Building a Strong Coaching Culture at GlaxoSmithKline PULLS One of the first priorities was to build an internal coaching structure to ensure high standards across the global organisation. As a global healthcare company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is in the business of helping people be their best. It’s little surprise, then, that the organisation has invested in building a strong coaching culture to help individuals within the organisation achieve their personal and professional goals. The results have been impressive, with the organisation reporting a 2,900 percent increase in coaching in the last half-decade and a return on investment of $66 million USD.

In recognition of GSK’s robust global coaching initiative, the International Coach Federation (ICF) awarded the organisation the 2016 ICF International Prism Award. The Prism Award program honours organisations that have achieved the highest standard of excellence in coaching programs that yield discernible and measurable positive impacts, fulfil rigorous professional standards, address key strategic goals, and shape organisational culture. (Learn more at

A Self-sustaining Model Prior to 2010, GSK’s use of coaching was reactive, with spiralling costs and dispersed and limited accountability. Leaders realised they needed to make a change in order to attract, develop and retain talent that has the confidence and skills to challenge the status quo and make change happen. One of the first priorities was to build an internal coaching structure to ensure high standards across the global organisation. GSK’s Coaching Centre of Excellence (CoE) standardises coaching globally throughout the organisation by improving access, ensuring quality and efficiency, and creatively containing costs. It is a self- funded unit without a direct budget from GSK; rather, all coaching costs are charged to the business units using coaches’ services.

One of the first priorities was to build an internal coaching structure to ensure high standards across the global organisation

Rogerio Ribeiro, senior vice president and area head of emerging markets and Asia Pacific for GSK, says this model makes the program even more valuable than if it were budgeted because it really makes him, and other business leaders, evaluate how this cost will impact business. “We’re not using it because it’s something that is centrally available or funded,” Ribeiro says. “We’re using it because it’s the right thing. You must believe that coaching is the way to develop better leaders.” Developing Leaders Internally Coaching has strong support from leaders within the organisation, and more than 60 percent of the corporate executive team uses coaches on a regular basis. “They’re very much supporters and talk about it openly,” says Sally Bonneywell, PCC, vice president of coaching for GSK. “The way that they position coaching is that it’s for success and for people who want to become the best versions of themselves. … It’s not positioned as being anything like remedial; it’s very much about saying how it can help us be even more successful.”

Leaders are such believers in coaching that they have pushed for specific coaching programs. A few years ago, CEO Andrew Witty wanted to increase the number of internal candidates ready for C-suite positions, so GSK created the Enterprise Leadership program, which includes 18 months of Executive Coaching for high-potential employees.

Designated CEO Emma Walmsley, who will become GSK’s first female CEO in March 2017, was one of three founding sponsors of the Accelerating Difference (AD) program, which aims to promote more women to more senior levels within the organisation through coaching, sponsorship and dialogues. Walmsley says, “Having women at all levels allows us to see role models at all levels, allows us to see the possibilities that we have ahead of us in terms of our careers. It creates coaching and mentoring opportunities and frankly some very practical guidance around our career and life journeys that many of us face.”

Approximately 46 percent of 2013 AD participants have been promoted by at least one level, compared to 26 percent of women and 27 percent of men at the same grades across the organisation. Participants were also more likely to stay at the organisation (76 percent) than 69 percent of women and 71 percent of men who did not attend the program. Direct reports indicated that AD participants improved in manager effectiveness over time, improving more than three times faster (7.7 percent) than a control group (2.1 percent). @subhead: Coaching Worldwide

Rolling coaching out to different cultures and regions can be difficult, but GSK has accepted that challenge and is working to give everyone at the organisation the opportunity to experience working with a coach.
Individuals at GSK may also face cultural challenges when transitioning to different roles, and coaching is there to support them. Ribeiro recalls his own experience after being promoted to his current role, which moved him from Brazil to the United Kingdom. Not only did he have to adjust to new and added responsibility but also to a different culture.

He sought out coaching to help him understand the different ways of working and the different agendas in his new culture. Calling the experience “incredible,” he says, “Today I feel that I am contributing to the global agenda, even though I come from a different background and culture.” Bonneywell adds, “There are a lot of huge ripple effects that happen as a result of coaching in terms of empowerment, in terms of satisfaction, but also in terms of leadership effectiveness. … I do recommend people to do it, with caution, making sure they use credible ICF Core Competencies, making sure they have credentialed coaches and set the standards, but also with the encouragement of senior leaders. The sponsorship of the very senior leaders and our corporate executive team is so very important.”