Is coaching managed well?

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Written by Kirsty Yates on 1 September 2014 in Features
Features

Kirsty Yates provides some startling statistics on the tracking and assessing of coaching

The prevalence and benefits of coaching have been discussed at length over recent years. However, while coaching has been identified as the most effective talent management activity in recent research by the CIPD1, “coaches are still largely procured through ad hoc processes using trusted previous providers” 2.Moreover, only two-fifths undertake “specific evaluation of coaching interventions” according to the Institute of Leadership & Management3.

One of those organisations was E.ON UK. An internal review of its coaches and the business a couple of years ago revealed that while the business valued coaching, and there was a clear need for it, the reality was that anybody could come in and coach. Additionally, there was no assessment or monitoring of quality, no single record of who was being coached by whom and for how long, nor was the cost of coaching to the business being tracked.  E.ON sought to rectify these issues and approached The Learning Curve (TLC) Ltd with a view to outsourcing the supply and management of all its UK coaching. The case study towards the end of this article gives more detail on the E.ON experience to date.

TLC was curious to find out if E.ON’s situation was unique or, in fact, far more commonplace. We found very little research specifically on how coaching was being resourced, managed and tracked in organisations, despite the significant resources invested in coaching. 

To that end, TLC commissioned Adsum to investigate this research gap, to understand the extent to which clients manage coaching within their organisation, in particular:

  • Awareness of the number of individuals being coached (coachees) in the organisation
  • Awareness of their annual coaching spend
  • Existence of a consistent and robust process for tracking all coaching
  • How coaches are quality assured
  • Whether the impact of coaching is being evaluated.

The key findings of the research, based on telephone interviews with HR, OD and L&D directors and managers in 69 large UK organisations, split roughly 50/50 between public and private sectors and collectively employing approximately 688,000 people, are         presented below. 

Coverage

The vast majority of organisations, 72.5 per cent use both internal and external coaches, while 13 per cent only use internal coaches and 14.5 per cent only use coaches from outside their organisation. However, more than half (57.4 per cent) do not actually know how many of their employees are currently working with an external coach.  

Managing the coaching process

While management of the supplier relationship most often falls to L&D (43.5 per cent), followed by HR (34.8 per cent), in almost a third of cases (30.4 per cent) it rests with the coachee. This said, the majority of organisations do not know the status of each of their coaching relationships (57.4 per cent). In other words, they aren’t tracking each relationship in terms of how many sessions were contracted and how far along they are, how many more sessions are to be arranged etc.  

Reasons given include decentralised coaching and not being aware of coaching they have not arranged. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that almost half of organisations (47.5 per cent) do not know what is their total spend on external coaches every year (Figure 1). 

Quality

Respondents were asked how they ensure the quality of coaching. Some talked about having a robust recruitment process for coaches and many make a point of only working with qualified coaches. A few stressed the importance of relevant sector experience too, while others stated that testimonials from coachees were more important than formal qualifications. One quarter of organisations were not sure whether or not their coaches were receiving supervision.

One third of the organisations that were questioned seek feedback from the coachees directly in assessing the quality of the coaching. Only 10.2 per cent approach the coachees’ line managers for feedback too. Only five organisations mentioned using ‘chemistry meets’. One in 10 organisations admitted there is no formal process for ensuring the quality of coaching in their organisation.

Good practice suggests that the coaching objectives should always be agreed at the outset, as part of the coaching relationship. However, four in 10 organisations (40.6 per cent) could not say that objectives are agreed between coach and coachee in writing on every occasion. One in seven (14.5 per cent) said they are agreed only sometimes and 2.9 per cent said this doesn’t usually happen. They are more likely to be agreed every time in smaller organisations in our   sample than in the largest organisations.

Respondents were then asked to what extent the coachee’s line manager is involved in the coaching relationship. The results are shown in Figure 2. Less than half are involved in a three-way meeting alongside the coach and coachee to sign off the coaching objectives at the beginning of the contract and in the majority of organisations the levels of line manager involvement diminish during the duration of the coaching contract. Only one in eight organisations report line managers being involved in a mid-way review meeting and less than one third are involved in a final review meeting at the end of the contract.

In almost a quarter of organisations (23.9 per cent), line manager involvement is at the discretion of the coachee. In one in eight organisations line manager involvement is only to agree to, or be made aware of, direct reports’ coaching and in some cases (4.5 per cent) there’s no involvement at all.

Measurement and evaluation

Organisations reported measuring the outcomes of coaching in a range of ways (Figure 3). The most common response, cited by more than a third of organisations (37.9 per cent) was through the appraisal system. The next most popular response was through objectives, KPIs or goals (31.8 per cent, rising to 42.1 per cent amongst private sector companies), followed by specific evaluations of each coaching contract (22.7 per cent) and using 360 degree feedback (21.2 per cent). Four and half per cent of organisations said they are not measuring the outcomes of coaching at all.

Only 15.3 per cent of organisations surveyed have calculated the return on their coaching investment, with no organisations with more than 20,000 employees attempting a calculation. The main reason for not calculating ROI is the perceived difficulty in finding the best ways to measure.

Finally, organisations were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with the way coaching is managed on a scale of one to 10 where one is not at all and 10 is completely. The most popular rating is seven (26.2 per cent), and just more than a third of respondents (36.9 per cent) give their experience at least eight out of 10. However, the same percentage rate their experience as a six or lower. The average rating was 6.69.

Respondents mentioned a number of reasons as to why their experience isn’t worthy of the highest satisfaction rate. The lack of robust evaluation and/or ROI was cited most often; other reasons included needing to develop a coaching culture and strategy, having a more structured or consistent approach, the quality of coaches and overcoming the negative connotations still associated with coaching.

Conclusions

The report concludes that while a handful of organisations are very satisfied with how coaching is managed in their organisation, the vast majority feel there’s room for improvement. By its very nature coaching is resource intensive, yet the fact that many organisations do not have an accurate picture of coaching in their organisation is concerning. Furthermore, the need for all areas of organisations, including HR and L&D, to demonstrate the value that coaching adds to the organisation has never been greater yet worryingly so few have calculated their return on coaching investment. It is vital for any organisation committing significant resources to coaching to measure the value – especially those in the public sector.

Although not an easy task, it is possible to evaluate the impact of coaching and, in turn, calculate the ROI. Key to doing this is the following:

  • Each relationship should be set up correctly; i.e. the coachee has some input into the selection of their coach, coaching objectives are aligned to organisational objectives and agreed in writing by the coach, the coachee and the coachee’s line manager 
  • The coach should be fully qualified, experienced and in supervision
  • Information regarding the volume, status and expenditure of each coaching contract must be kept up-to-date and, along with evaluation data for each contract, used to measure the impact of coaching to the organisation and to calculate the ROI. This can be achieved without damaging the unique confidentiality of coaching relationships.

The following 12 steps are recommended in order to effectively set up, manage, track and evaluate coaching:

  1. Identify the business case
  2. Check out cultural readiness
  3. Emphasise contracting and code of ethics
  4. Agree a robust and consistent process for coaching
  5. Determine ideal coach specification and build coach pool
  6. Involve the line manager throughout the coaching process
  7. Set the context for coaches
  8. Ensure management intelligence reporting
  9. Link results  to internal surveys and metrics
  10. Report on evaluation and organisational intelligence
  11. Work in continuous partnership
  12. Share success stories to increase buy-in.

One organisation benefitting from this 12 Step process is E.ON UK. Since 2012, E.ON has outsourced the supply and management of all its UK coaching to TLC and their case study below  gives more detail.

About the author

Kirsty Yates is a research specialist at TLC. She can be contacted at Kirsty.Yates@thelearningcurve.co.uk

A full copy of the report, How Coaching is Being Managed and Tracked by Helen Lewis, Adsum, is available at http://www.tlcglobal.com/whitepapers

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