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Attracting talent is only the start, the challenge is holding on to it

Executive coaching is key in retaining employees

Morgan Cummins of TalentHub and Tim McCarthy (right).

Morgan Cummins of TalentHub and Tim McCarthy (right).


Attracting talented people to work in your organisation is only the start. The challenge is hanging on to them.

Writing in a White Paper on recruitment and retention by Top Tier Recruitment, a recruitment agency, Great Place to Work consultant Fania Stoney outlines three themes that have emerged from its research on the topic.

Organisations need to “find the sweet spot for employees between challenge and support”, she writes. They also need to recognise that “people leave managers, not organisations, and are most likely to stay with managers who actively partake in their professional and personal growth”.

Moreover, those employers with the clearest Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) get the best return on their investment in this space, she says.

The opportunity – and financial – cost of poor retention rises the higher up an organisation you go. One way to help boost the staying power of key hires is through the provision of executive coaching, yet it’s not given nearly as much credit as it should.

“In sport, we are very comfortable with coaching, we understand that having a coach helps a person to be a better player and their team to be a better team. By contrast, professionally we just get people qualified and then we let them off,” says Tim McCarthy, who runs the McCarthy Consultancy, which specialises in executive coaching.

When it comes to the benefits of coaching both in business and in sport, he knows from experience. A top basketball player, McCarthy both played on and coached the Ireland team. He also spent more than two decades as chief executive of a number of businesses.

Coaching can help ensure the risk of the Peter Principle, which suggests people are promoted to the level of their incompetence, is mitigated.

“Very often, guys who are CFOs [chief financial officers] today are promoted to CEO tomorrow, but they have no experience of being CEO,” he says.

A good coach can help them as they navigate that change. “It gives them a blueprint to help them deal with what comes across their desk. I’ve been CEO in a green-field businesses, in legacy businesses, in public-sector and private-sector organisations. That means that as a coach, I’ve been there and done that, I have the experience, I’m on your side and I have no agenda other than to support you to be better,” he says.

Executive coaching

In a new initiative, McCarthy has teamed with recruitment agency TalentHub to create TalentHub Coaching, to provide executive coaching for C-suite appointments as a recruitment and retention strategy.

It’s a move that reflects the changing world of work, he says: “Organisations are looking for different things now. At one point, everything was ‘silo-ed’, so recruitment and retention were put into different silos. But the market is much more fluid now and organisations want to recruit really good people, and then do everything they can to keep them.”

A key part of that is ensuring they offer good opportunities for training and development, leadership development, and coaching.

Executive coaching would have made McCarthy a much better CEO himself, he reckons. “When you are in a C-suite position, you are very often on your own. If if I am a CEO and there is an issue, my board expects me to solve it. I can’t go to my numbers two and three and say I’m worried, they expect me to solve it too. Coaching is about helping you to perform to the best of your potential every day, always accepting that your potential is different every day.”

It gives a senior staff member someone to turn to confidentially, for the kind of coping mechanisms that boost performance and build capacity. The upshot of that could mean the difference between optimised performance and burnout for a leader, and success or failure for a business.

The coach doesn’t provide the answers, or tell a person what to do. “We give them clarity of thinking. We help them to grow their minds and see things differently. Coaching is not a switch you flick, it’s a process designed to help you be a little better every day. If everyone was a little better every day, you’d have a much better organisation.”