Implementing Onsite Career Coaching

In my January post, I wrote about why a company should engage onsite career coaching.  This month I’ll dive into how to go about.

I can summarize my last post, Investing in Onsite Career Coaching, by saying the reason to offer continual career coaching to employees is to foster employee engagement. And alignment of your overarching company values with your clients and your employees, if indeed your business model places a premium on either or both.

In summary, I said, if you want your customers to be treated well, treat your employees well by engaging them in a work-related way, not just an office perks kind of way.  

This is the key to true employee engagement: When employees believe in the company’s mission, and the company believes in each employee’s mission, the result is strong employee engagement. Both parties will want to do the work. And it is not that hard to achieve this state of affairs.

You probably already have a clear mission for your company. Hopefully it is stated clearly, regularly, and reinforces in all manner of ways including through action. Likewise, all employees have a personal mission. Employees’ missions are their career goals. The short -and long-term goals they have for themselves that will support the life they want to lead. Career goals are usually built on current strengths, motives, stage of life, stage of career, time, dedication, and whether or not the person has a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

If engagement is still not at the level you want in your company, it is probably because your employees have either no career plan or an ineffective one -comprised of very fuzzy end result type goals and no process. This is especially true for employees in the early stages of their careers.  

Career coaching will result in personal career plans and a process that will complete the engagement link between your company and your employees. Through action, employees will understand that the company is concerned about them growing and being challenged. Showing that kind of concern for them will prompt them to be more concerned about the customers. 

So, by helping employees gain some clarity around their own career plans you will end up improving engagement. and thereby helping the business consistently accomplish its mission.

Three Steps to Jumpstart this Achievement Cycle

1. Bring in Specialists

Bring in an independent career coach on a regular basis, say a day a month to begin with. How does this help with engagement?

  1. 1. They can develop self-motivated employees.

Independent coaches work best because their coaching is unbiased and focused on the employee, the establishment of the employee’s career plan, and the associated process plan. This is largely the employee’s work, although it’s supported by a coach who provides some structure and who is a great listener.  It exposes the employee a bit, is somewhat personal, and is the core part of managing their career.  Employees who take the lead on creating career plans are developing themselves and developing the sense that they are in control. The feeling of control over their careers is a huge part of employee self-motivation. Most companies want to have self-motivated employees.

  1. 2. Experienced career coaches can work with an employee in any stage of their career and will not be biased. It’s a perfect capability to outsource.

Career coaching can help employees at every career stage establish a plan and the coach should be experienced enough to have credibility with all levels of employees in your firm. Early stage career employees a few years out of school probably have different career goals and are in a different stage of life from mid-careerists, and mid-career folks may have different career and life goals from those of late career stage employees.

An experienced career coach deals with these dynamics all the time and is effective with any age employee and with employees at any stage in their career. For this narrow topic, a seasoned career coach has an advantage over a company manager, especially a busy one who doesn’t see their primary role as a coach or mentor. That’s one reason why companies often hire coaches for their high potential executives rather than imposing on internal executives to be mentors. Lastly, a manager is inherently biased toward doing a good job as a manager. The metrics for that evaluation rarely include a count of how many employees the manager developed and helped move into more responsible positions. Quite the contrary, sometimes the loss of an employee to another department is considered turnover and for a variety of reasons is undesirable to the manager.

Using specialists to help employees develop a career plan is a more effective choice. And, because it takes the deep, focused skill set of an experienced specialist, it is a prime capability to outsource.  

  1. 3. Career coaches teach agility and adaptability, traits that are directly linked to the success of fast-moving companies.

Finally, the process work a career coach can do with individual clients not only involves mission planning but also execution process planning. How to get from where they are now to what they want to be in the future, and where. This usually involves dealing with change and developing adaptability because unexpected options will undoubtedly present themselves along the way. 

This work inherently promotes what Carol Dweck calls the “learners mindset” in order to learn, improve and successfully move forward. Adaptability, perseverance, and continual learning that underpin the learners mindset are also hallmarks of the kind of employees most employers want. Employees exercise those skills as they execute their plan and those skills are easily transferred to the workplace. As an additional bonus, this attitude is increasingly necessary for companies that are fast-paced and in very competitive climates to prevent stagnation.  Not everyone has the learners mindset but it is a trainable and transferable skill; once someone has it they use it in all aspects of their life. 

2. Promote to Employees

Allow employees to schedule one-hour individual coaching meetings during the work day. These are private sessions where the employee and the coach discuss career planning given the strengths and interests of the employee.

Career coaching isn’t all vision and strategy. It can also include the tactics and tools needed to execute the plan. Skills such as how to: network, find a mentor, interview, and negotiate. So, all employees can find natural starting point to start a discussion. 

Continuous promotion demonstrates belief in the process and helps the program build momentum and produce results quickly. 

Provide the time and the space. Allow your employees to book and keep appointments. 

3. Provide Data to the Career Coach

Providing the Career  Coach with data on formal or informal career paths that already exist is helpful when tying the employee’s plans to company reality.

Although the employee/coach sessions are confidential, in order for the coach to help the employee advance within the company, the company can provide career maps of past employee promotion history (employee to job) or feeder job history (what jobs prepare people for what other jobs within the organization).  

One goal of career coaching is to have the employee formulate a plan for their career and then talk with their managers and mentors inside the company for help integrating their plan into the company’s business strategies.  Giving the coach data on possibilities from the company’s perspective will help the coach support the employee to conduct thoughtful conversations with their manager. 

Expected Results

If you encourage career planning, people will talk about it! It says something positive about the company, and over time it can be incorporated into employment branding.

Employees who are coached to put a career plan together will want to develop mentors within the company to help refine their plans. In all likelihood, this already happens to some degree in the company. Now, however,  the employee will likely drive the agenda, which is usually considered a good thing by most mentors.

Employees will want to talk with their managers about collaborating in a way that helps both the company and the employee. And, those managers who sign up for their own career coaching will be more receptive in most cases.

Finally, your employees will develop new skills, experiences and ways to add value. And they will be doing it a way that intrinsically interests them. Having the employee drive the process removes the responsibility from the employer and puts it where it belongs, with the employee, but facilitated by the company which also benefits.


There is an argument against encouraging employees to develop their own career plans.  

It’s not cost. These programs are relatively inexpensive compared to other trainings, culture building events, or engagement efforts available.

Rather, the company may lose people. Some employees might be in the wrong company and/or the wrong role for them. They may have been hired in that way by mistake, or the situation may have changed over time as the business evolved. Through career coaching they will plan a way to get a job that is a better fit and is more inspiring. If that role doesn’t exist in your company they will leave. 

A rebuttal to this argument is that if employees leave because they are not truly engaged, then that is good for both parties. By definition, employee engagement has to be a win-win proposition. It is in the company’s best interest to support employee goals and aspirations where possible, and where it supports the company’s mission. An unmotivated, unengaged employee in a role, especially a critical role, is at best distracting to teammates and at worst could actually reduce the productivity of the whole team.

Employees that are self-motivated to learn and develop themselves in ways that align with the company’s goals will continually perform at their best, which makes both parties successful.

Career coaching is about developing strengths, clarifying motivators, and then aligning them to the needs of the organization. 

Career coaching is positive, future oriented, and inspiring. It is neither remedial nor required, and does not have a weakness-fixing orientation. 

Net Net

This is a trade. When organizations care about what employees care about, in this case desired career development, then employees will care about the business. It is an obvious thing to do to reinforce a “customer first” business model. 

Career coaching is one of the most effective employee engagement tools that provides real and lasting benefits for both the company and the employee. It demands little from busy managers because it is employee-driven, allowing managers to focus on being leaders and facilitators, not career experts.

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