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Survey Finds Organizations Restrict Workplace Coaching

Submitted by  on October 27th, 2011

Arm in blue suit with thumb downCoaching is a powerful tool that is effective at boosting performance from the athletic field to the workplace. In my previous blog post on workplace coaching culture, I reported that the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) recently found that 80% of the 250 UK organizations it surveyed have used coaching or are using it – and another 9% planned to do so. Of those whose companies practice it, 95% said it benefits both the organization and the coached individual.

The study also revealed a startling fact: despite its effectiveness at raising the performance bar, it’s offered to relatively few. In my mind, this is a lost opportunity. If the goal is to stretch employees beyond what they think they can do, then it should be more broadly available.

If you work for a large organization of 2,000 or more employees, you’re more likely to have access to coaching. The ILM survey found that 91% of these enterprises have used coaching in the past five years. The percentage drops to 81% for organizations with 501 to 2,000 employees. And the number drops further – to 68% – for companies with 230 to 500 employees.

Of the companies where coaching is made available to employees, 85% of the ILM survey respondents said it’s targeted at middle managers and above. This makes sense since the reason for coaching is often management and leadership development (21%), senior executive development (19%) and preparation for a new role in the corporate hierarchy (12%).

But the benefits of coaching – better performance, stronger teamwork and increased motivation, to name a few – would help anyone regardless of rank. Yes, coaching assists the rising middle manager in his jump to the next level. But it also would help an entry-level employee get off to a good start and be in a position to move to a bigger role. Programs would need to be adjusted for different positions within the organization, but flexibility is one of the hallmarks of coaching. It’s never about one size fitting all. It’s about the coach’s ability to help an individual develop professionally.

Another factor, of course, is the availability of resources. Coaching requires a commitment of personnel and time. This explains why there’s much less coaching happening at smaller organizations than larger ones. However, the ILM survey shows that it is being done by some companies regardless of size. Just over 60% of organizations make coaching available to non-managers, while 52% say it’s available to all staff. There needs to be a visible commitment to universal coaching from the highest reaches of the company – those who are most likely to have their own coaches.

The decision to make coaching available to a select few is an example of a kind of thinking that keeps small companies small. The technique of good coaches is exactly what’s needed to propel individuals and entire organizations to the next level. It’s an investment that will pay dividends for years to come.

If your organization is short on resources to engage expensive external coaches, consider training your senior employees, managers and HR personnel as coaches. Implement peer-to-peer coaching or ask your local university’s business school if their business studies students are available for coaching assignments.

Does your organization limit who gets coached? What ideas do you have for making it more widely available? Please share your thoughts here.


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Posted in Research, Talent, Training | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Survey Finds Organizations Restrict Workplace Coaching”

  1. Jennifer McCoy Says:

    An interesting report Les – makes me wonder if, as coaches, we still aren’t explaining what coaching is all about. I’m not really surprised by the statistics confirming that coaching is seen largely as the province of senior managers who are ‘rewarded’ with coaching programs for personal development. Yet coaching is, at the same time, recognised as providing the kind of skills valued throughout any business, no matter the size.

    I agree with you that coaching needs to be used far more widely, and by internal people who are trained in coaching skills. Resources need not be a barrier: fundamental coaching skills after all, are simply a set of communication skills, combined with a philosophical approach that values people and seeks to help them to achieve their full potential.

  2. Leslie Allan Says:

    Thanks Jennifer for sharing your views and experience. Yes, we do need to do a better job of explaining what coaching is about and its benefits to everyone in an organization. I’m interested in hearing how other coaches feel that we are getting the message across. And are you seeing the adoption of coaching assignments for people at the lower rungs in their client organizations?

  3. Maree Harris Says:

    Les, it is my experience that in certain professions and industries here in Australia, coaching is still a very misunderstood process. While in some places it has become almost a badge of honour, in others it is still seen as a failing to “have” to go to coaching. When someone in a leadership or management position within an organisation has had a coach, I believe that person is then more likely to promote it within the organisation as a valuable professional development experience. I recently ran a workshop for a professional association on managers as coaches of their people. There was a good trun out – 52 – which I interpreted as demonstrating interest, but none of them had ever had a coach. The evaluation forms revealed that they had come with quite “off-the-page” ideas about what happened in coaching, which thankfully I had helped clarify for them. So I agree with Jennifer’s comment above that maybe we aren’t explaining it clearly enough.

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