There are certain questions that are bound to be uppermost in the mind of anybody who is considering the introduction of coaching in the workplace. These might include:
You’ll find plenty of answers to these questions online, published by various interested parties, usually those promoting workplace coaching in general or their own coaching services particular.
Some of this is useful stuff and some of it is less useful. But what most of it has in common is a lack of independence and scientific rigour.
For example, many return on investment (ROI) measures are highly simplistic and fail to account for other potential performance influencers such as team input or other development activities.
Similarly, monetary or statistical ROI measures are rarely able to reflect the considerable indirect benefits that can accrue as result of coaching, such as the positive influence of the coachee on team members, increased job-commitment and improved well-being.
Fortunately, as coaching has matured as a discipline there is an increasingly impressive body of empirical evidence to demonstrate what coaching can do.
In 2013, academic Tim Theebom and his colleagues set out to examine this evidence and assess the effectiveness of coaching in the workplace by reviewing all the relevant studies published up to that point in the scientific literature.
They only included studies where the coaching had been provided by a professionally trained, independent coach with no formal authority over the coachee (“professional coaching”). This was because one of the main points they wanted to examine was whether the cost of hiring professionally trained external coaches was justified.
They excluded from their analysis all individual case studies, all studies that they could not be sure were internally valid and all studies where the outcome may have been affected by something other than coaching.
The remaining studies were then categorised in accordance with the outcomes that were assessed after coaching had taken place. These outcomes fell into 5 broad groups, as follows:
The overall results of the analysis that Theebom and his colleagues painstakingly undertook were as follows:
This therefore means that professional coaching in the workplace has proven to be a highly effective intervention that can directly lead to enhanced workplace performance in three ways:
It is also significant is that the study also shows that professional coaching is effective in boosting psychological factors that are highly important in supporting workplace performance. These include health, well-being, coping, resilience, task or role specific self-confidence, organisational commitment and job/career satisfaction.
Finally, and this will be of interest to budget holders, the study shows that it is not always necessary for coaching in the workplace to continue over extended periods of time, although the authors suggest that for sustained long term effects to be achieved where the issues involved are complex, there may be a need for a greater number of coaching sessions.
In summary, therefore, the evidence shows that coaching is a cost effective way to bring about significant improvement, change and growth across a range of performance, development and behavioural contexts in the workplace.
Theeboom, Tim, Bianca Beersma, and Annelies EM van Vianen. “Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the effects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context.” The Journal of Positive Psychology 9, no. 1 (2014): 1-18.
I'm Martin Cole. I am a UK qualified lawyer, a leader within the financial services regulatory and compliance sector and an organisational and executive coach. I have an Master of Science (M.Sc). in coaching psychology and am certified as a coach by the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership. I also have a Bachelor of Laws (LLB (Hons.)) and was admitted as a barrister by the Inner Temple (now non-practising). I have lived and worked in London and Sydney and now live near Edinburgh in Scotland with my wife and two daughters. I support Crystal Palace FC, have wide ranging musical tastes (especially Jazz, Blues and Soul) and oppose mediocrity, selfishness and organisations that fail to value their people.
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