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Building a Coaching Culture that Changes—and Saves—Lives

Published Wed Oct 09 2019


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How can you encourage people to become creative in a sometimes-non-creative work environment, such as health care? This is a challenge that National HR Division of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) set out to address.

With more than 120,000 employees to manage and a whole country to provide health care to, HSE must take a unique approach to human capital development. In 2011, the team introduced coaching to improve patient experiences through stretching and pushing employees to unlock their potential and use creativity and intelligence to solve problems. Fueled by the passion of Rosarii Mannion, HSE’s national human resources director, and her team, coaching has become an integral part of the organization.

Their strategy has helped lead over 8,200 employees to transformational coaching. All employees have access to professional coaching, and they’re encouraged to consider the service at critical moments for their team or organization (e.g., a change management initiative), as well as to sharpen their own personal and professional competencies (e.g., moving forward and getting “unstuck,” conflict management, managing people or teams, pursuing work-life balance, and managing stress). Leaders are using a coach approach in meetings, briefings and strategy sessions. Coaching is supported from “hire to retire” at a senior level.

“Coaching was offered to me when I attended the Occupational Health Department following a traumatic event at work,” one employee said. “It helped me think about what was important to me and helped me work out forward thinking values for myself. If it wasn’t for coaching, I would still be on sick leave.”

Since coaching was implemented at HSE, employees’ use of sick leave has significantly decreased. Two-thirds of staff members agree that coaching has enhanced teamwork, and front-line employees (i.e., individuals who deliver patient care) say coaching has left them more prepared to address stressful situations—a critical impact in the health care world. Meanwhile, patient mortality rates have decreased, demonstrating the literal capacity of HSE’s strong coaching culture to save lives.

HSE has developed a governance model for regulating and guiding coaching that aligns with ICF’s standards and Code of Ethics. All HSE coaches are required to complete accredited coach-specific training, and HSE delivers its own ICF-accredited training for internal coach practitioners. It has also invested in a leadership academy where leaders look at and consider what skills and patterns they’d like to see in their employees and use coaching from start to finish within the academy. The coaching culture developed through the leadership academy has contributed to support at every level of the organization.

“Investment in coaching is a key component of our leadership strategy, generating significant benefits for our staff. This, in turn, translates to a better experience for our public and patients,” Mannion said.

Looking to the future, HSE hopes to continue to tailor its coaching practices to meet the needs of the employees while supporting and offering robust professional development opportunities for its cadre of coaches. Leaders within the organization constantly listen to and engage with coaches to ensure that they’re well-prepared to meet the ever-changing needs within HSE.

Because of its strong coaching culture, HSE was recognized as winner of the International Coach Federation’s (ICF) 2018 ICF International Prism Award. ICF’s Prism Award program honors organizations that have achieved the highest standard of excellence in coaching programs that yield discernible and measurable positive impacts, fulfill rigorous professional standards, address key strategic goals, and shape organizational culture. Learn more about the Prism Award and read case studies from past honorees at coachfederation.org/prism.

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