June 11, 2019

Can a reporting hotline do the job of a coaching resource?

Exploring the results from Intel’s Warmline initiative, and why objective and unbiased guidance matters.

Technology giant Intel earned national headlines last month when it shared results from its “Warmline” initiative—an anonymous hotline they launched in spring 2016.

Barbara Whye, Intel’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, told CNN that the Warmline was “a proactive way to address employees’ concerns before they were ready to exit.” Reports would indicate that it’s working: the service, operated by case managers from the Diversity and Inclusion team, boasts an 82% “save rate” of employees who stayed at the company after bringing a complaint.

The similarities between the reporting platform and the kind of coaching we offer at Bravely are clear. Both provide people with a sounding board as they work through workplace issues, and both emphasize confidential guidance.

In fact, as Whye points out, many Intel employees have used the Warmline as a general coaching resource: “It can sometimes be just wanting to know about areas where they can grow professionally.”

But there’s one big difference. The Warmline is an internal resource, and for that reason the case managers who run the service simply can’t be objective and unbiased. It’s encouraging to see companies as large as Intel investing in human-first retention tools, we’re led to wonder how effective a tool designed for reporting can really be for coaching.

We know that approaching difficult conversations is easier said than done. According to our research, 70% percent of employees are avoiding difficult conversations. That number hasn’t budged over the past 10 years, despite the countless programs companies have put in place and the billions of dollars they’ve spent to retain employees and create open environments.

What makes engaging in this dialogue less daunting? At Bravely, we believe that it’s speaking to someone who has no personal stake in the issue being discussed, and who works outside the walls of your company. A conversation with a “third party” lacks the pro-company bias that employees can feel from HR or their managers, and can generally feel like a safer outlet.

Let’s face it: HR departments are tasked with representing the best interests of their company, and employees know that. As a result, we’ve found that they’re often more open to the feedback they receive from a neutral expert, especially when it comes to sensitive topics.

As we continue to witness the impact that our coaching has on employees, we have to wonder how much stronger programs like Warmline could be if they were supplemented by outside support. Our hope is that companies developing their arsenal of engagement and retention tactics will see that some in-house problems need out-of-house solutions.

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