The benefits of coaching are vast, including everything from improved employee engagement and motivation to identifying and developing employees. However, “Coaching has typically been reserved for the select few, or ‘high potentials,’” says Phillip Roark, chief executive officer of Insala, a talent development software and consulting provider. As a result, lower-level employees miss out on this opportunity to grow professionally, and organizations fail to realize the full potential of their workforce.

Some innovative organizations have recognized that offering coaching as an employee benefit is a smart move for all involved. Organizations benefit from improved performance, retention and engagement, and employees receive the support they need to reach their goals.

Benefits for Employees

As the workplace evolves, and millennial and Generation Z employees become the majority of the workforce, opportunities for professional development and coaching must be a top priority, says Matt Powell, product marketing manager at Docebo. “These are generations who place more emphasis on their ability to develop their careers than they do about how much money they make.”

Coaching offers employees strategic guidance on how to reach their full potential in order to achieve their career goals. Essentially, it’s about helping employees understand what they’re doing well and what they need to improve in order to advance their professional development, says Marty Smuin, chief operating officer of Weave, a business software company. “Having the ability to understand what you do well, and being able to really build on that, is a cornerstone in a lot of people’s careers,” he adds.

Roark says coaching can also help employees build confidence, develop a professional network, keep themselves accountable and improve their communication skills. Additionally, “Coaching engages employees into the company culture, which often suffers due to the shift towards digitization. Employees can view the organization from a different perspective when connected to a coach to understand more about the culture and politics within the organization,” he notes.

It’s clear that many employees want — and benefit from — professional coaching. But how can training professionals ensure coaching initiatives also benefit the bottom line?

Benefits for the Organization

The return on investment (ROI) of coaching comes in many forms. Roark says that by fulfilling employees’ personal desire for professional development, coaching “naturally increases” employee engagement, retention and productivity.

For maximum business results, coaching must be connected to learning. “This might sound obvious,” Powell says, “but as technology evolves, a connection between the coaching and the content to support that coaching has to exist.” Without this connection, engagement, retention and effectiveness are limited. “The key is tying coaching to performance, with the learning acting as the catalyst that brings the two together,” he says.

For coaching to make an organizational impact, it’s important to pair employees with a coach who understands their individual needs and motivations. Smuin says, “If we’re going to get the maximum degree of output from an employee, it’s going to require that they really do have a good relationship with the coach.”

Learning leaders must work to build this relationship early on, as the “coaching journey” begins even before employees meet their coach, as early as the first time they hear about the coaching opportunity, says Deb Wolf, chief marketing officer of BetterUp, a mobile career and life coaching platform. Learning leaders should reiterate that coaching is a service offered to employees because the organization believes in their potential, she notes. By making employees feel valued in their roles, they are more likely to benefit from the coaching relationship, and they are more likely to want to reach their full potential.

For organizations that don’t have the budget to coach all employees, Sarah Levitt, executive coach, keynote speaker and author of “Magnificent Leadership,” suggests coaching successful leaders to become even better, as it will create a “far-reaching rippled effect” from the original investment.

To measure ROI, Smuin suggests conducting periodic surveys to “gauge the effectiveness” of organization-wide coaching initiatives. At BetterUp, Wolf says, the ROI of coaching is measured through pre- and post-assessment data. L&D professionals can access real-time aggregated data on factors such as engagement, strengths and progress, which can prove coaching’s impact on the business.

The Future of Coaching

As we move into the future of work, technology is becoming part of the coaching experience. For example, Docebo recently launched Virtual Coach, a “proactive learning coach” that allows learners to receive the coaching they want, when they want it, Powell says. “In many ways, technology is the catalyst that enables the creation of a continuous coaching culture, in that it’s proactive — an always-on coach.”

Virtual coaching platforms not only support learners in their point of need but also accelerate their learning journey, whether it’s during onboarding, professional development, or simply seeking out “specific pills or snippets” of information on a particular topic that will help them complete at certain task in the moment.

BetterUp developed a machine learning (ML) algorithm that analyzes data points related to user needs and preferences and then matches users to three coaches who are likely to be the right fit, Wolf says. “Choice is such an important part of coaching, so once our algorithm narrows down the choice from thousands of coaches to three coaches, we invite the user to identify which coach they’d most like to work with,” she notes.

Although coaching has largely been an in-person experience in the past, “the world of work has shifted,” Wolf says. Now, 30-minute virtual coaching sessions, followed up with “clear action items,” better meet the needs of today’s professionals, she explains.

By offering coaching as a company-wide employee benefit, organizations can see retention improve, engagement increase and performance soar — and employees will receive the professional development they’re looking for. It’s a win-win.