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Executive Coaching and the Future of HR

executive coaching

You know how the best professionals make everything look easy? LeBron James causally driving for an unfeasible layup. Martha Stewart whipping up a five-tiered cake while sipping a cocktail. As an HR leader, your job this year is to manage the impossible and look good doing it. Piece of Martha-Stewart-lemon-chiffon cake, right?

Hiring, onboarding and compliance are huge issues in 2021, but they’re not alone on the priority list. Employers desperately need their HR professionals’ inspiring leadership, organizational design troubleshooting, emotional intelligence, and people-first thinking to navigate through the current business climate.

But how do you prioritize initiatives that are just emerging? And how do you balance them against your more traditional HR priorities? Executive coaching can help.

Shifting Priorities

Gartner recently released the Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2021, which include hiring and people management priorities that have dramatically changed in the pandemic era. Topping the list is the need to build critical skills and competencies for the organization.

“COVID-19 has worsened the reskilling challenge,” the report states. “Traditional ways of predicting skill needs aren’t working. Employees need more skills for every job, and many of those skills are new. Many employees aren’t learning the right new skills — for their personal development or the benefit of the organization.”

The study further finds that the total number of skills required for a single job is increasing year-over-year by 10% and that 33% of the skills present in an average job posting in 2017 won’t be needed in 2021. In short: The pandemic rapidly advanced the already widening skill gap.

The second priority is in organizational design and change management. It became apparent one year ago that most organizations aren’t designed to respond as quickly to changing conditions as the COVID-era requires. The Gartner study found that many organizations feel their managers and leaders aren’t equipped to lead change, and over half agree that a shift from designing organizations for efficiency to designing for flexibility can make a significant impact. 

Other shifting priorities include building:

  • ‘Bench strength’ at the leadership level: Only 44% of employees say they trust their organization’s leaders and managers to navigate a crisis well. With executives at the top leaving, the challenge is becoming a crisis.
  • The future of work: Most HR leaders don’t have a clear future-of-work strategy that adapts to changes in remote work, market shifts, and automation.
  • A great employee experience: Heads of diversity and inclusion cite far greater deficits in this area than HR generalists do, indicating that perceptions aren’t aligned.

Learning To Win

With so much change and so many different priorities—old and new—where does one start? It’s easy to get stuck in the weeds this year, just on compliance and other traditional HR issues alone. Innovating around skill-building and organizational change can naturally fall off the list.

Executive coaching can help clear the chaos. Professional athletes don’t outgrow coaching. Doctors and other medical professionals never stop learning. HR leadership should view executive coaching in the same way. And while the challenges facing HR in 2021 are unique, the value of quality executive coaching has been apparent for decades. One study in 2006 found that combining integrative executive coaching with a systemic approach to organizational design is a powerful strategy that accelerates organizational learning and change process.

HR leaders are tapping into executive coaching to:

  • Identify priorities and new obstacles.
  • Build a strategy to address those priorities and obstacles.
  • Help other executives and managers do the same.

Building a strong coaching culture from the top down is critical. To do that, you, as the HR leader, need to understand and embrace coaching first. A few years back, the Human Capital Institute and the International Coach Federation found that a strong coaching culture is linked to higher engagement and better financial performance. These organizations were found to have a higher percentage of highly engaged employees and even stronger revenue growth than their peers. Those aren’t bad side effects.

It’s time to rebuild a strategic roadmap for HR success. That may require light executive coaching or more comprehensive consulting or advisory services. Either way, don’t hesitate to take that first step. Your to-list, team, leadership, and employees will thank you. To get started click here.


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