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Coaching research: key findings

Helen Mayson

Coaching research: key findings

Our report, Creating a coaching culture, reveals the state of coaching in Britain and how leading businesses are turning it to advantage.

ILM's coaching research investigates the extent to which organisations are embracing the development practice of coaching. The survey of learning and development managers, decision makers at 250 large organisations, revealed a number of important findings.

Most companies use coaching as a development tool: 80% of organisations surveyed had or were using coaching. Another 9% were planning to. The more employees in the organisation, the more likely it was to use coaching. 90% of organisations with 2,000+ employees used coaching in the past five years, but just 68% of those with 230–500 employees.

It is mostly middle managers and above that receive coaching: More people should be able to benefit from coaching in organisations. At present only 52% of organisations make coaching available to all their staff. Whereas 85% of organisations said that coaching was aimed at managers and directors, and middle management.

Organisations source more coaches internally, but use external coaches to coach senior executives: 83% of organisations surveyed source coaches internally, while 65% hire them in. External coaches are used primarily to coach senior managers. Interestingly, there is more rigour over selecting external service providers, benchmarks of quality are still needed though in an unregulated coaching industry.

More support is required for internal coaches: Coaching is a discipline, a complex practical skillset that requires hands-on experience, evaluation and refinement. A greater focus on developing internal coaching capacity is needed. Most organisations recognise the value of coaching qualifications. Two-thirds (66%) offer development options for coaches such as in-house training (20%), management development programmes (11%) or one-to-one train-the-trainer support (8%).

One third (34%), however, do not offer any support or development for internal coaches.

Broad consensus on the benefits of coaching: The benefits that are obtained are well recognised and varied. 95% of organisations believed coaching as a development tool benefited the organisation, and 96% believed it benefited the individual. A broad range of specific benefits were identified including improvements in communication and inter-personal skills, leadership and management, conflict resolution, personal confidence, attitudes and motivation, management performance as well as preparation for a new role or promotion.

Coaching is aimed at improving the individual rather than the organisation: At its best, coaching addresses personal skills and development, as well as business and work skills. More organisations use coaching for personal development (53%) than for improving specific areas of organisational performance (26%).  On an individual level, though, more organisations (95%) use coaching to focus on business and workplace skills, than personal skills (70%).

Not a remedial tool: Many organisations still view coaching as a tool for correcting poor performance. However, good coaching is about achieving a high performance culture, not managing a low-performance one and should not be seen as a primarily remedial tool.

Better measurement of coaching's effectiveness is needed: While most organisations (93%) measure coaching outcomes, evaluation approaches are inconsistent. Some organisations simply use internal appraisal systems (70%) or 360 degree appraisal (40%), only two-fifths undertake ‘specific evaluation of coaching interventions’, while just under half (49%) assess against business KPIs and goals.

A coaching culture:  Organisations wishing to maximise the benefits of coaching, should focus on increasing its scope and availability to create a coaching culture that permeates throughout their workforce. This means that coaching must be supported at the very top of the organisation, but not limited to senior executives, and that organisations must devote resources to developing their internal coaching capability.

Download the full report


  • Jared Checkley

    I certainly agree that coaching is best aimed at the individual.  In my previous organisation, where I was head of a software development team, we implemented the SEI's Team Software Process (TSP) across a large team and one of the fundamental components of that process is coaching.  Importantly, TSP coaches work with individual team members and do not share their data (metrics) with management / executives.  This gives employees confidence that they aren't being "monitored" be executives and instead there is a genuine effort to improve them as an individual contributor.  I also strongly support that successful coaching culture flows in all directions with every team member being focussed around customer feedback. 

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