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Talent Management: Can Coaching be the Cornerstone in Today’s Modern Workplace?

Publication Date: Nov 28, 2019

Written by: Daniela Chetcuti

Chetcuti Daniela 188884.jpgBusinesses today face increased global competition, fluid markets, and everchanging shifts brought by technology; which makes attracting, developing and retaining the ideal skilled workers a constant challenge.  Human Resources departments can set the stage for success by hiring and training capable employees.  However, the development of those employees into dynamic, motivated, long-term contributors in the company’s deliverables must be the responsibility of all management.

This is achieved through Talent Management, which requires the cooperation and communication of managers at all levels. It has become a crucial practice in the face of today’s business challenges.  In addition, talent management processes must be more strategic, connected, and broad-based than ever before.

By definition, according to several scholars, Talent Management is a term that extends over a wide set of activities, such as succession planning, employees’ loyalty and trust, resource planning, employee performance and so on.  Others describe it as a systematic and dynamic process of discovering, developing and sustaining talent.  To drive performance, deal with an incredibly fast pace of change, and create sustainable growth, a company must integrate and align these talent acquisition related activities with its business strategies.  By assessing available talent and placing the right people in their best roles, organisations can survive and thrive in today’s increasingly competitive markets.

However, Talent Management is not solely meant for enhancing and retaining the talent of people within the organisation. It is about maximising everyone’s strengths, supporting diversity, and encouraging creativity and innovation.  It aims at creating a work environment where the organisation reverberates with drive and passion of employees. The key point for management here is that talent or skills are not a constant; rather, they need to be continuously fostered, nourished and retained.  This is true especially in today’s technical landscape.  MITA’s current move to Cloud-based Technologies, requires a broad set of skills which were previously untapped.  Taking development as an example, the individual will now require investing time and effort to acquire skills outside the traditional programming domain, including IT networking skills, security skills and the like.  No longer are employees boxed into one domain for the duration of their careers. Rather at MITA, through our Career Progression framework, and Fellowship Programme, employees are encouraged to explore various emerging technologies and increase their appetite towards learning for growth.

6H6A1067.JPGThis is highly relevant in the context of Artificial Intelligence (AI), whereby research and development in this domain requires a different set of skills besides expertise in certain programming languages. These include, great problem solving and analytical skills, to be able to perform their work efficiently in terms of identifying which algorithms to apply for different problems and within multiple domains. Moreover, knowledge of probability, statistics and mathematics is required to fully understand different AI concepts and models, not to mention the ability to use the right metrics to evaluate such AI models. However, there are other natural skills required to be able to excel in such a domain; that of being creative and curious in order to identify innovative ways on how to approach and find solutions to certain problems. A continuous learning appetite and a passion to succeed (i.e., a never giving up attitude) is also a must for AI professionals to be successful, since it is very important that they keep themselves updated with the latest developments and practices, due to the highly dynamic nature of the technology industry. Therefore, AI upskilling should also include participation into the appropriate online communities, meet-ups, conferences and workshops, besides traditional classroom and online-based learning. This is all part of MITA’s journey towards promoting professional development, whereby we are instilling a culture of innovation through emerging technologies which shall strengthen employees’ growth and their personal development, thus ensuring employee retention.

This is where coaching and training come in, to help maintain a viable talent culture across the organisation.

Training is considered as the go-to upskilling method; the de facto approach towards personal and professional development.  Everyone knows what it means and what it does; it’s been around for ages with the notion of ‘practice makes perfect’. But what about coaching? Reality is that coaching has been around for thousands of years.  The early Olympians had coaches to help them train, Socrates lost his life for it; today coaching is a must for athletes from a young age. What about using coaching as a methodology to help sharpen and/or develop skills which are being demanded to indeed help professionals to survive and thrive in today’s modern workplace?

Coaching has been confused with several other methodologies including mentoring, performance management, performance feedback and employee counselling.  Coaching is none of this; however, it does provide a bridge to carry out these activities.  Coaching is an exploratory and purposeful conversation between two people to create an environment of trust.  It is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying assumptions. In fact, critical thinking and keeping an open mind are key aspects that need to accompany AI development, since several days or months are sometimes required for developing the right solutions. Such needs require a high degree of perseverance and patience, which cannot be easily attained through traditional training. Thus, coaching could truly be another tool in management’s arsenal for skills retention.     

For it to be a cooperative dialogue, coaching must be freely offered and received by choice.  The power is at the receiving end. This makes the receiver or the coachee, the owner of the conversation and thus gains a sense of action to address the shortcomings or ideas that come out of the coaching session.  Coaching is effective because it is personal.  If a business coach is sitting with a coachee, the conversation revolves around what particular skills and behaviours the coachee might need to add in their toolkit to get closer to what the coachee wants to achieve.  What’s more is that the session can switch gears, based on what becomes important to the coachee’s career and growth, not because it is the next chapter in a book or in the teacher’s notes. 

6H6A1153.JPGThis ability to switch gears during the coaching relationship is the key to keeping coaches from falling into the trap of “always telling” or “tasking”.  A coach’s job is to suggest, but also be sure to ask the coachee how they can apply those suggested ideas to their own work.  As mentioned earlier, because the coachee is the owner of the conversation, it is important for the coach to always bring the coachee back into the conversation and put them into an action-oriented frame of mind.  Talent development through coaching is all about asking the right questions and give a little less advice.

According to a study on the global workplace, conducted by Gallup, a Management and Consulting company based in Washington D.C., only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work or are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organisations.  This makes the other 87 percent of employees not necessarily engaged.  Considering these numbers, bringing coaching into organisations and integrating it with the company’s talent management strategy, can be of great benefit. 

When done well, coaching can deliver good results: solutions to short-term problems, answers to long-term decisions and self-aware, more engaging employees. At the core of coaching there is the comfort that someone else cares enough to listen, ask engaging questions and help the coachee realise that probably, hidden in fog of emotion, they had the answer within them all along.