On-boarding coaching: the positive difference

By Karen Carter, University of Gloucestershire, Organisational Change and People Development Manager

We piloted on-boarding coaching earlier this year, with four members of staff who had been newly appointed or newly promoted to senior management roles. We started to consider this following feedback from some participants on our senior development programme (that was initiated and rolled out last Autumn), that they would have found coaching at the entry point to their roles particularly helpful.

We know that joining organisations at a management or executive level is a demanding experience, both for the individual & the organisation. This is all the more so when the organisation is also undergoing rapid change. Further exploration reveals that the failure rate of executives in UK organisations is rarely a failing in the hiring process, but more commonly a failure to recognise the difficulty of joining and leading in a new organisation.

Our pilot participants included a Head of School, a Head of Institute, a Dean of Quality and Standards and a Subject Group Leader. The intervention consists of a one and a half hour coaching session with an external coach within the first four to six weeks of starting, that helps with orientation, includes a health check on how the person is getting on, and sets a plan for the coming months. Some participants chose to have one or two further coaching sessions.

The evaluation showed that the most helpful aspects included: feeling valued and having confidence in the University, because it had invested in them from the start; putting ‘new person’ fears into perspective; and receiving reassurance that their experience was ‘normal’, given the organisational context, rate of change, and culture. Outcomes included: setting expectations around developing a face to face communication culture; changing behaviour to be consistent with positive intentions; committing to mindfulness practice; and snapping into a broader focus congruent with operating at a higher level.

As a result of this positive feedback we have incorporated on-boarding coaching into the induction programme for all new senior managers.

After six months in post all senior managers go on to participate in the senior management development programme, which consist of 360 feedback and a coaching session. This gives them the opportunity for coaching support at the point when they are challenging the status quo, as well as assessing their connection with colleagues, hearing observations around how they lead and feeding development actions into the continuous Staff Review and Development process.