Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Creating an Evidence-Based Coaching Culture

By Whitney Martin, MS and Hope Zoeller, Ed.D

Coaching means different things to different people and can vary in its effectiveness depending on the methods and strategies used. How can you be intentional in creating a coaching culture to ensure a maximum level of success? How can you incorporate objective data into the coaching process to increase impact?

The benefits of investing and developing a coaching culture are great. According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Leadership and Management, 95% of respondents experienced direct benefits to the organization, and 96% experienced benefits to the individual. A wide range of specifically cited improvements included: communication and interpersonal skills, leadership and management, conflict resolution, personal confidence, attitudes and motivation, management performance, as well as preparation for a new role or promotion.

So, how do you create this type of high-performance coaching culture in your organization?

  1. Define "coaching." Coaching isn't telling people what to do differently. Unfortunately, many organizations still perceive coaching as a tool for correcting poor performance. However, good coaching is about achieving a high-performance culture, not managing a low-performance one. Coaching is a cooperative, interactive process of working together on improved performance and leadership development. You also need to define what a "coaching culture" means. A coaching culture involves regular feedback and communication from the manager to COACH the employee to sustain, improve, or modify behaviors and skills.
  2. Develop a Shared Vision for the Coaching Culture. Once a coaching culture is in place, Senior Management needs to define what results can be achieved, what will people feel, and ultimately how coaching will influence positive behavior changes with an observable and measurable impact on the business. One example of a coaching culture vision is: "To create an environment that elevates individual and team performance by integrating coaching techniques and principles into the organization; and aligns coaching with the business strategy by educating and engaging leaders in the coaching process."
  3. Get Senior Management Buy-in and Participation. Without support from the top, the change to a coaching culture is doomed to fail before it begins. Once you identify an executive level sponsor(s), you need to create measurements for change. To create a sustainable environment for a coaching culture to thrive means fully integrating coaching into strategic HR processes and systems and communicating progress on a regular basis. Also, Senior Managers need to receive coaching to truly understand the power of coaching and to fully support it. However, it should not be limited to Senior Executives. While the focus of coaching may vary, all levels of employees, definitely all managers and leaders in an organization, can and should benefit from coaching.
  4. Integrate Measurement Tools. Various types of measurement tools can play an invaluable role in several facets of the coaching process. For example, 360-degree feedback tools can provide essential information at both the "micro" and "macro" level. At the "micro," or individual level, the information gleaned from a 360 can form the basis of the coaching strategy and individual development plan. It can answer questions like:
·      "Is this leader's self-perception in line with what is being experienced by those he or she works with?"

·      "Are this leader and their boss in alignment regarding focus and priorities for this person's job?"

·      "What specific behaviors are contributing to the perception that a particular competency is an area for development?

·      "And, after coaching has occurred, "Is progress being made?"

If 360-degree feedback is gathered on multiple managers in the organization, the data can be looked at in aggregate to answer important "macro" level questions, such as "are their certain developmental needs that appear to be systemic in the organization?" "Do our leaders' strengths align with our organizational culture, priorities, and unique selling proposition?" Other types of assessment tools can also shed light on whether individuals are optimally placed within the organization in roles where they are able to best leverage their strengths.

Coaching should not be a siloed initiative. The greatest impact can be achieved when organizations connect coaching to the strategic plan. This requires a commitment to the initiative for a minimum of two to three years. Return on Investment measures also need to be agreed upon by Senior Management. These measures must be relevant to the organization, connected to business strategy, and able to be tracked effectively.
For those organizations willing to embark on the journey, the impact on business can be tremendous, dramatically impacting your culture and your people for the better. It's amazing what individuals can achieve with the right level of support and development. When coaching is successfully integrated into the culture of an organization, it creates a competitive advantage and unlocks untapped talent and potential.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hiring under the Microscope: Improving the Science of Selection

As featured in Kentucky SHRM Magazine, Spring/Summer 2015

Over the last two decades, the chatter in HR circles has concerned “becoming more strategic” and “getting a seat at the table.” However, a golden opportunity has been missed, as a linchpin function of HR—one with a profound impact on the bottom line—has been largely ignored. In 2002 Rynes, Colbert, and Brown[1] conducted research to determine whether the beliefs of HR professionals were consistent with established research findings on the effectiveness of various HR practices. As it turns out, the area of greatest disconnect was in staffing (particularly related to hiring assessments), where fewer than 50% of respondents were familiar with prevailing research findings.

As we roll into 2015, the HR chatter has turned to metrics, analytics, and big data. Yet again, though, personnel selection is late to show up to the party. A 2014 Aberdeen study[2] found that only 14% of businesses have data to show the business impact of their assessment strategy. With payroll and benefits representing one of the largest line items on virtually every company’s operating statement, effective selection is one of the top areas where HR can have a significant impact on the bottom line. It’s time for organizations to put hiring under the microscope.

Virtually everyone has acknowledged the fact that getting the right people in the right jobs is critical to business success. But how to get the “right” people continues to elude many: I have talked with organizations that have tried to incorporate everything from horoscopes to a deck of playing cards into their selection process, all in a vain attempt at systematically identifying which candidates have the best chance of becoming strong employees. I believe the following steps will help HR improve the science of selection.

1)      Clarity. HR needs to think more strategically about the desired outcomes of their selection systems.

“We want to hire better people” is not a clear enough goal. What is it you are actually trying to impact—turnover, retention, sales volume, customer satisfaction, morale, productivity, theft, absenteeism, safety incidents, drug use in the workplace, etc.? There are different assessment instruments designed specifically to address these, and countless other, issues or goals. Once your objective is clear, you can determine what constructs you can measure that will be predictive of that outcome.

2)      Validity. Predictive validity should be a driving factor (if not THE driving factor) in creating selection systems.

Extensive research has been done on the predictive validity—the overall ability to predict job performance—of different hiring methods and measures. The table below[3] reports the relative validity of some of the most commonly used selection practices based on a meta-analysis of a century’s worth of workplace productivity data.

Graphology (Handwriting Analysis)
Personality Tests
Emotional Intelligence
Reference Checks
Integrity Tests
Cognitive Ability Tests
Multi-Measure Tests (i.e., Cognitive Ability + Personality + Interests)


This means that if your hiring process relies primarily on interviews, reference checks, and even personality tests, you are electing to use a process that is significantly less effective than it could be. There is only one question that matters when deciding to incorporate a selection method: is the information gleaned from this tool predictive of future job performance? If the answer is no, there is no point in using it, regardless of how cheap, easy, or popular it is.

3)      Scrutiny. HR needs to get savvier when selecting tools.


Most HR people don’t choose their profession because they love numbers, so it’s understandable that sifting through a highly technical validation document may be daunting; however, it’s also necessary. A tool must meet certain criteria as it relates to reliability, validity, adverse impact, and a number of other factors. Test publishers should be able to provide ample data showing how rigorous they were in developing their instrument. If necessary, HR can seek help in critically scrutinizing this information (consultants and academics are two potential resources).


4)      Metrics. Selection-system outcomes should be tied to organizational metrics.

HR should be able to demonstrate that the use of a particular tool has had a direct impact on some organizational outcome of interest. In other words, as test scores go up, turnover goes down, or as test scores go up, sales volume increases. Many times this can be achieved through either a concurrent or predictive validation study.

As an example, one of my clients has 100 sales people, who are publicly ranked on a scale of 1 to 100 based on objective performance metrics. The company leadership decided that, more than anything, their goal was to avoid hiring the bad ones. We were able to create a benchmark (incorporating mental ability, behavioral characteristics, and occupational interests) that was a clear differentiator between top and bottom performers. Using this tool, they would have correctly identified five out of eight of their top performers, but perhaps more importantly, they would have conclusively avoided hiring nine out of ten of their bottom performers. This is an example of a concurrent validation study that demonstrates how assessment results are directly tied to sales success.

Organizations that choose to rely on less predictive selection methods are unnecessarily creating a competitive disadvantage for themselves. HR practitioners have an opportunity to increase their indispensability to the organization by creating scientific, evidence-based selection systems that are demonstrably linked to bottom-line outcomes of interest to the C-suite. An HR leader who can effectively do that will be happy to be placed under the microscope!


As you ponder “What’s Next in Human Resources?” here are some questions for reflection:

·         Are you feeling pressure to incorporate more data-supported or evidence-based methods in your job? If not, could it be coming? Have you been hearing more about “metrics,” “analytics,” or “big data”? Is now your chance to get ahead of the curve?

·         Is there anything you can do to increase the predictive validity of your hiring process? Are the steps in your current process yielding measurable results? Are there tools out there that could help your process be both more effective and more efficient?

·         Can you calculate the impact that your hiring processes have on the organization’s bottom line? If pressed, could you tell your C-Suite exactly how accurate your selection system is, and quantify the ROI of your efforts? Is there an opportunity to further solidify your strategic value to the organization by improving in this area?

[1] Sara L. Rynes, Amy E. Colbert, and Kenneth G. Brown, “HR Professionals’ Beliefs about Effective Human Resource Practices: Correspondence between Research and Practice,” Human Resource Management 41, no. 2 (2002): 149–74.
[2] M. Lombardi, “Measurement Strategies for Assessment Success,” Aberdeen Group (2014). http://v1.aberdeen.com/launch/report/research_report/9043-RR-measuring-assessment-success.asp.
[3] Based on data shared by Frank L. Schmidt in a Nov. 6, 2013, address to the Personnel Testing Council of Metropolitan Washington as an update to ——— and John E. Hunter, “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings,” Psychological Bulletin 124, no. 2 (1998): 262–74.