Technical Skills Are No Longer Enough: Why Business Leaders Are Prioritizing Behavioral Capabilities

It’s no longer enough for organizations to rely on the technical skills of employees to reach their business outcomes; remaining resilient amid today’s unpredictabilities requires behavioral capabilities that enable employees to adapt to change and thrive in uncertainty.

As employers grapple with how to deliver learning that builds an agile, future-ready workforce, the demand for scalable coaching is accelerating. For business and HR leaders, this means delivering a digital, customized solution for personal and professional development is easier than ever before.

Consider the data from CoachHub’s Global HR Survey: People Development for Business Growth, which surveyed 2,500 leaders globally and showed that:

  • A blended approach to development is favored by most organizations
  • 40% of development plans are built around a blend of technical and behavioral skills for individual roles
  • 23% of development plans are focused exclusively on behavioral skills

This trend is showing the most important skill in the face of uncertainty is to “learn how to learn.” Uncertainty is no longer an exception in today’s world; it’s the rule. Therefore, both organizations and individuals must update their skill sets to adapt and innovate.

Strong behavioral skills empower employees to adapt to change in all areas of work. Behavioral skills, by their nature, are suited to a more individualized learning approach. But many organizations — and especially larger enterprise organizations — still tilt toward a one-size-fits-all approach instead of learning tailored to individual needs.

Coaching using external experts, and to a lesser degree internal resources, continues to grow as a critical strategy to deliver behavioral change.

More than eight in ten organizations (81%) say it is important or critical for leaders to improve their coaching skills to engage and retain employees in an evolving and uncertain work environment, according to Brandon Hall Group’s research, Great Leaders: How Do We Develop More?

It’s clear employers are aware they need to drastically improve well-being in the workplace to help their employees drive business objectives. But determining how to go about this is a different manner entirely. Not every manager has the skill set to provide personalized coaching to their team members, and this is not even an appropriate ask of managers in many instances. Individuals bring a diverse set of backgrounds, perspectives and values into the workplace and are looking for professional development that honors their uniqueness.

That’s why organizations are increasingly turning to coaching. In CoachHub’s 2022 HR Survey, 56% of respondents said they have embraced individual coaching as part of their people development, and another 39% are thinking about it. This trend is even more pronounced among companies with more than 100,000 employees — 60% of those companies use individual coaching.

While developing internal coaches to personalize learning and development is important, the reality is that delivering great coaching internally on a large scale is often difficult given the training involved and the competing responsibilities managers have. A Brandon Hall Group Study, How Can We Develop Great Coaches? points out that 75% of organizations reported that they are average or worse at coaching.

Leveraging external coaches, through a measurable and scalable digital coaching platform, is a practical way forward. Digital coaching platforms enable organizations to match external coaches with employees based on topic and need. It places the burden of managing the logistics of meaningful coaching on the software rather than on already overburdened HR teams and managers.

Even as employee turnover increases and external hiring becomes critical, most businesses (68%) still prefer to train and develop existing employees for new roles, according to the CoachHub research. Doing so requires contextualized and personalized approaches.

Coaching continues to emerge as a key strategy and most employers probably need to take a dual approach — investing more in preparing internal coaches and investing in digital external coaching.

Claude Werder, Senior VP and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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