From 2006 to 2017, CareSource’s employee base grew 300 percent, and recently, its longtime CEO retired. To deal with this upheaval, the nonprofit turned to change-management coaching, which it says saved the organization millions of dollars and helped senior leaders keep employees engaged.
Ten years ago, as CareSource, a nonprofit health plan organization, started to expand quickly, it found itself with a plethora of new leaders, either promoted from within or hired from outside. To get them up to speed, they started a leadership-transition coaching program that gave all new leaders one-on-one coaching from an International Coach Federation-credentialed coach for six to 12 months.
“We were on this fast trajectory, we are a nonprofit that has always run lean, and employee engagement has been extremely important to us,” said Matt Becker, CareSource coaching and mentoring manager, as well as an ICF-credentialed coach.
Then, about a year and a half ago, CareSource’s CEO, who had led the organization for 30 years, announced she was retiring. So the nonprofit started a group coaching program for executives at the vice president level to help them manage change. “It was about bringing them together to help them look at change from a more systemic viewpoint, to make sure that they’re working together and collaborating even more effectively,” Becker said.
The executive coaching group meets once a month. The coach usually starts with two or three general themes. They delve into: “What are the specific kinds of things that we can be doing to impact this topic or area? And what are we open to committing to each other around behavior change, or sometimes process change?” said Jaclyn Smith, vice president of CareSource University, who attends the group. The following month, they assess whether they practiced what they talked about and what the outcome was.
The group talked extensively about how to speak about the CEO change. Certain terms can make people excited or anxious about it, and the executives wanted to “set that tone in a very consistent kind of way,” Smith said. They discussed how to “be authentic in this change—as we move through a CEO exiting and then bringing on a new CEO—in our own feelings about it,” including some grieving and some excitement, and how to allow employees to express their own emotions.
The change-management coaching has gone smoothly in part because “coaching was already part of our culture, part of the fabric, so it was a natural extension of what was happening in our regular conversations with people,” Becker said. When they started the leadership-transition planning program, he said they did not think of it as a change-management program, but now they realize it is.
CareSource estimates that coaching has saved the organization more than $3 million, and it has produced a return on investment of 409 percent. The organization has measured the number of employees retained, improved efficiency (e.g., when leaders delegate and when teams operate on higher level), and costs avoided (e.g., overtime and consultants).
For other organizations implementing a coaching program, Becker recommends that they “figure out how to measure your success early. We didn’t do that right away,” but people are more likely to support the program if you can demonstrate success, he said.
Ultimately, the goal of this type of coaching is to give people tools to think about change. “Change is very personal, and assisting leaders to understand their own level of where they are in the change process—that makes them so much more effective with their teams,” Smith said. Coaching improves their personal ability to deal with change and their ability to lead their team, “so the collective benefit of that is just immense,” she said.
In addition, after leaders see the benefit of being coached themselves, they’re more comfortable having similar conversations with their staff. Coaching “provides a safe place where people can open up and be honest and work thorough what they’re struggling with, and hopefully resolve it,” Becker said