a)plan coaching

Group Coaching Programs: An Organization’s Complete Guide

Organizations today need resources to support employee well-being, employee performance, team-building, innovation, and culture creation. Group coaching has proven itself as one of the best resources on the market for organizations looking to check all of these boxes and then some. In this guide, we cover key topics related to group coaching for organizational leaders wanting to learn more about the transformative power of this game-changing resource.

What Is Group Coaching?

Group coaching, or cohort coaching, is a professional development resource used by companies to support specific groups within their organizations. A group coach may work directly with group members in a one-to-one format, a one-to-many format, or a hybrid of both.

Group coaching is commonly used to support historically underrepresented groups (HUGs), BIPOC constituencies, or employees with shared circumstances within an organization. In a general sense, this type of coaching can be leveraged by employees, leaders, and cohorts who seek to improve overall company culture, team building, understanding, empathy, and success.

It’s important to note that group coaching can look a lot like team coaching, depending on the structure of the program. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably. At a)plan, many of our group coaching engagements entail breaking the group into smaller cohorts who then receive team coaching. More on this a bit later in the guide.

Today’s Group Coaching Landscape

For professionals in the human resources and people operations spaces, the coaching world may feel like the Wild Wild West. Companies today offer different flavors and twists on the same services—and group coaching is among the most confusing to navigate.

We recognize that some concepts in this guide are general, while others specifically pertain to a)plan’s approach and methods. This distinction is needed largely because, broadly speaking, today’s group coaching landscape is very inconsistent. Finding the right coaching resource for your own organization may take some searching. We hope you’ll find plenty of overlap between your own needs and this guide.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have questions answered such as: 

  • What is group coaching? 
  • When would an organization use this type of coaching?
  • How does it work?
  • What is a)plan’s take on group coaching?

Read on for answers to these questions and more as we walk you through our complete guide to group coaching for organizations.

3 Approaches to Group Coaching Programs

We pride ourselves on our highly customizable program design at a)plan, which truly allows organizations to craft their ideal coaching experiences. In our experience bringing group coaching to dozens of organizations, engagements tend to take a few common forms:

1. One-on-One Coaching for All Members of a Group

Perhaps the most straightforward group coaching approach is to offer one-on-one coaching to all individuals of a specific cohort within an organization. This could mean all employees of a certain background, area of expertise, or circumstance. Through one-on-one coaching, organizations provide the richest, most supportive coaching experience available.

This is the approach we took while coaching at Stripe. We coached 40 “Black Stripes,” or Black employees, within the company. In this case, Stripe aimed to support a historically underrepresented group with high-touch, personal coaching for each individual. Participants could use the benefit for whatever they needed, as Stripe recognized the value in supporting a group that faces unique challenges in the workplace.

2. Team Coaching for Smaller Cohorts of a Group

Another common approach is to divide a cohort into smaller groups who then receive their own team coaching. This is a popular approach for organizations aiming to serve a large cohort, but want to make sure the experience remains high-touch for each participant involved. At a)plan, this approach has little effect on the consistency of the coaching. Since all of our coaches are trained on the same method, the quality and subject matter of the coaching remains the same from group to group.

This is the approach we took at prominent video game company Double Fine. At Double Fine, we were tasked with designing a group coaching program for all new managers at the company. Working with a cohort of about 16 people, we created five groups who received team coaching around “Manager Essentials.” Over the course of six months, each cohort worked with their coaches each week on learning new skills, putting them into practice, discussing progress in teams, then iterating on the focus topics to get better as a unit.

3. One-on-One or Team Coaching + Training

Finally, we often see organizations opt for one of the above approaches, plus some wide-reaching training sprinkled into the program. This can be an effective way to serve groups in a “hybrid” manner, allowing for large group development as well as individual development.

Training differs from coaching in that the coach is ultimately on stage, providing topical expertise in a presentation format. It’s more educational, as opposed to the immersive, hands-on experience achieved through coaching. There’s a time and place for both, and the two services can complement one another nicely when used in tandem.

Common Group Coaching Topics

Both group coaching and training are typically rooted in focus topics. After all, all coaching engagements should begin with desired outcomes and goals. The beauty of coaching is that goals can take any shape. There is no shortage of focus topics for an organization looking to improve. That said, below are some of the most common areas around which we build our coaching and training programs:

  • Diversity, equity & inclusion
  • Managing ambiguity
  • Time management
  • Influence and negotiation
  • Decision-making and role clarity
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Goal setting
  • Problem-solving
  • Coaching peers & direct reports
  • Mindfulness 
  • Executive presence
  • Email effectiveness
  • Management essentials
  • Delegation
  • Owning your career
  • Overcoming imposter syndrome
  • Effective communication
  • Effective meeting etiquette
  • Courageous communication
  • Culture transformation

Common Group Coaching Use Cases

Now that we’ve covered some common topics, what would it actually take for an organization to seek out this type of coaching program? When would an organization want to try this resource and who would benefit?

The short answer is that it entirely depends. Most of the time, the need arises from a pain point or shortcoming experienced by a certain group within the organization. Perhaps your BIPOC employees aren’t feeling heard and would benefit from having a dedicated space to discuss unique challenges. Or maybe a certain cohort of employees needs extra support through a big moment of change. Or, as we covered in our Double Fine example, coaching for new managers is a great way to strengthen a critical level of the organizational chart.

If your organization is proactive about accepting feedback from employees, look for patterns in their feedback. Do people complain about similar struggles? Are there clear gaps between where the company is versus where it wants to be? Identifying these patterns are some of the earliest steps toward seeking out a group coaching program that could transform your organization.

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Finding the Perfect Coaching Solution for Your Organization

If you’re familiar with our blog, we’ve said it here before: a)plan strives to be the best coaching provider on the market, not the biggest. What does that actually mean? We believe the best coaching solution is scalable and consistent, yet completely customizable. It can serve a large group while still maintaining its structure and integrity.

One size does not fit all when it comes to these important topics. Finding the perfect coaching solution means finding a service nimble enough to really understand the challenges at play for any given organization. We pride ourselves on being that solution for a growing number of organizations leveraging group coaching. If you’re looking for a coaching solution that can fit your organization’s specific needs, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to chat!

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