The workplace is changing, rapidly and dramatically, and in the years ahead, coaching will play a significant role in reshaping that landscape.


Work-Life Balance

During 2003, employee concerns about balance between work and life gained tremendous importance, and this trend is predicted to dominate 2004. Workers are tired of overtime invading their lives, taking away their freedoms and controlling their choices.

In a survey of nearly 2000 workers, conducted by CareerBuilder, Inc., 87 percent wanted to work for companies who were open to flexible work arrangements; many emphasized the importance of employers being supportive and understanding of personal and family needs.

The new generation continues to job-hop, showing no loyalty to any one employer. Many managers and executives, a majority of whom are women, continue to start their own businesses. Members of the younger workforce are increasingly taking time off from their employment to "do their own thing"; and even mid-career employees are increasingly taking "time off" to pursue a more satisfactory work-life balance.

A large number of white-collar jobs have changed to such an extent that they are no longer recognizable. Some have been totally eliminated, the former employees who held them are now free agents working on project-based assignments.

To a great extent, the traditional workplace structure that once employed these people no longer exists. In what remains, poor management and employee fear over job security have created an all-time low in morale.

These trends make it tough for organizations to manage their workforce issues successfully. Organizations are still sloganing, "Employees are our most valued assets"--but if this is true, why are there so many disgruntled employees?


Coaching to the Rescue

More and more organizations are recognizing the immense value that coaching brings to the workplace.

Leading surveys suggest that organizations who make the best use of work-life balance programs enjoy raised employee morale, lower levels of absenteeism, improved productivity, and increased profits.

Money is no longer the most critical issue; time and work-life balance are. Increasingly, promotions will include recognition for the employee's work-life balance needs as well as appropriate pay increases.

But traditional management and HR professionals are not trained in work-life balance concepts. Coaches are, and organizations are turning to coaching professionals for guidance.

In 2004, forward-thinking organizations will put aside their skepticism and bring in coaching professionals as they realize that traditional methods of "managing" staff simply don't work. The trend is towards empowering managers, supervisors, and employees to get on with their jobs with less intervention--to coach rather than "manage" the workforce. The catch-phrase for 2004 and beyond will be "Stop managing and start coaching!"

According to Drake Beam Morin, Inc., 38 percent of HR professionals planned to invest in executive coaching in 2003. This number is expected to continue rising well into 2004 and beyond. Organizations are making better use of their resources by hiring certified coaches to coach their staff. In addition, many HR professionals and managers are learning coaching skills.


Coaches as Trainers

US businesses continue to express major concerns about finding qualified employees.

In recent years, companies have been less willing to invest in training programs for their younger workers, because they job-hop more frequently than older employees. Now, it has become clear that this lack of training eventually affects all businesses, as more and more businesses are stuck with the problem of recruiting younger staff who lack suitable training. There are also growing concerns about the impact of older employees retiring and leaving behind a short-staffed and under-skilled workforce.

Many companies are looking to meet these increasing staffing needs by recruiting employees from overseas. In other cases, positions are simply remaining vacant.

For all these reasons, businesses are starting to see the sense in training their younger work force through professional coaching. Even if they do job-hop, goes the new reasoning, if all businesses train their younger employees, it won't matter who they go to work for: at least they'll be trained!


A Sound Investment

These are only a few of the factors behind the groundswell in professional coaching.

More and more business owners and professionals are hiring coaches to build their businesses as well as to achieve all-around business and personal success. They understand that hiring a coach is a sound investment: managing produces short-term results, while coaching produces results that last forever. Once you know something, you can't not know it!

Companies are also concerned with keeping their talented staff. Traditional HR methods of management have not been successful in employee retention. Introducing a coaching staff has resulted in happier, better motivated, and more productive employees and managers. Employees at all levels feel respected, empowered and important. Lines of communication are opened. And perhaps most important, people's sense of work-life balance, the major issue for this decade, is addressed.

Coaching produces results that are a win-win for everyone--and more and more businesses are realizing it every day.


TERRI LEVINE is president
of Comprehensive Coaching U, a certified personal and business coach,

and author of Work Yourself Happy and Coaching for an Extraordinary Life.