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Scott Stirrett is founder and CEO of Venture for Canada. Parm Gill is managing partner of the Gill Group and chair of Venture for Canada.

In an increasingly competitive labour market, employers are going to great lengths to attract and retain employees. From free catered lunches to luxurious company retreats, firms try to one-up each other with increasingly opulent but often superficial incentives. Instead, firms should consider offering staff access to meaningful benefits, such as access to third-party coaches. Doing so can be a workplace game-changer, boosting employee engagement and team performance.

Third-party coaching is not new. For decades, many companies have provided senior executives access to coaching services. But it is rare for companies to provide these benefits to junior or mid-level staff, partly because of the high hourly rates charged by many coaching companies. Nevertheless, as coaching has become more mainstream, there are increasingly more affordable options, which make it cost effective to provide these benefits to all staff.

How can companies benefit from providing coaching as a benefit to staff? According to a report from Quantum Workplace and Fierce Conversations, 53 per cent of employees address a “toxic” situation at work by simply ignoring the problem. A coach can work with an employee to provide advice for how to successfully navigate a frustrating workplace situation, thereby enhancing employee engagement and even reducing staff turnover over time.

Leveraging independent coaches will increase a company’s ability to attract employees. According to research from Bravely Inc., a human-resources startup, employees who fail to “confront their situation head on often [take] their negative attitudes elsewhere,” and are eight times more likely to write a negative review on jobsite Glassdoor Inc., which then makes it more challenging for a company to recruit high-potential staff, given how often job-seekers reference the website’s publicly available data.

More than just increasing a company’s recruitment capabilities, coaches can augment an organization’s ability to retain staff. Employee turnover is expensive: The disruption, loss of business, time spent hiring a new employee etc., can quickly add up to the equivalent of 40 per cent of the individual’s annual salary. Investing in meaningful benefits that result in enhanced staff retention improves a company’s bottom line.

Offering coaches to employees is an integral component of fostering a company culture that values learning and development, which according to a study from Globoforce and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), is a shared attribute of more than 90 per cent of award-winning workplaces.

If coaching can benefit a company’s culture, why can’t coaching be provided by in-house staff rather than third-party contractors? Unfortunately, there is a fundamental lack of trust between human-resources departments and employees in most companies. The aforementioned Bravely study found that only 19 per cent of employees feel comfortable going to HR with issues, which is one of the main reasons why so many major issues go unaddressed. Moreover, 93 per cent of managers do not feel they have the appropriate training to be effective coaches, according to Globoforce/SHRM. Effective coaches are highly trained, and require impartiality and confidentiality. If a company is going to invest in coaching for staff, it should engage trained, experienced and unbiased coaches.

As the coaching industry grows, there are increasing challenges with ascertaining the efficacy of coaches, given the relatively low barrier to entry for someone to open a coaching practice. Therefore, in engaging third-party coaches, it is important for companies to conduct significant due diligence. Moreover, any successful coaching relationship involves an employee enthusiastic about working with a coach, very positive rapport between the coach and the staff member, and clear objectives established by all parties. When offering third-party coaching services as an employee benefit, it is important that there are the right preconditions and that professional highly skilled coaches are being engaged.

More companies should consider providing employees with access to third-party coaches, who can foster enhanced employee engagement and performance. Many senior executives credit much of their success to a coach that supported their development. Let’s create a workplace where access to coaching is no longer the domain of a privileged few, but a resource that all employees can benefit from, with the end result being more highly engaged teams, who are better positioned to create successful Canadian firms that can grow globally.

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