Coaching no longer the preserve of the elite

Mar 26 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

With two fifths of UK firms now offering it to employees at all levels, coaching is rapidly shaking off its image as a bit of a fad to become an ever more mainstream and important part of the manager's learning and development toolkit.

According to the UK HR body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, more than seven out of 10 British employers now use coaching within their organisations, compared with just under two thirds last year.

A similar proportion of managers also felt coaching was an effective tool, even though their reasons for using coaching often varied widely.

Nearly eight out of 10 employers that offered coaching to all their employees used it for "general personal development", with three quarters saying they used it for "helping poor performance".

Those organisations that only offered coaching to managers tended to have a different emphasis, using it more as part of their wider management and leadership development programme.

More than two fifths of organisations now offered coaching to all employees, with some four out of 10 offering it only to directors and senior management and a third offering it to senior managers and line managers or supervisors.

The vast majority of coaching was carried out by line managers coaching those who reported to them, the CIPD survey found, followed by HR and/or learning, training, and development specialists.

More than half of the organisations polled believed that coaching by line managers was the most effective learning and development practice, with nearly half anticipating that even greater responsibility would fall on to line managers in the next five years.

Yet just eight per cent evaluated the effectiveness of their coaching via a formal annual (or other regular) evaluation process.

Two out of five simply felt that the effectiveness of coaching could be gauged by reviews of objectives conducted with line managers, coaches and coachees.

Dr John McGurk, the CIPD's learning, training and development adviser, said: "Coaching is not just a popular technique but an immensely powerful one for supporting personal development.

"There is no doubt that coaching is having a significant impact both on individual and organisational performance. As coaching helps people to develop, it's a perfect fit for the fast moving knowledge economy in which we operate," he added.

But the key factor in whether or not it worked was in managers recognising that coaching had to be used as just one part of the training and development toolkit, he stressed.

"Organisations face significant challenges in drawing up frameworks that ensure value for money and that are aligned with their organisation's strategic objectives," he argued.

"The challenge will be about how best to evaluate the effects of coaching, in light of the current emphasis placed firmly on anecdotal, rather than 'hard' measures. Unless coaching is managed and designed effectively, the results may not measure up to expectations," McGurk warned.