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Is Workplace Coaching Effective ? – A case study

The ability of organizations to attract, develop and retain an adequate supply of labour with appropriate capabilities is critical to their survival and prosperity. Coaching

For ABC manufacturing, workplace coaching formed an important part of this risk strategy in that it helped them to develop an internal labour market (ILM). The coaching literature offers little insight into this dimension of workplace coaching, partly because coaching is traditionally examined in literature from a psychological perspective, rather than a management perspective. Of those that do investigate coaching from a management perspective, there also tends to be a focus on delineating coaching at an individual level rather than a strategic and organizational level.

The purpose of this paper is to examine coaching as a mechanism for the management of an internal labour market (ILM) at ABC manufacturing. Of particular interest is the perception of the ABC management that the coaching was not effective and did not meet its expectations. It utilizes an exploratory case study design and draws on data from interviews and documentation to explore the reasons for this from an ILM perspective. Three propositions are formulated to guide further research.


ABC manufacturing was operating in a competitive labour environment and appeared to understand the strategic significance of its human resources; on that basis it sought to retain and develop employees that can help to achieve its mission. There is however, some doubt about the integrity of its approach to ILM and integration with its key HR systems. Of concern is its focus on coaching individuals to achieve behavioural change at a role level with the expectation that this will somehow translate into organizational effectiveness, but with seemingly little consideration of the organizational and ILM context in which the coaching occurred.

A key proposition of the case is that an instrumental evaluation of coaching should occur at two levels i.e. individual role and organizational levels. This is because a role level of analysis provides only a limited indication of the effectiveness of coaching and might yield false positives or negatives because it neglects the broader organizational benefits. Because ABC manufacturing only evaluated the effectiveness of coaching at a role level, their assessment was that coaching was not effective. However, as this paper proposes, there are potentially many economic benefits of coaching that can be seen when evaluated at an organizational level as well. An evaluation of this kind might have affected their decision regarding the ongoing use of coaching.

A second proposition related to the integration of HR systems with the ILM strategy. For coaching to be an effective tool of ILM strategy, an organization using must consider the extent to which its HR systems are integrated with the strategy. Specific considerations include the degree of alignment of key values and objectives; the degree of formality of HR policy and processes, including instructional design, performance management and career development.

A third and final proposition related to coaching‟s limitations. Despite the potential value of coaching to ILM, it does have limitations that must be understood concerning ILM. A coach may have many specialist skills and knowledge, but this is no substitute for deficiencies within key HR systems related to ILM, for example, career development, leadership supervisory practices, performance reviews and instructional design. Coaching cannot be used to fix problems due to these deficiencies. In summary, there is no substitute for a clearly develop HR strategy and objectives, or formalization of policies, systems and processes that support ILM to guide decision making around initiatives such as coaching. The effect of deficiencies is apparent in the ABC case.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Managing the internal labour market in a manufacturing company: explaining coaching’s perceived ineffectiveness


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