HRM practices are very important to modern organizations irregardless of size and nature of operation. Although the practice has evolved from the archaic personnel to modern HR practices, the generic processes have remained the same with emphasis on the value addition to the existing frameworks.

In today's operating environment, the ability to compete effectively is key to all organizations, irregardless of the size and operating environment. This has been necessitated by the increased levels of competition as well as globalization which have brought to light many competitors with varied strategies and plans. Although the application of HR practices in small organizations is relatively informal, the practices are known to bring efficiency and economic use of resources if applied well.

In the HRM context, the number of employees is used to describe the size of the company firm. In this context, it is the number of employees that is used to describe the size of a company irregardless of other structures. Therefore, the definition of a firm in terms of size is described as a complex affair generating many definitions. According to Wiesner and McDonald (2001), a small firm is one that employs between 20 and 99 employees, while medium to large firms employ over 100 workers.

The Problem

Human Resource management is an emerging practice that is struggling to achieve its strategic position in the business world (Kaman et al., 2001).This is explained by the many studies that have been done to justify the need to transform the practice from personnel to strategic HRM and the need for the practice to stand as a strategic partner in the management of businesses today. The importance of coaching draws its strength in the strategic direction of operations. In order for an organization to achieve its set objectives, it is imperative that it equips all the employees with the requisite skills and techniques that are necessary to drive the company agenda (Armstrong 2006).

Sound coaching processes come in to serve this purpose, with a view of matching the organizational needs to that of the candidates being selected. This process is critical in succession planning in that through this; an organization is able to plan for its future through ensuring that it has a sound organizational succession plan. This is also reinforced by the fact that the organizational is able to create a balanced workforce thereby safeguarding itself from legal actions on equal opportunity and diversity. Industrial relations on the other hand seek to create harmony in the organization by creating a conflict free environment between the employer and the employee (Kaman et al., 2001).

These small firms are known to use personal intuition and informal means to project the future training needs of employees given that they rarely conduct formal needs assessments due to lack of resources or the lack of information that the formal processes exists. They use informal discussions and sharing of information as a way of gathering industry data and trends since they do not have the funds or are unwilling to use the formal techniques. This call for a study like this to investigate the importance of coaching in these organizations, their impacts and the need to investigate the modes used to coach the employees in the small organizational set up.


There are many definitions of small as well as medium size businesses. The definitions depend on revenue turnover, number of employees and the industry of operations. In many instances, small and medium size companies have rather been given less attention in the human resource studies despite the fact that the practices in these firms are not any different from those of big companies (Chandler & McEvoy 2000).

There is an emerging view that Coaching and Mentoring within business is still within the infancy of academic literature, however when looking at the available literature there is certainly a leaning towards the senior levels of management within the larger organisations in the business world this can be tied to the resources available  when the actual training available. Indeed in (Hudson-Davies, Parker and Byrom 2002) it is stated that "it was also found that these training and development opportunities were often not tailored to the needs of small retailers were too formal". This gives an indication again that the trend is towards the higher levels of management and also the larger sectors within the business world. I will be looking to evaluate current coaching and mentoring roles and whether there is suitability for these to develop and give flexibility to support the smaller manufacturing company that I am targeting my research benefits for.

The current literature carries a wide range of viewpoints, throughout this research I will look to pull out pertinent points which develops an understanding of where the strengths of the coaching and mentoring role can be applied to the smaller organisation and also where the gaps are. Theory will also be studied to understand how the application can be of benefit to the organisation.

Broadly speaking the topic of coaching and in particular that of executive coaching has been brought about outside that of the traditional methods engaged in any other academic discipline e.g. Leadership Development which is perhaps the closest link into coaching which can be found. The literature surrounding executive coaching is extensive, in the main focusing upon what the purpose of the role is and also what can be viewed as being best practice.

Still there appears to be gaps within this research as to which the important factors of coaching within an organisation are and which areas will provide the desired outcomes of the coaching strategy. After all, the reason an organisation wishes to put in resource for effective coaching is to gain a benefit back to the organisation (Kaman et al., 2001).

To understand though what benefits this research can bring, it becomes apparent that the nature of the coaching in place, the coaches behaviour the strategies being employed what differences are there and what outcomes can be expected. This would show a level of distinction as to what expectations an organisation can require as an outcome of the effectiveness of the executive coaching being delivered. In breaking into this field it has been important to embrace the other areas of the available literature, Leadership development, mentoring and motivation this has been important to gauge at what level does coaching have an impact.

The term coaching has various guises; the most common understanding of coaching is that within the sports world. However, this paper will keep to the world of business. My understanding of executive coaching is whereby the learner is guided to learn, using techniques which unearths the learners own skills by self development and understanding.

Mentoring Versus Coaching

Like many organizations in a world of globalization and technological changes, the practice of employee coaching is being influenced by trends of work, dynamic technology and organizational growth. Mentoring has been defined as a relationship between an experienced and a less experienced person in which the mentor provides guidance, advice, support, and feedback (Harris, 2000)..

Mentoring nowadays is used a method of helping new employees to adopt to new organizational culture ,enhance personal and career development as well as avail new opportunities for employees traditionally engulfed in organizational barriers. Its benefits are not limited to work but can provide employees with opportunities for cultural awareness, appreciation, and the potential high performance (Harris, 2000). A typical model is the apprentice learning from a skilled source. In the archaic days, it focused on career advancement within the larger organizational hierarchies but now the focus has shifted to other personal objectives.

The main difference between mentoring and coaching can be explained from various dimensions. From the academic point, Mentoring is the transfer of wisdom and has a mentee that takes an interest in their career path. The mentee is advised and guided by the mentor who has passed through the same process the mentor will guide and encourage the employee to attain full potential in an organization or in a career path (Hill and Stewart 2000).

Mentors work well if they are the immediate superiors of the individual while in some cases guidance is provided by top managers in the organization. Coaching on the other hand is very specific for passing of skills to the employee. It is defined as a transfer of skills and a one on one development of the trainee's own knowledge and thought process (Hill and Stewart 2000). It gives more emphasizes to the development of employee and group skills by creating an environment which encourages and uplifts the coachee morale. Coaching is more on personal levels and is repeatedly undertaken
until the desired results are achieved.

What must also be understood is what kind of engagement this type of coaching requires. It is generally agreed that executive coaching takes place more in meetings which can span several minutes to several hours, they can be formal or informal gatherings, these can be over the course of a couple of sessions to spanning years.

Coaching and Management

Management is a very essential part of any organization in that if an organization does not have sound leadership it is likely to miss the organizational objectives.  Strategic managers influence people to get things done to a standard and quality by providing the much needed leadership and guidance.  Excellent managers are aware that if they want their employees to be committed and achieve high standards, they must be models of the behaviour they expect of others (Baron, R. 2003).   They will always strive to establish principles concerning treatment of employees and the approach to achieving the organizational goals. They also seek to establish high performance and excellence standards and proceed to set examples for employees to adopt.

Leadership and Coaching

As HR managers, the biggest challenges faced on a daily basis are that of actually managing the productivity of our employees. The common challenge is the difficulty of hiring and retaining the right employees for the right job. I addition to defining the technical skills for a job, HR managers need to identify the type of behavioural skills the new employee must possess in order to fit into the dynamics of the organization.   Identifying the right attributes that will support and compliment the existing team is critical if the exercise is to be successful.

When hiring people, it is increasingly important to determine and identify the most core competencies for the organization and the position. At this stage, it is vital to involve the management team to support in the process as most of them will have to interact with the new hire in the performance of duties. Failure to continually provide coaching helps the new employees to improve in performance.  Although the management may be very clear on the expectations on hiring, these may be reinforced by coaching and mentoring in the initial stages of the new role.

Considerations for HR in Small and Big Businesses

There is a rather growing concern in the market that small firms are complex in nature and the fact that they are influenced by many factors. Recent studies in this area have indicated that the HRM practices in the small organizations are more informal than informal with the owners having the leeway to use personal judgement in many processes. This is clearly explained by the fact that the firms, many of them privately owned, may not be compelled by law to undertake certain processes. The need to undertake these two practices (Recruitment and employee relations) depend on the size of the firm in that many small firms may find it rather uneconomical to recruit through some channels. Although the practices may be similar, the manner in which they are undertaken is what is of concern.

For example a small organization may choose referrals, families, walk-in and word of mouth rather than spend money advertising on print media for open vacancies. It may opt to place the advert in a local newspaper to avoid high costs and to undertake the recruitment process at two stages rather than use a recruitment agency. For the industrial relations part, large companies will find it necessary to have a sound strategy to deal with the relationship between the company and the employees given the need to create harmony in its operations.

Indeed many big organizations have two levels of employees, the top management and the lower cadre who in most cases are unionized. The consideration to have these policies lies in the need to have harmony within the organization so that the goals and objectives are met (Harris, 2000).For the small operators, this may not be of much benefit given that most of them are privately owned and therefore, despite abiding to the existing labour legislations, employees might find no motivation to unionize. However, the need for good employee relations is necessary for the organizations given that the need for employee motivation and productivity cuts across all types of organizations, irregardless of size.

Some Barriers in small firms

The main issue identified in the application of HR practices in small and medium firms is the lack of resources, both time and money, necessary for the adoption of HRM and workplace innovations such as time and money (Hill and Stewart 2000). Further, the management may not have the adequate training with respect to HRM and broader management practices and subsequently the required understanding of the impact of HRM on the business.

Although many managers in small firms have displayed lack of understanding of HRM as a practice, some of them are fairly familiar with the basics of the practice and have applied the same to increase employee productivity. The other reported barriers are the facts that most of these small organizations do not have fully pledged HR departments and the overall management is in charge of the function.

This has continually presented a challenge to the practice in that it is usually left to the administrative staff to undertake the function given that most of the top management team are concerned with profitability and not the employee well being and productivity. In this context, employees are usually treated as liabilities and not assets with all the emphasis being directed to profitability and organizational growth.

Organizational Performance implications

Research has consistently advocated the formalization of HRM, especially human resource training and development in order to create an enabling environment for creativity and innovation (Kaman et al., 2001). The bureaucratic HRM reduces flexibility levels since small companies are characterized by informal communication, micro management, and widely defined jobs. It has been argued that small firms need to adopt formal HR practices in order to enable the performance culture to take root in these organizations. For example, the performance management issue needs to be addressed whether the organization is big or small.

The uses of performance metrics such as appraisals have to be applied in the management of all organizations irregardless of sizes. Given that it is necessary to attract, motivate and retain employees in this competitive environment, small firms have found it extremely hard to link pay with performance. This is because they are not able to offer competitive salaries and effectively link reward and performance since they use salary survey and informal means to reward their employees and determine salary levels. 

In the recent past, Hornsby and Kuratko (2003) reported that the availability of quality staff and the provision of employee benefits remain important staffing issues for small firms. The Performance measurement practices in the small firms are mostly informal, continuous and are generally used as monitoring and control tools rather than other performance and organizational purposes. Research found out that the formal performance review meetings in small firms served the both the purpose of providing feedback for developmental purposes as well as a forum for discussing pay related matters (Cassell et al., 2002). Although training in small firms is an important HRM issue, formal training is less likely to be available in these firms (Storey, 2004).

Types of Coaching

First, it is important to clearly distinguish executive coaching from the other. Common form of coaching is life coaching. Life coaches work outside the boundaries of work and business, focusing more on personal issues. Specifically, life coaching is the practice of helping clients determine and achieve personal goals, find personal fulfilments, and purpose and meaning in life, and is a very prevalent practice (Carr, 2004).

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There are marked differences in the goals and implications of executive and life coaching. Most importantly, the primary purpose of life coaching is not improving work performance or career success (though that may be a byproduct), but rather, the attainment of personal goals and fulfillment. Further, it is intended to be utilized by people without regard to their managerial authority or employment status (Carr, 2004).

Finally, there are not necessarily any individual or organizational performance related implications with life coaching, while this is a principal goal of executive coaching. Therefore, for purposes of focus, the subject of this study is confined executive coaching as defined below, and excluding life coaching. It is also important to define the parameters of "executive coaching" for this study, as executive coaching is a largely unregulated and non-uniform profession in which there is wide variation in coaches' backgrounds and the nature and focus of their practices (Berglas, 2002; Sherman & Freas, 2004).

While all the variations in coaching have not been mapped out, and there is not complete agreement in the literature on the 5 definition of executive coaching, there is general consensus regarding several key elements of the practice: executive coaching is a

(a) Formal helping relationship between

(b) A coach (an individual who possesses knowledge of behaviour change and organizational functioning) and

(c) An executive (an individual having managerial authority and responsibility in an organization)

(d) For the purpose of creating behavior change that result in improved performance and enhanced career success

(e) And (where hired by the organization) improving their contributions to their organization (Kampa & White, 2002).

This type of coaching is the intended subject of this study. More concretely, while there is no standard format, coaching engagements are typically conducted in several one-on-one private sessions which last any where from a few minutes to several hours (Sperry, 1993), and span anywhere from one session to several years. There is usually some level of confidentiality (Kampa & White, 2001). Depending on the purpose of the engagement, the coach may assess the executive (via 360-degree feedback, qualitative interviews, psychological instruments such as personality and leadership inventories) in order to provide feedback to the executive regarding their strengths, weaknesses, perceptions of others, performance, etc. (Kampa & Anderson, 2002).

Coaches then work with the executive on whatever particular issues are the subject of the coaching, helping them determine what objectives they need to meet, identifying steps they need to take to achieve their objectives, and helping them make concrete plans to successfully carry the plans out. There is a broad spectrum of purposes of executive coaching. Witherspoon and White (1996) assert that there is a continuum of four general purposes for coaching.

Some Examples

In the last five years, SEMCO has adopted a strategic approach to the creation of a developed society in US by developing the employees especially in the production wing. The main strategic objectives of the company are to have access to the right people with the requisite skills while keeping in mind the organizational objectives.

This is made possible through coaching, development and the general integration of all the employees' at all organizational levels. At SEMCO, coaching and development is very important and is given a strategic approach which is explained by the availability of key initiatives namely the Engineering Students Scholarship, graduates sponsorship, Competency Assurance Management System, SEMCO Technical Coaching centre and the sponsorship programmes (SEMCO, 2010).

Key objectives

The Human Resource division at this company exists to build the capacity of all the employees through intensive coaching and development programmes as explained in the strategic plan for the next five years. The company endeavors to be the employer of choice who is able to attract and retain the best talent in the market.

The management therefore takes no chance in this journey and therefore has put in place sound coaching and development mechanisms such as the SEMCO Technical Coaching centre which is mandated to carry out capacity building for all employees and stakeholders. The other key objective is to hire the right people at the company since the management believes that employees are the key source of competitive advantage for the company (SEMCO, 2010).

Evaluation of coaching outcomes

In addition to the existing employees at the HR division of SEMCO, the company will utilize the use of survey techniques to ensure that the objectives of the company are met. SEMCO will also use the employee satisfaction surveys and indices to gauge the motivation and satisfaction levels of the employees as a tool to identify loopholes and shortcomings in the existing employee programmes.

At the end of one year, the HR division will develop a comprehensive questionnaire which will be administered to all employees electronically through a link. The purpose of the questionnaire will be to determine the employee satisfaction levels and indices for all the functions of the employee life cycle from recruitment to separation.

The analysis of the survey will therefore be used to gauge the impact of the initiatives and identify gaps within the strategies. The results will be shared with the management and the employees to enable them appreciate the organizational health from an employee perspective. SEMCO will also use coaching evaluation as a basis of effectiveness of the coaching programmes undertaken by the company.

For example, after all the classroom coaching, the company will take the trainees for an on the job coaching where the employees will be subjected to a real operating environment and expected to display their expertise in undertaking the tasks. The trainees will also be expected to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching through coaching evaluation forms availed after the coaching.

Other parameters

Systems thinking

This concept allows the employees to study businesses as bounded objects and SEMCO uses this is the annual measuring of the organizational health. This is done by the use of many assessment tools like appraisals, coaching evaluations and employee satisfaction surveys (Storey, 2004). These systems have proved successful in the organization as it has acquired the continuous learning and coaching ideas and initiatives.

Personal mastery

This is depicted by the commitment by all the employees to the process of learning and coaching since it gives SEMCO a competitive edge since the workforce can learn quicker than those of competitors. This is done through the comprehensive coaching facilities and initiatives at SEMCO. This learning and coaching is later transferred to the organization through improved performance.

Mental models

Through the open feedback mechanisms at the organization, the ideas of the management and the employees are challenged with the view of finding a common ground that facilitates the achievement of both organization and the employee. The organizational values are very clear and therefore any obsolete ones are identified and discarded. This has been crucial in building trust among the management and the employees.

Shared vision

In any dynamic company, the development and adoption of a shared vision between employees and organization is vital in motivating the staff to learn as it creates a common identity that provides focus and energy for learning and coaching (Harris, 2000). At SEMCO, these visions are shared with employees at all levels since the application of traditional structures is prohibited. The organizational structure is relatively flat thereby enabling a free flowing trend in information sharing.

Team learning and coaching

The benefit of team or shared learning and coaching in any organization is the fact that it facilitates the fast growth of an employee. The engineers at SEMCO are trained in groups for common techniques and application. This allows for brainstorming and dialogue thereby leading to a shared understanding of the concepts. In addition there are many technical retreats for the technical staff who meet to discuss emerging trends in their field of expertise as well as possible solutions.

The Benefits

There are many benefits of adopting a learning and coaching culture at an organization. It helps in the maintenance of high levels of innovation as well as remaining competitive in the market. In this way, the organization is able to respond to external issues quickly and efficiently (Cassell et al., 2002).

This knowledge is also useful in linking the company with the employees and customers who are important stakeholders in the organization. The quality of outputs is also enhanced since the employees are more informed and able to perform better. The corporate image is also uplifted an thus the organization is able to grow vertically and in profitability.


Despite being a learning and coaching organization, SEMCO has faced problems in the process of learning and coaching. The personal mastery has severally been criticized by the management since it is hard to quantify the results. This is because in some divisions, the traditional hierarchies are still being applied and therefore hinders full learning and coaching. Some of the old guards are still resistant to learning and coaching and this has been seen as a strong barrier to learning and coaching at SEMCO.

This is because they are threatened by the new wave of technical staff coming to the market that is equipped with new skills compliant with the technological changes in the operating environment. However, the management has made coaching compulsory and therefore this resistance is slowly dying in the rise of acceptance to change. In addition, the growing size of SEMCO is slowly becoming a barrier to internal knowledge sharing (Storey, 2004).

This is because the company is expanding very fast and the employees are spread all over the regions. The management has mitigated this by introducing constant updates and organizational information sharing to ensure that there is constant feedback and feed forward in the company.

Although many managers at SEMCO have displayed lack of understanding of learning and coaching as a practice, some of them are fairly familiar with the basics of the practice and have applied the same to increase employee productivity. The other reported barriers are the facts that most of these regional offices do not have fully pledged HR departments and the overall management is in charge of the function.

This has continually presented a challenge to the practice in that it is usually left to the administrative staff to undertake the learning and coaching function given that most of the top management team are concerned with profitability and not the employee well being and productivity. In this context, learning and coaching is usually treated as liabilities and not assets with all the emphasis being directed to profitability and organizational growth (Cassell et al., 2002).

Management role in coaching

Martins (2007) discuss the actual role of the manager and how the insight into HRM activities can have an impact upon the workforce and how benefits can be delivered to the organization.  Indeed "employers have sought to increase the responsibilities of FTM's for a range of soft and hard HRM activities and issues" Martins (2007). However, the skill set and knowledge base of the manager is not always ascertained as to whether these new responsibilities can be carried out to an effective level. 

In nineteenth century the role of management was often outsourced or subcontracted, these managers would often employ their own staff and with this carried he authoritarian aspect of leadership, hiring and firing and the management of their staff would be dealt with by this subcontracted manager, this however led to issues in how performance issues and disciplinary methods were controlled, "FTMs often displayed unfair behaviours to their staff, such as hiring and firing them as they please. They were perceived as people with power or able to elicit control over those they recruited" Martins (2007)

During the Industrial Revolution era, research and studies were carried out that highlighted gaps both in the hiring of FTMs in respect to experience but also of knowledge, indeed George (1972) in Martins (2007) mentions "FTMs in this era were untrained in the intricacies of management, and were left to their own devices - to develop their own leadership styles, and learned very little from others.

The initial discussions show that the idea of coaching and mentoring of management at any level during this period was non-existent; going further I believe that this area of development for management at any level would not even have been considered, not only to benefit the organisation primarily never mind to develop management skills and workforce. This goes further into the areas of executive coaching. The gaps in these skills were apparent but always viewed upon as untapped.

When viewing coaching as an area of discipline, it should be noted that there are many disciplines which can overlap. Looking at how coaching is applied it was necessary to understand how coaches practised the techniques and theories. This would enable an understanding of how coaches believe the benefits are passed to executives and how they develop and benefit. Throughout this research I found that the actual empirical work on coaching is rather limited in its availability.

The practicing theories and models surround areas of cognitive behavioural therapy (Richard, 1999), Best practices seem to be concentrated upon, usually through case studies, regurgitation of experiences of coaches and also research and surveys carried out on the crop of coaches and also the executives which have been involved. There seems to be a varying degree in the implementation of the techniques and theory, but what is apparent through the literature is that there is a link as to what the expected resulting impact and results as to what is believed to be the ingredients to what is successful coaching.

The success of executive coaching is designed to bring out the improvement not only that of the individual but that also of the performance improvement within the organisation and also bring about changes within the behaviour of the individual and with a desire for that change to affect others within the organisation and as such also develop that and spread that change.

This can be linked to cultural aspects within the organisation which can bring massive change; of course the right change is required. An improvement of the persons ability to successfully manage people have an understanding of how individuals perform giving soft skills to encompass goal setting, self awareness and also understanding of leadership skills all come out of empirical studies and case studies of coaches and those of the learner (Hall et al, 1999)

There certainly seems to be an agreement that the purpose of the coach when taking in the executive level of coaching is that the primary concern is to improve performance not only that of the executive but also that an improvement in their personal and career development is a desired state.


The effects of coaching in small organizations on employee behavior at the workplace cannot be ignored. This is because everyday coaching in small organizations influences the workplace and the way we perform our duties. Many employers are now treating coaching in small organizations as a source of competitive advantage and therefore they have created a business opportunity in achieving all organization goals.

The only issue that may arise from coaching in small organizations is that every employee comes from a different technical background. For example ones understanding of an issue may not necessarily reflect the opinion of the other. Therefore it is on this basis that discrimination or inequitable treatment based on coaching in small organizations is not acceptable given that there are all types of employees who find them displaying different lifestyles (Cross, 2000).

Coaching in small organizations is useful in the creation of new creative and innovative products and services from the many views that arise among the employees. It also leads to new and better ways of solving business solutions so as to meet the ever changing customer and client demands and thereby enabling the business to serve its stakeholders better and efficiently.

Precisely, coaching in small organizations creates a room for a wider range of views and ideas to exist in an organization, including conflicting and critiquing views to the existing frameworks. In addition, it increases and enables the business to focus and on its core values in return simulating positive growth. According to Estlund, (2003) this understanding and importance enables an organization to understand its competitive position in the market. In the 21st Century, coaching in small organizations is instrumental in managing organizational change and dynamics as it enables the effective delivering of conformity to the target market.

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