Storytelling about Torch with Cameron Yarbrough
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 121. This week we have storytelling about Torch with Cameron Yarbrough. During this episode, Cameron and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Torch.
Cameron is an expert in all things psychology and management. His passion to build better leaders by delivering digital learning and leadership development in a holistic way really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 25 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen. This is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Cameron on from Torch. We’re going to be learning all about his firm. More importantly, the use case that practitioners should build and think about when buying Torch. So why don’t we jump right into introductions. Cameron, please introduce yourself and Torch to the audience.
Hi William. Thank you so much for having me on, first of all. Yes, I’m Cameron Yarborough. I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Torch. Torch is a leadership and development company that provides coaching and mentoring and integrates that with software tools to help people become more effective in their careers.
I love it. Well, and you know what? I think COVID probably unearthed some areas where we needed some help as leaders. Probably forced us into some conversations that maybe we weren’t ready for. So you definitely, probably, you can see kind of a pandemic world and a post pandemic world. What do you think leaders need, and what do you see out of the data that leaders need the most? As it relates to coaching and mentoring, what do they need the most? Like where do they start?
First of all, I think that what leaders need is they need a trusted relationship with someone that they can rely on to both, on one hand, empathize and get them, see them where they are, but on the other side, can also challenge them to tell them what they maybe have a hard time hearing, can confront them on their leadership opportunities. I think that’s one important thing is, is behavior change happens in the context of a trusted human relationship, and we all need those in order to develop.
Right, 100%. And again, that can come from anywhere. But, but having that, we used to call it kind of sounding board, but to be able to have something in a person that you could trust to kind of tell them not just the good things, but some of the challenges that you have, and they could objectively then give you advice on maybe how they would attack those. Where do coaches come from? Are they internal to the firm for Torch or are they external or are they a blend?
So I think that’s actually an interesting thing about Torch, is that we have set up a framework that allows coaches who are a part of the organization to still engage as a part of the development process on our platform. Or a company can choose from our pool of coaches to pair with their employees. So we’re comfortable working with coaches that the enterprise brings, or we can bring our own coaches to pair with employees.
Oh, I love that. Well, you know, this is also a great way to work with… You know, I’m gen X, right? But there’s a great way to work with people that are getting to a certain point where they want to do other things in life, but they still got a lot to give. And so you can leverage that. Through Torch, you can leverage those people in a different way that, you know, Hey, listen, you got 10 hours, you can mentor and coach somebody and really help because you’ve been through it. You’ve been through all of this stuff. Maybe not the same technology or whatever, but you’ve been through some of the same leadership challenges,
The best coaches are people who have been operators themselves and have been through those challenges that you’re talking about. They’ve been through the adversity that comes with professional development. They’ve had some degree of meaningful success, and then they’ve taken the time to either go and get a degree in psychology or they’ve gotten a certification to become a coach. So they’re current or former operators who have also taken the time to invest in training and get a certification.
So you mentioned the certification a couple of times. I was going to go there next, in terms of how you manage quality or how Torch manages quality. So on the first part of that is, how do you get the right match for personalities, I guess, on some level. Maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s other things, but how do you get the right match? And then on the back end, how do you make sure that your coaches can do the things that they say that they can do?
So we take great care in our selection process. We only accept 7% of all coaches that apply to be on the platform. We have an hour admit matching structure that is very, very accurate. 96% of people who get matched accept and proceed with their coach that they’re matched with. The way that that works is through a simple personality test that provides us information about the employee, and then we match that against attributes of the coach and then a pairing is made. And it’s very successful.
Well, first of all, that’s fantastic. Second of all, is the software learning as a part of this in terms of the conversations that they’re having? I will assume that some of this, if not most of this, is happening through phones. People are talking or maybe even doing things in person, right? How does the software, how does Torch itself learn about the topics and what they’re trying to discover, what they’re trying to overcome, the challenges, et cetera, and maybe even some of those outcomes?
So what I would kind of point to here is that at the very start of a coaching engagement, we administer a test. We call it a 360 review. And that allows us to capture data about where this person is in their leadership journey today, okay? We measure them against nine leadership domains, and we get a snapshot. It gives us a sense of where this person is at a point in time. Then three months or six months later, we administer that same test again, and then we can track behavioral change over time based on where that person started and where they ended up three, six months later. And that gives the coach really important data in terms of what’s working and what’s not working and how they may need to change up the engagement or how do they may need to challenge them different.
Or also where that person heats kudos, right? That’s the other part of it. Someone might have what are called hidden strengths, meaning they’re strong in an area that they didn’t know that they were strong in, and a great coach will reflect them and support them and be a great cheerleader. On the other hand, if a person has blind spots, the test will surface those blind spots, and the coach will give that person feedback about what their blind spots are and push them to close those gaps.
So one of the things that… You know, everyone needs a coach, right? On some level, everyone needs a therapist, everyone needs a coach so that they can kind of have someone that can help them see around a corner or help them with the unforeseen, et cetera. But probably one of the things that gets in the way of this is not just ego, but time. You know, I’m sure that you hear this time and time again about how people are busy. So how do you get them over that kind of emotional or intellectual hurdle of, you’re never too busy to be a better leader or to be coached and have a trusted relationship with someone?
Growth and development does take time. And it’s like, if you’re learning to play the guitar, you’re not going to be a great guitarist if you don’t put in the time and practice. We know that, right? Surprisingly, you might think that that people are reluctant. But in fact, when people are given Torch, they typically show up for the sessions. I think the metric that I’ll point to is that they’re allocated two hours per month. So that’d be 120 minutes. Employees generally show up over 100 minutes every month to their coaching sessions. It’s a very high engagement. On top of that, when they’re given a learning program, which is a combination of coaching plus learning path, our participation rate is 75%. So we’re really excited and very happy about the amount of time that people are actually devoting to their development programming.
I love that. You mentioned learning, and then I believe you mentioned performance as well. Where does this sit in kind of the workflow for HR? I mean, again, you can use this as a recruiting tool too, but we won’t deal with that. Let’s just say it’s inside the organization. They’re already an employee, et cetera. What, in an optimal environment, what should Torch be linked to?
So really what Torch is a people development platform with coaching deeply embedded into it, right? So what that means is we combine human coaches and mentors with software. What that ultimately looks like is what we call our people development platform, which is a combination of digital learning that allows a company to bring a unique content onto a learning path, bring the coach and group coach or a mentor onto that same learning path, to assist in the uptake of that digital content. So ultimately, that’s really what Torch is. We are an end-to-end people development platform.
I love that. So obviously the mentee or the person being coached is learning, but also your coaches are learning, right? So a part of this is, “Hey, the more they coach, the more they learn as well.” Do y’all keep track of not just the feedback loop of people’s satisfaction with their coach, and a coach with the person that they’re coaching, but do you keep track? I know you keep track of the person, the employee, because you’ve already kind of talked about the testing part of it. Do you either now or in the future, do you see a measurement of coaches growth?
So what we do is we measure coach efficacy, and really it’s our users or employees themselves that hold coaches accountable. We have an internal rating system. Employees rate their coach after every single session, and that creates an internal score that we use to hold coaches accountable. The best coaches tend to get promoted and get paired with employees that are higher up the chain. And then coaches who aren’t meeting the bar will be moved off the platform. So it’s an accountability measure, not dissimilar from [inaudible 00:12:52]. That accountability is what keeps the coach pool very rich and robust.
Yeah. What I love about that is they’re going to show up for the meetings. They’re going to show up and bring their A game because they’re also being rated. So in the rating stuff, you can see who’s doing well, who’s not, et cetera. And in the testing side, for the employee, you can also see who’s learning and maybe who’s not learning as much as they should, et cetera. You know this just because you’ve studied this. Coaching used to be for the select few, right, who are high performers, high potentials, your top A talents, the succession plan, people like that. You’ve kind of approached this and democratized coaching. Do you see it, if not now, do you see it in the future, something that you want to do with every employee?
First of all, I want to say that the way that we see leadership at Torch is that every person can be a leader. Any person who takes responsibility for other people and their surroundings is a leader, in our opinion. So you could be an SVP at an enterprise, or you could be an individual contributor, and we still see that person as a leader if they’re taking responsibilities for others around them. It’s almost more important to devote coaching resources to those individual contributors because these are the people who really need it the most, and in our experience, they’re also the people who take the most advantage of it because these are the people who are motivated, who want to grow.
You know what I love about Torch? It’s an engagement tool, and it’s also tied to learning, tied to performance, tied to all these other types of things. But it’s also quietly a retention tool. I mean, this is yet another way… If you do it right, you care about their growth, you care so much that the organization’s bought software, they’ve got coaches, there are hours, there’s time, money, and energy, and people are getting better, which is pretty much the human condition. We all want to get better. So I love that. And you probably don’t knock people over the head with it being a retention tool, but it is, right?
It’s a good thing that it is a retention tool because that’s what motivates companies to provide learning resources to their employees, right? They’ve heard the message that the number one reason why employees leave a company at this point is for career pathing, right? If people feel like the company is investing in them and investing in their development, they tend to stay longer at that company. And that translates directly into dollars and cents for the organization, because the most expensive part of operating expenses is recruiting and employee turnover. So it’s a great thing that retention moves the needle so much because that’s what translates into these resources going to employees.
You’ve got the CFO’s attention at this point because coaching, and this, again, 100 years ago, coaching was for an elite group. It was also kind of a nice to have and not a need to have. But when you tie it back to engagement and retention and churn, especially turnover, regrettable turnover, CFOs are going to get that. They’ll understand the math and they’ll understand it’s a must have, not a nice to have.
That’s right. So there are two outcomes that we track at Torch. One is promotions, and the other is retention. Based on our studies with our customers, the average retention rate for an employee is 73%. When coaching is provided to an employee, they tend to stay at that company at a rate of 88% on an annualized basis. So it’s a meaningful change that translates into the bottom line of the company.
Right. Which is, again, now you’ve got the operators, you’ve got C-suite, you’ve got the board, you’ve got everybody’s attention, not just the people in training and development, talent management, et cetera. Let’s about buying Torch for just a minute. So you demo Torch to someone. What do they fall in love with? Like, what’s that kind of the aha moment or whatever, but what are some of the things that you just know once I get to this, and once I show them this, their minds are going to be blown. They’re going to love this, et cetera. What is that?
Certainly, it’s the quality of the coaches that we’ve put together over the years. It’s that we have a very, very high bar and very high quality of our coaching pool. Too, it’s the delivery mechanism by which we bring coaching to pair. So Torch is built on construct called a learning path. So you can create an assessment. You can integrate custom content. You can add surveys. All of this translates into the ability to manage and measure employee growth, and that solves a lot of pain for the buyer. So it’s really the whole solution together and the way that we deliver coaching, that’s our differentiator.
Well, and I love that because again, you’re measuring quality. You’re not just saying it’s quality, you’re measuring it. So you’re kind of keeping your finger on the pulse and making sure that you know that it’s quality over time. So if I’ve never bought, you’re dealing with me as a practitioner, I’ve never bought coaching before. What questions should I be asking you as a prospect? What should I be asking you and learning more about buying coaching?
What you should be asking is, how do you know that your coaches are doing a good job? How do you hold them accountable? What’s the matching rate? What’s your matching success rate? What are the insights that you’re able to capture for me as a buyer that tells me that they are doing a good job? So really, what are the outcomes that I can expect as a buyer from buying Torch?
Love that. Who, say managers, that’s probably not the right word, but who’s on the client side? Who’s basically watching the dashboard and making sure people get onboarded, making sure that things are actually happening, looking at analytics, et cetera. Who’s that person inside of HR?
That is typically a head of learning and development. And these are the people that are very much outcomes focused. They are tracking, are my people liking it? Are they liking Torch? Are they liking their coach? Two, is their behavior changing? Are they getting better? Three, is this translating into higher rates of promotion than higher rates of engagement, higher and higher rates of retention? That’s the head of [inaudible 00:21:11].
Yeah. And again, they’re evaluating it all on those things. And again, they’re going to see it work or not work and then be able to adjust as they need to. How do you onboard and train new employees, new leaders that have never done this before? Again, I’m dealing with the folks that have never done this before. How do you kind of get them into the bid and get them to understand that you come in peace, and this is going to help you, and here’s how it works, et cetera. Like what y’all’s process to kind of get them on board?
That’s a great question, William. I think it starts with the clear understanding that this is a safe space and a safe environment, that their conversation happens with their coach. It’s not going to be shared with their manager or with the head of L and D or anybody else. The conversation between the employee and the coach is private, okay? So that’s step one. Step two is, we’re going to have you take a very, very simple test. It will take you five minutes, and that’s going to help us make sure that we get you the right match, because the matching is everything. If you get paired with the wrong person, you may not ever try coaching again, so we want to make sure that we get it right. And so the matching with the right coach is really important. So that’s step two.
Step three is we have to give you a 360 review. It gives us a benchmark for where you are today as a leader, and then we need to do that again in three to six months, so that the platform can demonstrate to you that you are in fact changing or getting better. So that’s how I would tee it up for someone who’s brand new to coaching.
Three years from now, as you look back, you and I are having a call. What’s success look like for Torch?
I think that what success looks like for Torch in three years is that we have continued to fulfill our mission, to help people grow and change in their careers. That’s the most important thing for myself and my co-founder. That’s why we started this company because we’ve been in the personal growth business for decades, and this is, in fact, the core mission of Torch. We are helping people grow and develop in their careers. What that looks like is that our software tools and our live human services are all brought together in a seamless way that brings a very powerful and robust change in development mechanism to the market.
I love it. Listen, I love what you’ve built with Torch, and I’d love to monitor, kind of keep track of you and see how y’all do. But Cameron, thanks for coming on the Use Case Podcast and kind of breaking things down around Torch.
William, thank you so much for having me. It was really a pleasure talking to you today.
100%. And thanks everyone for listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.