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  • Richard Spilg

The Great Retention Challenge

I recently attended a webinar ‘Addressing the Great Resignation’ which focused on the global trend that suggests that 40% of people are considering quitting their jobs. Whether or not that is entirely accurate, the reality is that talent has become harder to retain and the cost attached to replacing ‘good leavers’ is significant. An early suggestion from one of the participants was that the webinar should instead have been called ‘The Great Retention Challenge’.

The imperative to increase salaries and/or benefits to match/exceed offers received by employees is a current reality in a very tight labour market. Provided the employee in question doesn’t feel that they were previously undervalued, an increase in remuneration should, to some degree, mitigate the possibility of losing that person. However, in the current environment where people have experienced a degree of trauma due to Covid and lockdowns, they are increasingly concerned about taking control of their own futures. They also want to be working for organisations whose values align with their own and for leaders who can lead with empathy and compassion.

The consensus from the webinar discussion was that empathy and compassion is the hard part of being a leader, not the easy part. The good news is that these skills can be learnt through self-awareness, training and coaching.

A recent survey conducted across over 300 HR professionals by LHH [1], a global provider of talent and leadership development, revealed the top three drivers for using coaching and mentoring:

  • to provide guidance to help others realise their potential

  • to prepare a pool of talent to fill future critical roles, and

  • to help create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce

A further survey outcome was that 73% of respondents agree or strongly agree that coaching leads to improved individual development and 68% feel that [team coaching] leads to improved organisational performance.

Coincidentally, last month I thought it was time to test my own beliefs about coaching by surveying a sample (thirty) of past and current clients. Not exactly with the robustness required for a PhD thesis but good enough for my purposes. My core belief is that coaching should be an integral part of any leadership development programme because it is the most effective way of facilitating behavioural change. Coaching is a process that differs from most forms of personal and professional development because it is underpinned by self-directed learning.

Of the (anonymous) responses I received to my survey, 33% had invested in coaching due to career transition; 33% are emerging leaders; and 20% had an identified development need. Relevant results from respondents included:

  • 87% agree or strongly agree that coaching facilitates behavioural change

  • 80% agree or strongly agree that coaching works because it entails self-directed learning

  • 80% agree or strongly agree that coaching helped make them a more effective leader

  • 80% agree or strongly agree that coaching helped them achieve congruence between their values and goals

  • 100% agree or strongly agree that coaching is a good investment

  • 100% agree or strongly agree that they would recommend coaching to their colleagues

The LHH survey highlighted some issues for organisations to reflect on:

  • A strong culture is the bedrock of effective coaching and mentoring

  • That coaches, both internal and external, are not always effective. For internal coaches, this means paying more attention to their training as a coach/mentor. For external coaches, to ensure they are properly accredited and qualified

  • That internal coaches are most likely to lack skills when it comes to holding difficult conversations. This is especially true when the coach is someone less senior in the organisation than the person being coached

  • That insufficient time is a top barrier to effective coaching

For coaching to be successful, it needs to be a true partnership between coach and client. Coaching is a profession and the coach’s responsibility is to bring all their skill and experience to bear in every engagement. The client’s responsibility is to be up for the challenge of coaching, be open to being vulnerable, and to embrace the effort and time required to derive the benefits from self-directed learning.

Richard Spilg

November 2021


1 LHH (previously Lee Hecht Harrison). The State of Coaching & Mentoring 2021

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