Coaches sow seeds of chaos as business stays in the dark

More than a third of employers have no idea what executives are learning when they use coaches to improve the productivity of senior staff.
A survey of more than 15,000 organisations by Brunel University and Performance Coaching International, reveals that 38% of coaches were given a free rein and that the employer had no idea if what was being taught was in line with overall strategy.

The findings will concern employers, which are increasingly using coaching in a bid to improve productivity and retain top talent.

The 2005 annual report into training from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reveals that three-quarters of employers expect to see an increase in coaching by line managers in the next few years, while more than a third expect to use more external practitioners,.

Almost two-thirds of the 664 respondents are already using independent coaches despite a lack of established standards, professional bodies and qualification frameworks.

Kevin McAlpin, head of coaching at Performance Coaching International, which commissioned the Brunel research, said there were real dangers if executive coaching did not align an individual’s needs with the strategy of the organisation. “Rogue coaches can infiltrate one line of the business taking the executive and in extreme cases a whole section of the business off in a different direction,” he said.

Clive Smith, head of leadership development programmes at Barclays Bank, which uses executive coaches, said coaching must be closely tied with the needs of the individual.

“In some organisations it is seen as a God-given right to get a coach when you become a top-level executive,” he said. “You have to identify their needs – for senior executives, coaching needs to be bespoke.”

Jessica Jarvis, learning, training and development adviser at the CIPD, said HR had a key role to play in pushing for higher standards in the coaching industry. “By exerting pressure regarding minimum expected standards, qualifications and outcomes, they can ‘raise the bar’ in terms of standards across the industry,” she said.

What is coaching?

The CIPD defines coaching as “developing a person’s skills and knowledge so that their job performance improves, hopefully leading to the achievement of organisational objectives. It targets high performance and improvement at work, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s private life. It usually lasts for a short period and focuses on specific skills and goals”.

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