Simon Coops reveals how diversity coaching programmes are accelerating career development for females and ethnic minorities.
Much has been said about the need for diversity in the workplace, but how can coaching make it happen? Historically, many organisations have only paid lip-service to the need to take their employees’ personal development plans seriously.
In my experience, over 90 per cent of major global organisations do this reluctantly, with no energy. This living document should reflect where employees want to get to i.e. how to achieve their career objectives; however, bosses rarely ask for progress updates and the process often runs out of steam quickly.
Apathy can take hold on the part of both the individual and their manager and the process is often approached as if it is yet another workload burden, as opposed to the powerful transformational tool it can be.
Committing to taking personal development plans seriously means that employees and organisations can reap the benefits. In fact, the impact we’re seeing through our current diversity programmes in Europe and North America is hugely encouraging.
From unlocking potential to boosting confidence levels, coaching and mentoring on an individual level is showing not just the coachees, but also the organisations that employ them, exactly what these individuals are capable of in the long-term.
For the last 5-6 years, we have been running a ‘Maximise your Potential’ programme which we’ve tailored in response to demand from clients to help improve their diversity balance.
Coaching and mentoring on an individual level can have a huge impact. Organisations can now access tailored services to fit their employee demographic.
From gender specific programmes, to workshops that open the eyes of employers to untapped talent they may already hold within their organisation, these programmes are specifically designed to develop the career ambitions and potential of groups previously under-represented in senior management roles.
The ability to help coachees to stretch their imagination and increase their self-belief is immensely effective. Our dedication to overseeing each twelve-month personal development programme, ensures that bosses actively assess the talent and capability already within their grasp in a proactive, monitored way.
The ability to network more effectively is also increasing coachees’ visibility and promotion prospects. Secondments outside of the organisation also provide them with a wider view and help to ignite their career ambitions and commitment to maximising their own potential.
The increase in demand for coaches to provide mentoring and services with a diversity focus is unsurprising, especially when estimates suggest that gender inequality could cost the global economy a potential $12tn by 2025.
Our network has delivered coaching solutions to 432 of the Fortune 500, enabling us to get a genuine feel for corporate attitudes to fostering equality at all levels. It is disheartening that current estimates suggest that women only hold about 23.5 per cent of FTSE 100 directorships.
This enduring diversity deficit shows that there’s still a long way to go. However, companies working towards achieving a more diverse workforce are already reaping the benefits, including the ability to harness broader perspectives, increasing profits, enhanced morale and the delivery of more innovative marketing.
In our programmes in the Middle East, we have not only piloted a programme for boosting self-belief in women, we’ve also been running workshops to help male managers to support their female employees more effectively.
The systemic model of confidence boosting looks at the coachees’ inner dialogue to understand what they think and what they feel when applying for certain roles. The need to think positively is true on both sides and we’re working to help organisations to deliver gender diversity at a time when they face immense pressure from the media and diversity equality groups to publish salary details etc.
By tailoring gender-specific programmes to bring out the ‘best-self’ of female employees, we’re able to equip senior female talent with the self-belief they need to thrive in competitive and challenging careers, whatever the stereotypical blueprint for that role may have been in the past.
One clear fact is that diversity begins at the top in order to enable emerging leaders to identify with existing role models within their organisation and signal a strong commitment to an inclusive culture. Institutionalised practices often have to be overcome to make this possible and can involve making hard choices throughout the organisation on a structural level.
Creating an environment that embraces different perspectives, backgrounds and ways of operating is an exciting challenge, opening the doors to great success and access to a wider talent pool.
In fact, sending out the right public messages about a company’s progressive diversity strategy often means that fresh talent is attracted to the organisation, giving it a clear advantage over competitors in the often mentioned ‘war for talent’.
While the day when absolute gender equality is achieved may be a long way in the future, building individual confidence and removing systemic barriers through coaching processes on both sides is a major step in the right direction.
Working on the internal dialogue of females and people from ethnic backgrounds helps to give them the confidence they need to approach their careers from a new angle, with a momentum that can carry them further within a company than they may have imagined possible.
By being authentic in themselves and appreciated for the broader perspective this brings to the organisation, they are given new belief systems and the tools to become confident and inspiring future leaders and role models.
Going forward, demand for diversity coaching programmes is only set to increase and by bringing in mentors and coaches experienced in this area, with expertise in working with employees and management in specific regions of the world, organisations are well placed to rectify the diversity deficit and have more scope to unlock their employees’ untapped potential than ever before.
About the author
Simon Coops is the CEO of Acuity Coaching.