Employee Coaching Programs: Do’s and Don’ts

Did you know that only 2 in 10 employees believe their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work? That’s not an inspiring statistic.

To help combat this trend, employee coaching programs have become integral to fostering professional growth and development within organizations. However, there exist a number of misconceptions and outdated beliefs surrounding the world of employee coaching—especially from the perspective of HR leaders. 

You might have asked yourself, “Are these programs worth the investment? Are they worth the paperwork? Do they actually work?” In this article, we answer these questions, and provide a fresh perspective on what leadership development can do to empower our workforces.

The Traditional View of Employee Coaching 

Before we give you actionable next steps, let’s get on the same page about employee coaching programs. Historically, employee coaching has been reserved for only the select few, creating a culture where coaching is seen as an un-scalable senior-level investment, rather than a real actionable tool for development at every level.

That’s why it’s important to use highly personalized development programs for senior executives, and apply scalable development programs for the rest of your organization. When considering the concept of coaching, remember the following misconceptions or pitfalls: 

  • Reserved for Senior Leaders: Traditionally, coaching has been seen as an ROI-positive resource that’s reserved for senior executives, fostering a culture where coaching doesn’t scale throughout the workforce.

  • Heavy Reliance on Assessments: A prevailing belief exists that effective coaching cannot proceed without extensive assessments and personalized development plans, tailored to address the unique needs of an individual. This perspective underestimates the power of common developmental goals and shared learning experiences. 

  • Expensive and Unscalable: Price tags of coaching range from $10,000 to $50,000 per individual, meaning that traditional coaching models are undeniably expensive and prohibitive for most employees. This has created a common belief that coaching is a costly endeavor—one that doesn’t scale to the majority of employees in the organization.

  • Could be Misapplied: In some instances, coaching has been misappropriated as a tool to “fix” problematic employees or as a form of outsourced feedback, deflecting managerial responsibilities.

  • Overemphasis on New Content: The misplaced emphasis on the constant introduction of new materials assumes that exposure is equal to growth or understanding. Unfortunately, this overlooks the necessity of application and the power of revisiting and reinforcing foundational principles.

Falling into these traps often results in an aesthetic-driven and superficial approach to talent management.

“When I think of coaching programs, many organizations make one of these three mistakes: they only offer coaching to the most senior executives, they use coaching as a form of outsourcing feedback or mentoring, and they allow coaching to be a black box of secrecy in terms of the focus or goals. This results in coaching being seen as a luxury or perk, rather than a highly effective, positive ROI intervention that drives organizational performance.” 

Ben Brooks, Founder & CEO, PILOT 

The Way to Reimagine Employee Coaching Programs

Coaching should not be centered on a specific individual, but instead thought of as a continuous journey of growth and development. But how can HR leaders shift to this mindset? From PILOT’s years of employee coaching programs, we have found that the key to success is to help employees feel ownership of their work.

Take a targeted approach and consider the employee’s journey holistically, not just in their annual performance reviews. By embracing this approach, employees feel more ownership of their work and are much more likely to stay at their jobs for longer periods of time. This leads to a healthier working environment, and one that produces a better result for the business at large, helping your employees own their careers and their growth.

  • Process-Focused Approach: Emphasize continuous development, and shift the focus from a reliance on a specific coach to fostering self-awareness and incremental growth.

  • Effective Group Coaching: With cohorts of small groups of employees, you can cultivate positive peer pressure, diverse perspectives, and a sense of shared experience.

  • Common Developmental Needs: Identify and address the 80% of foundational skills and competencies shared by a majority of employees, rather than the 20% that are unique to individuals, ensuring quick wins and a strong developmental foundation.

  • Practical and Applicable: Your program must ensure that insights gained through coaching are directly applicable to real-world scenarios, bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Following these steps will help you increase the overall employee experience. Gartner research shows employee experience is a top priority for 47% of HR leaders while 44% believe their organizations do not have compelling career paths. 

If that’s not enough, according to Sounding Board’s 2021 Leadership Coaching Report, 67% of HR leaders surveyed said leadership coaching increased employee engagement and satisfaction while 60% said it improved employees’ perceptions of the quality of leadership. 

Download our eBook to Learn the Five Real Ways to Create Employee Development for Everyone!

What Are the Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Coaching Programs?

Now that we have covered how group coaching is a repeatable process, rather than a series of bespoke one-offs, we can dig into what leadership development should and shouldn’t do in their own programs.

When structuring employee coaching programs, the following do’s and don’ts are helpful for shaping a best practices approach. While these fundamentals aren’t new, they are inconsistently applied. The goal here is to help employees see and feel a tangible difference, and experience the impact of the development journey rather than theoretical learning.


  • Define Specific Objectives and Measurements in Advance: Establish clear expectations and outcomes to ensure alignment and drive results. The programs must also evolve to become more time-efficient, adopting a “snackable” approach that fits into demanding work lives.

  • Leverage Remote Coaching to Bring People Together: Utilize virtual group settings to foster community, shared learning, and diverse perspectives. Achieving a delicate balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning is vital for success, and can ensure individuals are provided with the autonomy to drive their development journey

  • Focus on Common Developmental Needs: Identify and address shared challenges and goals, laying a foundation for widespread growth. Most employees who have never had formal coaching or mentoring need to work on the same things. Think of what most employees need developmentally as a Venn diagram with 80% overlap.

  • Create Inclusive Participation Paths: Ensure access and opportunities for all, cultivating a culture of development and support. Remember, coaching content must be deeply rooted in the real-world context of the employees’ job environments.

“There is a grand canyon between knowing something and doing something, and we’re here to help top talent close that gap through their own self-awareness and behavior change.” 

Ben Brooks, CEO & Founder, PILOT


  • Limit Coaching to Senior Executives: Break the mold of exclusivity and extend coaching opportunities across all levels of your organization.

  • Use Coaching as a Substitute for Feedback: Reinforce coaching as a tool for growth, not a workaround for difficult conversations or managerial responsibilities.

  • Maintain Secrecy Around Coaching Goals: Foster transparency and openness, demystifying the coaching process and aligning it with organizational objectives.

  • Prioritize New Content Over Ensuring Application: Reinforcement and application of foundational principles should come first, ensuring that knowledge translates into action.

  • Limit to 1:1 Coaching: Unfortunately, most employees don’t get the full value of 1:1 coaching. It’s also difficult to apply insights from coaching to their real position when they’re in a 1:1 dynamic, as what they need to work on is often unclear.

Our Coaching Strategy Dismantles Past Perceptions and Empowers Your Workforce

Traditional norms have created a world where the value of employee coaching programs has been lost. It’s time to reimagine what coaching can look like!

PILOT’s progressive approach challenges these traditions by introducing a scalable, group-focused methodology. By aligning personal development with organizational goals, the PILOT program ensures that the investment in talent development results in tangible, positive outcomes for both individuals and the organization.

Interested in what PILOT can do for your organization? Learn more about how we can empower your team today!


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