Executive coaching losing its gloss

2007

Executive coaching might have passed its peak of popularity, according to a new survey, with a third of organizations calling on coaches less frequently now than they did in the past.

Novations Group, a global consulting firm based in Boston asked 2,000 human resource executives about their organizations' use of executive coaching.

Exactly a third said that they were relying less on coaching, with almost half – 48 percent – saying that there was no change. That leaves just one in five – 19 percent – who are increasing their use of coaching.

"According to the findings, markedly fewer companies are expanding their use of coaching than are curtailing it," said Novations Executive Consultant Michelle Knox. "These are the first data we've seen that suggest that use of coaching may be slowing."

However she added that around half of major organizations never embraced the coaching boom in the first place, while it wasn't entirely surprising that coaching was seeing a slow-down after its dramatic increase in popularity over the past decade.

"It's understandable that such enormous growth would slow somewhat, but now it appears there may even be a slight downturn," she said. "No doubt this is due to senior management pressure for greater accountability and cost containment."

However she warned that the flip-side to this cost-cutting would be that less coaching would be made available to managers at middle and senior levels.

"Most of those leaders who in recent years were able to make a successful transition to the next level benefited from coaching," she said.

Earlier this month, research from the UK found that despite spending between £100,000 and £500,000 ($200,000 - $1m) a year on external coaches, two-thirds of companies believe coaching has become an industry riddled with cowboys and the same proportion never measure whether their money is being spent wisely.

In late 2005, the Harvard Business Review found a similar story, calculating that American companies were spending more than $1 billion annually on coaching, yet warning that its effectiveness was difficult to determine.

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Older Comments

It was interesting to read that organisations are not moving forward with executive coaching programmes and that the industry is now plagued with 'cowboys' - (a bit like the recruitment industry, which as an industry still makes billions and offers on average little return in investment)

One of the problems is that many of the 'coaches' are poorly trained and those that call themselves 'executive coaches are actually just life coaches and have no professional experience in managing career coaching programmes. Companies should be engaging with a specialist career development, career coaching organisation - which specialises in working with individuals on their careers and know what 'talent management' means.

Retaining and recruiting talent is only going to get worse, companies therefore need to spend more time in selecting the right 'career coach' for their talent management needs. They should look for companies that can offer an 'out of the box' experience, with coaches that have the experience to get the most out of people using innovative career development techniques and can offer a tangible measurement of success by their programmes.

There are some professional career management companies out there - but it is hard to find them or know the ones that really do have the right credentials. Perhaps this is good for the industry as those that are good at what they do - will prevail and help companies nurture and develop their talent.

Written by katie slater founding director of A Brave New World Ltd (www.abravenewworld.co.uk)

Katie slater UK