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Is coaching really worth it?

Sue Alderson

Passing ideas between people

Thinking of implementing coaching in your organisation? Sue Alderson from Azure Consulting shares a case study from Kirklees Council that shows the real impact

In a growing number of organisations, coaching is becoming the favoured method for aiding professional advancement and supporting employees to become fully empowered and take responsibility. We work with many organisations that have benefitted from the rigour of a coaching programme. The reasons that many are starting to embrace the opportunities and benefits offered by the practice include improved performance and productivity, as well as increased job satisfaction, which further enhances both of these important attributes.

Joe Edwards from Azure has conducted some fascinating research into our coaching work with Kirklees Council as part of his University of Leeds dissertation for an MSc in Organisational Psychology.

Coaching at Kirklees Council

In his report ‘Coaching: Is it worth it? An investigation of the impact of coaching within Kirklees Council’, Joe finds that: “Coaching appears to be actively saving the Council money in numerous ways, such as reducing the cost of spending on external executive coaches, reducing the costs of replacing staff resulting from staff applying internally for promotions, and reducing the costs incurred through absenteeism.”

He also found: 

  • There is evidence to suggest that coaching has a significant impact on performance
  • Coaching leads to strong improvements in confidence
  • Trained coaches scored higher on measures of psychological empowerment
  • Coaching may be associated with increased job satisfaction

These are just a few of the ‘headline’ benefits of coaching, which can be an immensely rewarding experience, both from the coach and the coachee’s perspective. All can have beneficial impact upon performance and productivity.

Kirklees Council has started its investment in a ‘culture of coaching’ by training a selected group of employees to themselves become coaches. These individuals then coach others within the organisation, while investment is made in CPD and supervision, and the establishment of effective processes for people to access coaching.

Managers are also offered the chance to participate in the Coaching as a Leadership Style programme, in order to provide them with skills that can be used in an everyday work setting. A questionnaire was designed and emailed to 475 council employees, and a 45-minute interview was undertaken with council employees who had been trained as coaches.

Coaching improves sales staff

Previous research (Agarwal, Angst & Magni, 2009) shows that in a sales environment, employees who received coaching achieved greater sales and, ultimately, profit.

In our study, the facts also appear to speak for themselves. Over half (53%) of internal coaches reported seeing improved performance in the people they have coached, and 63% of coachees reported that their manager had noticed improvements in their effectiveness at work, due to coaching. This latter statistic is particularly strong, as it suggests that the performance effects of coaching are such that the majority of people who were coached also received positive managerial feedback as a result.

A supportive atmosphere associated with a culture of coaching can improve employee morale and loyalty, thereby helping to reduce staff turnover and boost productivity. High employee turnover has a financial impact upon organisations, through the cost of recruitment and training of new employees. Organisations should weigh up the costs of implementing a coaching culture against the high cost of employee turnover to determine its benefits. Though it is difficult to isolate coaching as the sole cause, our study found statistically improved job satisfaction scores within the directorate with the highest take up of coaching, compared with those in the department with the lowest take up.

Coaching empowering staff

In the interviews and questionnaire responses, many people talked of coaching as a tool for “empowering” people. In our study, many of the coachees also gained self-confidence with 92% of internal coaches observing increased confidence levels among those with whom they had worked.

One coach reported: “All of my coachees have grown in confidence and have said they feel better able to try different ways of doing things.”

This can have a direct impact on individual performance, particularly if the confidence boost relates to job-specific tasks; for example, communicating with customers or giving presentations, to take two examples from the study. In such cases, workplace performance will be improved. There are numerous successful case studies, including the gaining of promotions, relating to these increased levels of self-confidence. One coach said the process led to “a star recognising they are a star and having the confidence to apply and successfully get a promotion.”

Coaching can achieve many positive effects. One employee of Kirklees Council stated: “It is important the value of coaching is recognised not only for the short term quantifiable benefits but also, and more importantly, the longer term intangible benefits from the way in which it supports and embeds culture change and our efforts to become a more emotionally intelligent organisation.”

As the study shows, an organisation, which has recognised these potential benefits and invested in coaching for the good of its culture and the individuals within it, can achieve multi-layered rewards. It is a process which acknowledges the value of those who work within an organisation, and reflects that any entity is only as good as the people within, so why not help them to become the best they can be?

Sue Alderson is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development.

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