ATD Blog

Implementing a Coaching Program on a Budget

Monday, November 20, 2017

When we read articles and books on coaching, the authors tend to lay out elaborate programs with many levels of interaction, heavy administration, and high costs. The best way to begin coaching is to start small—small in planning, implementation, and budget. Starting small allows you and the organization to: 

  • pilot an approach without wasting resources
  • design a three- to five-year roll out that allows time for allocating funds and building off of initial success
  • market the success of the initial efforts by highlighting coaching in company newsletters and blogs, having high-level role models give testimonials during special meetings, and sending pertinent articles to managers and leaders
  • use coaching in partnership with other efforts in order to pave the way and build off of existing programs
  • purposefully create a “coaching culture” through constant socialization of the concept. 

Here are some ideas for implementing coaching purposefully with few resources.

Create a Pool of Internal Coaches 

Educate your HR department (even it is just you!) in the science and art of coaching. In addition, identify good managers or leaders who naturally have the kind of skills and attitude to become coaches. Your goal is to create an internal pool of coaches. Hire an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified coach to design and offer your group a two-day coaching course. This course should cover both the process and mindset of coaching. 

Convene the coaching pool on a regular basis to discuss assigned books in the field, and later to coach one another. Furthermore, have the group help to create coaching guidelines and procedures for your organization. Books such as Organizational Coaching: Building Relationships and Programs That Drive Results provide a coaching model, tools, and guidelines that any organization can adopt. 

Then, identify one part of the organization (accounting department, western region, call center area) or one level of the organization (high potentials, managers on a leadership track, employees in key positions) and approach them to engage in coaching as a developmental opportunity. Finally, advertise the successes of this beginning group, build off of the momentum, and begin to expand the process. 

Another version of this approach is to send one internal person with natural coaching instincts and support her in getting ICF certified. Then have that person be your internal expert who provides the two-day training and ongoing development of internal coaches. Continually develop the coaching pool through pertinent readings, guest speakers, and attendance at area coach association meetings.


Institute a 360-Assessment System for Key Leadership Groups

Again, identify key leaders who are supportive of such efforts and form a pilot group. Be sure to introduce a 360-assessment solution as a development tool, not a performance appraisal tool. The 360 process should be implemented six months before or after the formal appraisal process. Each leader should then complete a development plan based on the 360 results. He should then choose two or three of the development goals as part of his formal appraisal. Thus, a person is NOT evaluated on the results of the 360 assessment; rather, the person is evaluated on what he did about it. 

Next, stipulate that the leaders who receive a 360 assessment must engage in three coaching sessions in order to process the 360 results. You can control the cost of this kind of coaching implementation by keeping the number of recipients at a minimum as you advertise the results and gain support for more funds. 

Build Coaching Into the Leadership and Management Development Training Program

As with the 360 assessment, have all training participants engage in three coaching sessions as part of the training. This can also include a 360 assessment or some other assessment tool. As with the 360 program, you begin to make coaching a “regular tool that we use” and a comfortable part of the organization’s culture.


Build a Pool of Outside Coaches for Selected Top Executives

The cost of this approach has the potential of getting expensive, but there are several things you can do mitigate costs. Create guidelines for how much you will pay external coaches. Find out the market for coaches in your area and establish your rate slightly lower. What you will be doing is promising a contract where the coach knows she is part of an ongoing pool. This provides a certain number of coaching assignments and some security for the outside coach, which will allow her to take a slightly lower fee. 

A typical program might include three to six coaches. Interview potential coaches and then offer contracts to those who you believe would be good for your senior leaders (typically directors and above). Develop a defined process that the external coaches must follow: administer a 360 instrument, conduct up to 6 coaching hours over a period of four months, and work with the leader on focused development goals. 

A way to gain support for this effort is to get permission to hire a top-notch coach to coach two senior executives in the organization. Approach two executives who believe in the potential of coaching and use them as your role models and champions of the process. Have those executives share their experience with other executives and have them spearhead a decision on financing a coaching program for executives. 

For all of the above efforts, it is important to measure success and highly publicize the results. Distribute the outcomes and other research that proves how coaching improves retention, engagement, bottom-line results, faster development of high potentials, recruitment, and dialogue throughout an organization. Use these results to negotiate for more funds to build on your initial pilots. Present an entire three- to five-year year plan, emphasizing a realistic cost-benefit analytics—how an initial investment of $X will lead to positive results of $X. 

For more information on tools to prove the ROI of coaching, check out our book, Everyday Coaching, and Measuring the Success of Coaching by Jack J. Phillips, Patti Phillips, and  Lisa Ann Edwards. 

About the Author

With more than 25 years of experience and a doctorate in human resource and organization development, Dr. Virginia Bianco-Mathis is considered a leader in her field. Her background includes a core set of industry positions, extensive consulting with corporate and agency executives, and publications and presentations in the areas of organizational change, leadership development, consulting skills, executive team building and facilitation, coaching, career management, conflict and dialogue, and strategic planning.  Dr. Bianco-Mathis has held positions in human resources, strategy, and organization development at C&P Telephone, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, and The Artery Organization. Presently, she is a Professor in the School of Business, Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing, at Marymount University.  She teaches courses in organization development, team and group dynamics, leadership, consulting skills, executive coaching, and strategy. She also is a partner with the Strategic Performance Group. Her present consulting engagements include leadership development, executive coaching, strategic planning, team building, and organizational change. Current clients include AARP, Department of Agriculture, Seyfarth Law, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Phillips Corporation, MSRB, and Next Century Computing.  Dr. Bianco-Mathis has given major presentations at several international conferences, and has written numerous articles for the Washington Business Journal and a blog (“On Success”) for The Washington Post.  

About the Author

Lisa Nabors is a partner with Strategic Performance Group and is recognized by the International Coach Federation as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC). Ms. Nabors is a talented speaker and often makes presentations on the topic of coaching to industry and professional groups. She began coaching during her 16 years of experience as a successful, senior-level HR and training and development professional in private industry. Her passion is in optimizing individual, team, and organization performance, and her coaching clients include managers, executives, and teams in organizations such as AOL, AARP, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. Nabors' coaching expertise includes gathering and feeding back data, helping clients to generate alternatives, identifying key metrics and creating action plans designed to achieve specific, measurable results. Ms. Nabors is a certified user of all Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) 360-degree feedback instruments, the BarOn EQi and EQ 360, LEI, APT 360 Instruments, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, and many customized instruments. She is an adjunct faculty member for Marymount University and the George Washington University, and she is the co-author of Leading From the Inside Out: A Coaching Model (Sage, 2002).

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