Developing a Coaching Culture

Balfour Beatty WorkPlace


Balfour Beatty WorkPlace (BBW) is a market leader in support services to both private and public sector customers. The business has a total workforce of 12,000, with revenues of over £900 million.

Recently a new strategy had been developed within BBW to move from solely engineering, to a total facilities management company. This meant targeting new clients and new ways of working. As such there were implications for the people skills needed for the future, which were different to those the company had acquired in the previous 100 years. The key for BBW was to develop a new style of leader to match the new way of working. Recruiting from outside was one option in terms of creating this new talent pool, but BBW chose to create leaders internally who would think and behave differently. They wanted leaders who would build relationships with clients and colleagues and step into a new world in which middle managers actually needed to manage and lead the business rather than be fixers. With the help of VBL, BBW introduced a Developing Leaders Programme to create this pool of future talent to support the new business strategy.

A pool of talent was identified inside the business who could learn and grow within a two to three year period into General and Area managers. It was recognised that this pool of talent would require support inside BBW during their development to offer two specific skills:

1.       Coaching and Mentoring support to embed their learning around leadership development.

2.       A role model to show how a coaching and mentoring culture could be cascaded throughout the business.


It was always intended that the people identified for the programme would be supported by internal coach mentors. The objective was to develop a coaching culture alongside developing the internal leadership talent pool. Initially this was too big a leap, so the second group of developing leaders was the first to be supported by internal coach mentors. Throughout the twelve month programme the developing leaders were coached by an internal BBW Coach who was drawn from the senior management ranks of the business. The coaches volunteered for the role and were supported, trained and supervised by qualified coaches from the VBL Coaching Centre of Excellence. VBL developed a coaching development programme for the internal coach mentors, which included coaching workshops for direct coaching skills input and on-going coaching supervision over the twelve month period of the Developing Leaders Programme.


The results have been impressive. Of the people who participated during the first three years of the programme 88% of them have been promoted to at least Area/General Manager level, with 42% achieving more senior roles. This represents a business saving of at least £300,000 had BBW recruited externally and they also have the benefit of people moving to more senior roles with a high existing level of knowledge and experience of the business.

Within BBW there now exists a group of senior leaders who are using coaching as a development tool for both themselves and others and who are ambassadors of this approach to leadership development. BBW uses graduates from the Developing Leaders themselves as a resource to support this and other programmes. This has also resulted in different types of conversations internally and externally with clients.