More than words, it’s time to act.

Last year organisations talked about gender equality so much that you could be forgiven for assuming they were taking action. Yet, many corporates failed to meet their gender balance targets. At the end of 2019, progress on the gender pay gap was pronounced ‘dismally slow’. To define insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a cliché for a reason. Organisations which refuse to take an original approach risk talking themselves in circles for the next 99 years, when the gender pay gap is on course to close.

In 2020, businesses need to use more than words. Three years of Brexit negotiations and the resultant uncertainty has business paralysed in a reactive state. But the start of a new decade is the perfect time to take stock and assess the tools available. Business confidence is recovering and as organisations stabilise, they have to focus on retaining talent and prioritise the more vulnerable employees in their work force who will be more likely to disengage, including working parents, female talent and those moving through major life transitions.

“Even if business recruitment needs fall next year, there will still be a pressing issue around the quality of talent in workplaces and how to keep hold of you best staff. There will be a need to retain key players because there just isn’t enough talent to go around. In a complex and uncertain market, leadership at all levels is critical. Opportunities exist but they will need innovative thinking to realise. Businesses with the best talent will thrive,” comments Chris Parke, CEO of Talking Talent.

Staying focused on personal and professional goals amidst pinging inboxes and anxious office chatter is where the real work starts. Increasingly, organisations expect employees to be autonomous, but sustaining motivation without support can be challenging. Coaches can help individuals extend their positive New Year attitude towards their work and make it last all year.

Professional Career Coaches are a secret weapon and savvy businesses are catching on. According to the International Coach Federation latest report, Western Europe spent £690M on coaching in 2017. The US went even further, spending $2.35bn. The massive swell in the membership of the International Coach Federation since 2013 is testament to the fact that organisations are starting to see how valuable coaching can be. So they should; coaching increases leadership abilities, social skills, empathy, and self-regulation. It boosts well-being, work-satisfaction and reduces presenteeism which has strong links to the burn out and work-related stress rampant in 2019. Coaches used to be viewed as a last-ditch resort, brought in if an employee needed remedial classes. Now that holding onto talent is the priority, getting a coach has become a sign that an employee is worth investing in.

Nobody attends one coaching session and emerges transformed. Working with a coach shows grit. It demonstrates a willingness to get an honest appraisal and that you’re actively driving change. By empowering the people they work with to see themselves from the outside, coaches provide heightened self-awareness. In turn, this empowers individual employees to actively participate in their roles. Much like presenteeism, engagement is contagious. As individuals become more engaged, they become more connected to their work. This has a knock-on effect on corporate culture, increasing productivity, and of course, profitability. According to Gallup, disengaged employees cause companies between £340 £420 billion in lost productivity per year. By increasing a company's engagement by just 10% can increase profits by £1800 per employee per year.

To create real corporate change, organisations have to look to coaches who work with individual employees and integrated teams as a whole, involving line-managers in setting objectives and reviewing progress. There needs to be more understanding and advocacy at every level of the organisation.  

Whether a coach is working with new parents to ensure that organisations don’t lose talented employees during parental transitions, or helping individuals unlock their full potential in line with their goals and those of the business, the process is synergistic; Talking Talent creates self-sustaining networks which continue to coach each other after the program ends. By taking a holistic approach, we simultaneously coach the individual and create a structure enabling the organisation to provide the support and environment which makes progress sustainable. Even employees who don’t need extra support can often do with a push. As you get more successful, family and friends are likely to reassure you to maintain the status quo or lose patience if met with the same complaints. It’s a coach’s job to push you out of your comfort zone. Without discomfort, there can be no change. Without discomfort, we’ll end up in exactly this position next year, making the same goals, knowing that the best we can hope for is closing the gender pay gap in 2118.