in finding talent, the right benefits package can mean more than salary to employee attraction and retention. One of the benefits that has traditionally been left out of all but high-level packages is coaching.

In a Thought Leadership spotlight at From Day One’s May virtual conference, Sarah Sheehan, co-founder and president of the coaching company Bravely, talked about how providing coaching to an entire company can improve employees’ sense of belonging and well-being. “By creating equity across the organization, we’ve seen much greater outcomes and performance not just at an individual level, but at a company level.”

In the past, individual success meant exceeding all expectations and understanding how the politics worked inside your organization. Value tended to equal the quantity of time you spent in the office. Belonging was about adapting to the organization. People modified their behavior and their workplace identities to fit this paradigm.

Now success means hitting clear goals and collaborating well across functions. Value isn’t about time spent at work, but the output and quality of that work. Belonging is about how companies and their leaders create a sense of safety and space for everyone in the organization, not just the few, and offering resources to everyone, said Sheehan, whose presentation was titled, “Why Company-wide Access to Coaching Is Essential to Organizational Well-being.”

“Employees want a high level of autonomy and flexibility, and they want a clear sense of purpose and a path to their growth,” she said. “It’s a requirement, even at a company like mine, where we’re under 60 people.” If you don’t do this, you can’t retain talent.

A Gallup poll earlier this year showed that about a quarter of employees feel their employers care about their well-being, down 50% from the mid-point of the pandemic. “We are seeing dramatic declines in how people feel about the support that they’re receiving,” Sheehan said.

The emphasis on balance, well-being, and mental and physical health that was present at the start of the pandemic can’t be temporary, says Sheehan. “Employees in organizations that score high on well-being or support of their well-being are 69% less likely to look for another job.”

That statistic can help make the case to provide this kind of resource company wide. It can help employees find resilience to do their best work, to solve personal and work challenges quickly so they can better focus, and to develop skills that ensure they are capable of moving through their career with ease.

Start With Listening to Different Needs

Everyone has different definitions of success, said Sheehan. One person may want to be CEO, another may not, but still wants to contribute at a high level within the organization. “We’ve been wired to reward those people that want to continue to climb the ladder. But others are also significant contributors.”

Sarah Sheehan, co-founder and president of Bravely (Company photo)

She advises that when creating a coaching program, you listen to the different needs of team members. A new mom may need other resources than a 20-something just out of college. And what happens in the world outside work can also impact how well employees work. Recent mass shootings may have left many in the workplace feeling unsettled, even unsafe. The Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and the bevy of reproductive health laws being passed in some states could have a significant impact on your female employees. Reaching out to those who may be feeling that way is an example of showing you care and can help improve a sense of belonging. “Providing confidential resources to support them in these moments is critical.”

Sheehan said any company that isn’t addressing these events is still making a statement to those who feel the weight of them emotionally, and it isn’t a positive one. “Make sure that your people are okay, make sure that your managers are reaching out to people of color on their team, make sure that the organization at large has a message to send of support, because that is what allows people to want to continue to do their best work.”

Providing business and personal coaching to everyone increases the sense of inclusion and belonging. Marginalized and underrepresented groups have historically lacked the same investment by organizations that others have. When you send a signal that everyone will have access to coaching, it is a sign that you want everyone to feel like they belong.

Providing regular access to a coach to identify areas of opportunity, as well as moments that if not addressed can fester into bigger issues, helps people plug into their work. “Coaching is a way to fill the gap for people who are getting ready for the next stage in their career. It’s a great way to invest in them. Ultimately, this unlocks people’s individual potential and the transformation we are all seeking,” Sheehan said.

Make it Employee-driven and Just in Time

“I have a meeting tomorrow with my team, and I’ve got to deliver some tough news, and I’m really nervous about it,” Sheehan said. She worked with her own coach to practice what she was going to stay. And what she learned in that coaching session was something that will stick because it was delivered in a manner and at a time that she needed it. “The next time I have a meeting with my team, whether I have to deliver bad news or not, I’m going to take what I learned and apply it again.”

Even the most engaging of management training can slip one’s mind within a few weeks. But this type of personalized support stays with you. The “mic drop” data points from Bravely support this: 93% of people feel more likely to proactively address the situation after a session, 92% of employees say that they learned a new skill or strategy, and 89% of employees report a more positive outlook on the future of their company.

It can happen in-between other trainings you offer as an organization. “If we are having training on leadership and I can identify some of the areas I need to work on, I can work with a coach to figure out exactly what I need to do,” Sheehan said. And it can amplify support that HR provides. People may not be willing to talk to a manager, and coaching can provide a confidential way to determine the best way to approach a problem.

Sheehan suggested you ask yourself several questions about your coaching program, including:

  • Is coaching readily available to everyone?
  • Is the budget only going towards C-suite level? Managers? Emerging leaders?
  • What is your criteria to determine who those people are?
  • Is the support self-directed?
  • Can employees access it themselves?
  • Is this normalized and encouraged?
  • Do you let them know what resources are available?
  • Do you push them to use those resources?

Once you have a robust program, make sure you track data. Who is using this, which segments, which departments, which roles? What topics do they discuss? More than just changes in retention and engagement, this data can help you spot emerging needs and trends that you might not see with surveys.

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Bravely, who sponsored this Thought Leadership Spotlight.

Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics.