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Replace corporate training with career coaching

William Crozier Verona

Do your corporate training programmes actually improve the performance of your company? Daniel Dowling, writing for Fast Company, argues that in-house career coaching is a much more effective approach.

Your company brings in an outsourced training consultant to run seminars for groups of staff or whole departments. This is like a lecture on stamp collecting from your grandmother: “You feign interest and try to look engaged. You’re just not really there.”

To make employees want to learn and perform better, help them prioritise self-improvement as an essential part of their lifestyle – both within and outside work. The way to achieve that is through coaching.


Dowling, a coach himself, uses the experience of one client to illustrate his coaching principles and their effects. Allie, a medical professional, had no motivation, focus or plan in her life and was making no progress. Whether at home or at work, she wasted time on apps, social media, texting and similar distractions.

He worked with Allie to cut out pointless activities and use the freed-up time for something more useful. She made a commitment to habits and routines that would increase her knowledge, build new confidence and move her toward meeting her goals. Key practices included meditation, visualisation, affirmations, journaling, note-taking and exercise.

She adopted a new mantra, “Win the morning, win the day,” and set daily objectives for work and play to bring her longer-term objectives closer. Checking off her educational and creative goals became a habit, and making the most of every minute was now her number-one priority.

Allie soon found she had more energy, a clearer focus, a more open relationship with colleagues, and an overall sense of satisfaction.

“I feel bad when I see my teammates just zoning out on their phones,” says Allie. “Because now I’m focused on connecting with my patients and co-workers whenever I can. And that makes me [feel] really good about myself, and about being at work. Everyone else is missing out.”


Estimates from the United States put the annual cost of corporate training per employee at between $700 and $1,200. And according to recent McKinsey research, only 25% of staff feel it helps their company perform better.

Bringing in a specialised coach on a more regular basis might sound a lot more expensive, but the difference may be smaller than you think. It should also more than pay for itself through benefit to the company.

To give you an idea, hourly coaching charges tend to vary between about $100 and $300 per hour. Bought in bulk, the fees will often be reduced. Changing an employee’s habits will require at least a one-hour session each week for eight weeks – which may in some cases cost no more than you are already paying for training.

Crucially, those eight sessions will guide the employee into self-coaching, which will add to their long-term impact.

After the initial period, contact time with each employee can be scaled back to perhaps one session a month. Weekly email support will be available at no extra charge.

As well as improving the attitude and performance of staff, in-house coaching will bring employees a sense of fulfilment that will increase levels of satisfaction within your company. Provision of coaching will help you keep existing staff and may help in attracting new employees.


The right coach can work wonders for your business, so take time over your choice. Your selection and vetting processes should be at least as intensive as those you would apply to other company-wide consultants.

You and your management team should meet and talk with prospective coaches to make sure you fully understand what they propose to do and why. Personality is very important: if you don’t feel comfortable around them, they will probably not put your staff at ease or inspire them.

You should start with a pilot programme for one small team to gauge the impact of the coaching, before committing to a full-on relationship.


To sum up, a seminar-based corporate training programme can never be powerful enough to change an employee’s lifestyle and habits, in and out of work. Through coaching, each individual can be helped to view his or her career in a new way, adopt good habits and approach jobs more positively.

If you want your company to perform better, investing in employee self-improvement will generate a far greater return than seminars and corporate training.