Realizing that buy-in for the initiative would be critical for any type of leadership development program to scale, UserTesting enrolled senior leaders from the engineering and product development side of the business through the program first. As a result of their participation, these leaders not only reaped benefits of coaching, but the chief technical officer also reaped benefits as his leadership team began to up-level in their strategic thinking, cross-functional collaboration and team development. These senior leaders then also went on to become internal advocates for coaching, identifying other leaders who could benefit from the experience.
UserTesting chose Sounding Board as their vendor because their approach was not only data oriented, but also because it allowed leaders to personalize their experience by identifying the top leadership areas of focus specific to their development needs. Leadership capabilities that coachees could develop included:
The automated coach matching model resulted in a 97 percent satisfaction rate; coachees reported a 91 percent average coach satisfaction rating after their first session alone. When asked if their coaching experience was off to a good start, 93 percent of coachees agreed. Ninety-one percent of coachees agreed that their coach was a good match for them, and 86 percent said they had a good understanding of how coaching could work for them.
Coachees and their managers saw the biggest growth in these leadership areas:*
Coachee Growth %
Manager Growth %
Leading high-performing teams
Setting vision and direction
* The percentage of growth is based on the difference in coachee and manager ratings at the beginning of the process and at the end of the program.
As one UserTesting coachee said that “[My coach] asked engaging questions that allowed me to drill down deeper into what I’m thinking about. In our first session, I felt like we were already on a great coaching plan direction.”
Another coachee said that their coach was “a very good listener, but also challenges me as she listens and repeats what I say in a way that forces me to re-evaluate my thoughts, which is exactly what I needed.”
Coachees loved their experience and rated Sounding Board with an NPS score of 87, which demonstrates how willing they would be to recommend coaching to their peers and colleagues.
As part of the UserTesting retention strategy, the organization continues to invest in coaching for their leaders. The program has expanded to focus on leaders at all levels, including individual contributors. UserTesting reports that leaders now have a better understanding of what softs skills are and how important those skills are to their leadership and growth. “Overall, leaders have demonstrated a great deal of self-confidence and awareness that they were able to build through their work with their coach,” says Avery Coleman, senior people business partner at UserTesting. But the ultimate criterion for success comes in the form of leaders raising their hands to re-engage with the Sounding Board coaching experience; 20% of leaders continue to work with their coaches beyond the initial investment.
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Building products and experiences that are centered around the people that use them is an expected mission for today’s successful organizations—but it wasn’t always that way. Dave Garr and Darrell Benatar recognized the need for fast human insight back in 1999 when the pair first began working together and needed a more scalable solution to test web experiences.