alchemy alliance: press room: CIPD august 2004


Making Coaching Work for You

CIPD, August 2004

The latest research shows that coaching has a positive impact on businesses but make sure you understand what it is you require before rushing out and investing in a service that is often expensive says the CIPD's Jessica Jarvis

These days everyone seems to be talking about coaching. But does it actually work?

Some executive coaches charge enormous amounts of money for their services - if it works and it translates into improved business results then it will be money well spent. But for smaller businesses, where money is on a tighter rein, making smart decisions about when to use coaching, how to select the right coach and how to measure the results is critical to achieving good value for money.

Coaching is not just being used by large organisations - many small businesses are using coaches for developing their senior managers or owners. People who work in small businesses often don't have the full range of skills or experiences to manage the growth into larger businesses. It's also unlikely that these individuals can be away from the workplace for extended periods of time for training courses.

Other drivers of the popularity of coaching for SMEs include the fast pace of change and the growing acceptance of the costs associated with poorly performing business leaders. Coaching offers businesses a flexible approach to development which can be delivered individually and 'just-in-time to address deficiencies in current performance or to strengthen under-developed skills.

So how is coaching currently being used? The 2004 CIPD training and development survey shows that four-fifths of the 550 organisations surveyed now use coaching in their organisations. They are using it to address significant business issues - 78 per cent reported that coaching was being used to improve individual performance and business productivity. But the real news is that HR practitioners think it really works. Over 90 per cent agreed that 'when coaching is managed effectively it can have a positive impact on an organisation's bottom line'. Practitioners rarely report such positive findings from other so-called 'HR fads'.

However alongside this rosy picture, concerns are also being voiced about a number of 'cowboy' coaches entering the market who are inexperienced, have little training and lack the appropriate knowledge and skills. Quality can be hugely variable and this is where the buyers of coaching services can face difficulties. Many companies are now realising that a more discriminating approach is needed to sort the higher-quality coaches from the cowboys.

Being a knowledgeable and discerning customer is crucial. You don't need to be an expert about the process of coaching, but you do need to ask the right questions and be clear about exactly what you want.

Coaching is just one of a range of training interventions. The merits of coaching should be considered alongside other options, such as training courses, mentoring or on-the-job training. In some situations, these may be just as effective but much less expensive. While coaching is an effective tool, it will be most effective when a genuine need for it is identified. Think through the following questions:

  • What are the desired development goals or performance improvements for the individual?
  • What will happen if no coaching occurs?
  • Are there any other alternative learning interventions to consider?
  • What is the impact the coaching is hoped to deliver?
  • Are there other development options that will deliver the same results?
  • How will you measure success, effectiveness and value for money?

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