Does your organization have a coaching culture?

Study finds few organizations are using coaching effectively

By Claudine Kapel

A key goal for most organizations is to achieve high levels of employee performance as a means of driving business results.

There are a number of factors that can influence employee performance, including compensation and rewards, performance management, the quality of internal relationships, and the overall work environment.

But some performance levers are harder to implement and sustain than others — which is why they don’t get as much airtime. Consider the role of coaching in organizations.

New research by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), found the majority of respondents reported having “less-than-stellar” coaching capabilities. The study reflects input from the 274 members of i4cp’s Executive Leadership Development Exchange.

Only 20 per cent of respondents indicated that coaching is used effectively in their organizations to a high or very high extent. In contrast, 43 per cent rated the effectiveness of their coaching as small or not at all effective.

Similarly, only 23 per cent of the overall survey respondents felt their organization models a coaching culture to a high or very high extent. The high-performing organizations did this to a greater degree than their lower-performing counterparts (31 per cent versus 18 per cent), but both groups have a lot of room for improvement.

The research found that a top barrier to effective coaching is the fact that coaching skills are “not widely mastered” in many organizations. The lack of coaching expertise may reflect a lack of ideal coaching behaviour being modeled by senior leaders or managers not having sufficient opportunities to learn and hone coaching skills, says i4cp.

Compounding the challenge is that few organizations hold managers accountable for effectively coaching their people. In fact, only one-quarter of the high-performing respondents indicated coaching is included in managers’ accountabilities.

An organization won’t benefit from its efforts to train managers on coaching if managers are not held accountable for using those skills to accomplish objectives related to talent development, workforce performance, and the transfer and retention of critical knowledge, says i4cp.

Yet building an organization’s coaching capabilities can yield a number of benefits.

“The most compelling reason for establishing a coaching culture is its positive correlation to organizational performance,” says i4cp. In addition, previous i4cp research found coaching and mentoring were the approaches most highly correlated with success in the development of Millennials.

Additional research findings include:

  • Organizations with the best coaching cultures view coaching as an organizational competence
  • High-performance organizations use coaching to transfer knowledge
  • Coaching initiatives flourish when an executive-level champion is involved
  • Coaching cultures thrive through expertise, accountability and measurement.

In comparison to the lower-performing sample, the high-performing respondents were:

  • Twice as likely as to report they use coaching to help individuals further strengthen targeted skills to a high or very high extent
  • Five times more likely to report they use coaching to increase knowledge transfer to a high or very high extent
  • Seven times as likely to report they use coaching to help individuals reach their full performance potential / productivity to a high or very extent.

In addition, only 36 per cent of the high-performing group indicated coaching does not have a champion at the executive level, compared to 50 per cent of the lower-performing group.

The comparisons between the high-performing respondents and their lower-performing counterparts offer insights on what is needed to make effective coaching part of the organizational culture.

Leadership commitment, role models, training, and management accountability are all key requirements to enable effective coaching. It isn’t enough to tell managers what is expected. For managers to become truly effective coaches, they must also receive quality coaching.

Organizations must start to walk the talk if they want to evolve their approach to coaching from an unfulfilled ideal to a way of doing business.

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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