How can coaching in the workplace help SMEs?

9 min read  |   2 August, 2022   By Aimée Brougham-Chandler

Two women stand in front of a few employees who are seated. They are looking at a board and the women appear to be offering coaching or training.

What’s the difference between coaching and training, and most importantly – what does this mean for SMEs and their leadership teams? 

“Coaching is not for the faint-hearted. It is for those who really want change.”  

Clare Norman, professional certified coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation. 

In this blog, we provide an overview of how HR managers can implement an organisational coaching framework for leadership teams – and what to consider along the way. 

We’ll also cover the pros and cons of virtual coaching programmes.  


What is coaching?  

According to CIPD, coaching is a method that aims to produce optimal performance and improvement at work. It’s a non-directive form of development that focuses on specifics skills & goals. Coaching can last for a period of time, or it can also be an ongoing process.   

In comparison, formal training methods or particular courses would be more appropriate for developing specific skillsets.  


Why is leadership coaching important? 

Coaching is particularly important for senior managers & leadership teams as they are most likely to be juggling heavy workloads, managing employees and potentially also director-level responsibilities, too.

With so much going on, it’s important to still make time for growth and continuous development – which is where coaching comes in.  


How could SME leadership teams benefit from a coaching framework? 

CIPD advises coaching is a suitable development tool when competent technical experts need to develop better interpersonal skills, for example, or when someone needs career support.  

Other scenarios can also include dealing with difficult situations (such as conflict) and developing a strategic perspective after a promotion to a senior role, for example.  

These could all be situations which SME leadership teams need to deal with – and may not have come across before in previous roles. Coaching allows HR teams to bridge any potential gaps in senior managers’ background – by enhancing the skills they need to carry out their leadership duties.  


How to create a leadership coaching framework for your SME 


1. Decide if coaching is the right fit for your business 

Firstly, HR managers will need to assess that coaching is the correct route to pursue for the organisation, rather than more structured training programmes, or mentoring.  

Coaching works well when participants have enough self-insight in order to assess themselves and to implement coaching principles. For any programme to be successful, those included will need to be open and willing to participate.  

According to Indeed, additional business benefits of coaching include increased confidence & the chance to make meaningful connections at work. Coaching also provides the opportunity to reflect on your values and your career, offering valuable time and headspace.  


2. Discover what would be most useful to your leadership team 

Offer surveys or invite feedback from your leadership team themselves on what type of coaching programme they feel would be most beneficial. After all, you’re likely to be spending a considerable amount of budget on this training, so it’s best to ensure you make it as worthwhile as you can. This means gathering feedback early on, so you pursue the most valuable avenue for your organisation. 


3. The role of HR teams in managing organisational coaching 

HR teams play a vital role in creating, managing & implementing organisational coaching programmes.  

CIPD states that the quality of coaching and the results delivered depends on HR teams identifying performance gaps, choosing the right coaches, managing relationships & evaluating success by regularly discussing what leadership times are finding useful, and perhaps what aspects of coaching might not be working quite so well. Implementing a coaching programme takes time, research & patience in order to see results.  


Virtual coaching: pros and cons 

Another option is considering virtual coaching. We list the pros and cons of running coaching programmes remotely.  


Pros of virtual coaching 

  • Virtual coaching means that it’s accessible anytime, anywhere. Long gone are the days where you need to spend most of the working day travelling to a conference (miles from where you live or work) to attend an hour’s training.  
  • You also widen the pool of available coaches when unrestricted by geography. Coaches that aren’t local to your business become a more accessible option to consider.  
  • In arranging virtual coaching, you enable both parties to save time & energy travelling – allowing them to start the coaching process from the comfort of their own homes or offices.  
  • They’ll be able to get back to work and implement the coaching quicker than you can say ‘Teams meeting link’.  

Cons of virtual coaching 

  • We’ve all missed in-person interactions over the course of the pandemic and are familiar with Zoom fatigue.   
  • It’s easier for many people to connect & engage with in-person training than it might be to connect via a screen.  
  • We’ve all been plagued by weak internet connections interrupting virtual meetings or the inevitable “you’re on mute” conversation. Online coaching isn’t immune from technical gremlins such as these, either.  

You could offer both (remote & in-person) coaching options to your leadership team when considering programmes & review the feedback received. 


Further coaching resources 

If you want to find out more For further advice, CIPD offers resources on coaching & support for HR teams implementing programmes. If you need help finding a coach or mentor, the coaching network can help you to get started, too.  

You can store any coaching programme details securely within Breathe's online learning tool, Learn. Trial for free for 14 days. 


Author: Aimée Brougham-Chandler

An IDM-certified Digital Copywriter (2023) & English Language & Literature graduate (BA Hons), Aimée is Breathe's Content Assistant. With 3 years' content marketing experience, Aimée has a passion for writing - and providing SME HR teams with solutions to their problems. She enjoys delving into & demystifying all things HR: from employee performance to health and wellbeing, leave to company culture & much more.

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