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ATD Blog

Got Tough Talent Challenges? Coaching May Help.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Today’s talent challenges are myriad. We have been finding without a doubt that employees want chances to grow their skills and themselves in the professional and personal realm. Further, people want to bring their whole selves to work. Amid the remote work many of us have experienced in the past three years, our social needs, desires, and humanity have become even more apparent. And when the needs for being who we are and growing aren’t met, employees look elsewhere. They are no longer content with settling for an OK professional situation.

Coaching can help these issues, says Lisa Ann Edwards. In the update of her 2014 issue of TD at Work, “Creating an Internal Coaching Program,” Edwards ties together coaching and today’s talent challenges. The recently released issue, “Tackle Talent Needs With Internal Coaching,” provides insight into different coaching formats for each of these purposes: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), retention, and employee development, and how each looks in practice.


One-on-one coaching and group coaching are both valid structures for DEI programs. A critical aspect of DEI coaching is to create a safe space because conversations around diversity can be sensitive. Group coaching doesn’t need to separate employees by race, ethnicity, or another group representation. Consider instead mixing up underrepresented and majority group employees so that majority represented groups can better understand the experiences of their underrepresented colleagues.

Edwards recommends, “Before designing a DEI coaching solution, gain a thorough understanding of the organization’s current state related to diversity and inclusion, and align stakeholders around a shared vision.”



Individual coaching, group coaching, and connecting training and coaching are all means to coach for retention. What is critical is determining the root cause of retention issues. Are employees leaving because they don’t have an opportunity to learn and grow? Is onboarding lacking, and do new employees feel like they don’t quite fit in?

How can you remedy retention issues? Create a group coaching program for new hires that will help them feel more connected. Provide managers with the tools to have coaching conversations with their direct reports to determine what they want out of their career and what would help them stay.
Edwards advises giving the coaching program a name that will inspire participants. Consider the Inner Circle for new hires. Or Reboot for employees who are burned out.


Employee Development

There are several formats to use for employee development coaching as well. Offer training for mentors who aren’t skilled in coaching, for example. Edwards stresses that group training can bolster mentoring conversations: “Invite both mentors and mentees to training sessions. Design training topics to align with the program’s business case; training topics will then provide fodder for the one-to-one-mentoring conversation,” which is another format employee development coaching can take.

A common theme of these coaching programs is that of establishing a solid business case. Understand what success will look like, and document results so you can share them with business leaders, the organization more broadly, and as part of your brand. Coaching can help not only retain current employees but draw new hires.

Culture of Coaching

While coaching in the past was often set aside for senior leaders due to the cost and other resource commitments around the program, that is no longer the case. Organizations can strive to implement a coaching program for specific purposes and create a culture where employees embrace coaching.

Start with senior leaders and build from there, documenting early wins and publicizing them to energize staff. Develop an internal coaching team, and before you know it, your organization will be one that embraces coaching throughout.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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