Demonstrating the Impact of Coaching
Publication: Training Industry
Author: Taryn Oesch, CPTM

According to a 2017 International Coach Federation (ICF) survey, professional coaching is growing. Thirty-one percent of respondents said they’d participated in a business or life coaching relationship, and 66 percent said they were at least “somewhat” aware of the field.

These numbers were up from 17 percent and 58 percent, respectively, in 2014. Furthermore, in a 2016 survey by The Conference Board, 69 percent of companies said “they expected to rely more on internal coaches in the coming years.”

Why Is Coaching Becoming More Popular?

“I believe that coaching is growing in popularity for two main reasons,” says Jamie Gelbtuch, founder of Cultural Mixology. First, people are becoming more knowledgeable and experienced thanks to technology but need support to turn that knowledge and experience into skills. Second, “workplaces are increasingly global, and even the most talented leaders encounter specific workplace challenges, obstacles that can seem insurmountable or blind spots that often grow out of great strengths … Coaching helps people bridge these gaps and turn conscious incompetencies into conscious competencies.”

Additionally, says Lisa Barrington, PCC, BCC, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, founder and principal of Barrington Coaching, “coaching is the most customized way to increase leadership and organizational effectiveness.” It’s also faster to implement than designing a custom training program, and results “often start to emerge within months.”

Coaching can improve individual and team performance, employee engagement, manager-employee relationships, and conflict management. Training Industry research has also found that it can make leadership development more equitable between the genders. It’s also a continuous development opportunity rather than a one-time training event, points out Thuy Sindell, Ph.D., founder and president of Skyline Group International. “It is done over time, which ensures opportunities to practice, get feedback and refine.”

Measuring Impact

As coaching becomes more popular as a development tool, organizations are investing more money – and, therefore, looking for a greater return. The Conference Board survey found “an uptick in coaching rates, with more organizations paying upwards of $600 per hour at the CEO and C-suite levels.” Researchers concluded that “evaluation represents the holy grail for organizations using coaching to develop their leaders and managers.”

Therefore, L&D leaders who are implementing coaching need to be prepared to demonstrate its impact. Last fall, Skyline Group launched a new coaching technology to help companies manage coaching programs and measure impact. “Right now,” Sindell says, “most organizations measure based on program evaluations, word of mouth, promotion and retention rates. There is no direct measurement of skill growth and impact.” This gap is what Skyline Group is trying to address.

Dr. Scott C. Whiteford, director of leadership development and analytics at Talent Plus, Inc., recommends establishing personalized impact metrics at the beginning of the coaching engagement. For example, he worked with a chief medical officer who wanted to increase patient satisfaction by 10 percent year over year, so their partnership “focused on how [he] could increase the engagement of his physicians, nurses and staff. By increasing their engagement, he would likely see an increase in patient satisfaction. In the end, he achieved the 10 percent increase year over year, and we considered the engagement a success.”

In addition to platforms like Skyline Group’s, organizations can use 360-degree assessments, employee retention and engagement, coachee retention and promotion, and productivity measures. Depending on your industry, you may have additional metrics that will be indicators of the impact of coaching. For example, Pamela DeCampli, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, executive vice president of value added services at Kirby Bates Associates, says that in a health care setting, quality and safety measures are important to track. She’s seen a 65 percent decrease in patient falls and “zero occurrences of infections in several indices” as a result of coaching.

In sales, says Mark Magnacca, co-founder and president of Allego, metrics might include number of deals closed, percent of quota reached, and performance on sales calls and in meetings. Again, technology can help. For example, reps at Allego’s client companies use its coaching platform to record themselves practicing various skills and then submit the video to their coaches for feedback.

“Each job role [requires] a personalized combination of experiences to ensure success,” wrote Training Industry leaders in the 2019 Training Industry Trends Report. Delivering the optimal blend of personalized learning experiences has historically been an inefficient approach to training. However, with the advent of new technologies, even coaching can be an efficient, scalable approach to personalized learning.