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Coaching skills strengthen essential skills in the workplace

May 23, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: CPHR Manitoba

As featured in the Spring 2017 issue of HRmatters

Authored by: Janice Gair and Hayley Hesseln

Janice Gair, CPHR and Hayley Hesseln, PhD are accredited executive coaches specializing in coach skills training for business and academia.  They can be contacted at or (204) 891-7884.

E·ssen tial  (adjective) - Absolutely necessary; extremely important. (Oxford English Dictionary)

The link between coaching and essential skills is strong.  By using coaching in the workplace, it is possible to build the skills necessary for success – and it’s no longer just for executives.  Coaching drives business excellence.

The Government of Canada has identified nine essential skills needed for work, learning and life, and how such skills help people to navigate their jobs, and adapt to change.   

However, there is growing evidence that college graduates entering the labour market lack proficiency in these essential skills including communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, and collaboration, for example.  While technical strengths can be validated by diplomas and degrees, essential skills, necessary for long-term success, are difficult to assess until after hire.  Essential skills in the workplace are demonstrated over time, and become more necessary with the progression to more senior roles where relationship management becomes a critical element of leadership.

Canada West Foundation, a pan-western non-partisan think-tank based in Calgary, Alberta found that 30% of college graduates do not have proficiency in the necessary skills to be successful in their work (Lane and Murray 2015).  Similarly, in a Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report, PayScale (2016) asked managers to rank the gaps in skills demonstrated by new graduates.  Critical thinking/problem solving was ranked by 60% of respondents, followed by attention to detail (56%), communication (46%), ownership (44%), and leadership (44%) as the top five.

At the same time that college graduates’ skills are becoming weaker, the demand for executive coaching is rising. The American Management Association surveyed businesses in 2008 and determined that 52% were then using coaching. Furthermore, 37% of those not using coaching directly, planned to do so in the next 10 years (Thompson et al. 2008).

Training employees to have coaching skills within organizations and creating a coaching culture can lead to enhanced insight, innovation, productivity, and a strong ability to manage change.

How does it work?  Using a coach approach fosters a belief that you get the most out of people by engaging them in conversations to draw out their own ideas, rather than just telling them what to do.  This means partnering to think through choices and options, rather than using command and control or telling behaviour.

Three coaching elements are essential for success in the business world: (1) engagement, (2) enlightenment, and (3) empowerment. 

1. Engagement between coach and client sets the foundation for trust and the ability of the coach to learn deeply about the client, and ultimately, to empower the client to design actions and to achieve goals.  A manager, acting as coach, encourages engagement and critical thinking with individuals and teams to create innovative solutions.

2. Enlightenment in coaching refers to the transition a client makes as a result of discovery: becoming enlightened as to a problem and fully understanding its source, or enlightened about future opportunities.  An enlightened employee can not only better complete challenges, but they can communicate the implications more effectively. 

3.  Empowerment refers to the degree of authority and autonomy one has to govern their affairs, by understanding their abilities and support networks to be able to move to action. When individuals are empowered, they are likely to be more motivated in their tasks, and feel that their needs have been met.

Executive Coaching has fast risen as a necessary and crucial component of business to promote career and personal success, well-being, employee and customer satisfaction, learning outcomes, leadership skills, and overall productivity.  Additionally, embedding coaching skills in your organization will help to create strongly engaged employees, and serve to further develop skills leading to more effective communication and collaboration, critical and creative thinking, and an appreciation for continuous learning.  The ultimate goal is to make everyone more effective and adaptable to change.

By adopting a coaching approach and having your employees learn a coach approach will narrow the skills gap and provide a more seamless transition for the next generation of leaders to excel.


ESDC Canada, 2016. Literacy and Essential Skills, Accessed:  December 8, 2016.  URL:  

Lane, Janet and Murray, T. Scott.  2015. Smarten up, it's time to build essential skills. Canada West Foundation, Calgary. 37pp.

PayScale Human Capital. 2016. Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report. Accessed July 5, 2016, URL:

Thompson, H.B., D.J. Bear, D.J. Dennis, M. Vickers, J. London, and C.L. Morrison. 2008. Coaching: A global study of successful practices: Current trends and future possibilities, 2008-2018. New York: American Management Association.

Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Manitoba (CPHR Manitoba)
1810-275 Portage Avenue / Winnipeg, Manitoba / R3B 2B3
tel. 204.943.2836 / fax. 204.943.1109 / email.

For additional information please visit: CPHR.CA

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