The Role of HR in the Executive Coaching Process

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IN MY EXPERIENCE AS A FORMER HR executive and for the last eleven years as an executive coach, I believe that it is important that the client’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and/or HR business partner (HRBP) be involved in the coaching process from the outset of the coaching engagement.

If the client-HR-coach triad is to be workable and effective, however, several success factors must be present in order for the HR support to serve and enrich the client’s coaching experience.  When these success criteria are met, HR will be well positioned to play an ongoing advocacy and support role that will accelerate the client’s development, enhance the coaching process and achieve more impactful and sustainable outcomes from the coaching.

In order for HR to be maximally effective as an ally, advocate and support for the coached executive, the CHRO and/or HRBP should:

·      Know the client reasonably well and be viewed by the client as a trusted colleague and supporter.  It is important that HR not be imposed into the coaching relationship if a modicum of personal familiarity and mutual trust may not exist.

·      Have a pre-existing and trusting relationship with the client’s manager.  This ensures that the manager, HRBP and coach remain aligned in support of the client and his/her development plan and progress.  This set of intersecting, trusting relationships between client, manager, coach and HR serve as a broad base of support for the client’s continuing development during the formal coaching period and often beyond.

·      Ensure that the client’s leadership development is supported by HR systems and processes. For example: internal learning and development resources, mentoring, special assignments, performance assessment, rewards and recognition and succession planning, to name a few.

·      Function as an advocate for the client’s continuing development within the organization and help to ensure wider organizational support for the client’s development.

·      Serve as an internal advisor, mentor and counselor to the client on an ongoing basis, beyond the period of the formal coaching engagement by the external coach.

When these relationships are in effect and aligned, the benefit to the client is greatly improved through the continuing internal support of HR and the client’s manager, and the client’s internal network of relationships.