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Coaching should be for all, says Institute of Leadership & Management report

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Despite being acutely aware of the benefits of coaching, only half of UK companies actively coach all of their staff, according to research by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM).

The report, Creating a Coaching Culture, released today, reveals 80% of companies use coaching as a staff development tool, with 95% reporting benefits to the organisation and 96% seeing benefits to the individual being coached. But coaching is predominantly targeted at senior-level employees, with 85% of companies coaching senior managers and directors, compared to just 52% providing coaching for non-management staff.

Penny de Valk, chief executive of the ILM, said: “Coaching is the single most cost-effective development investment an organisation can make, as this learning naturally spreads across the workplace. Yet our research suggests only a limited segment of the working population receives coaching. Companies direct it at the lucky few, rather than embedding a coaching culture across an organisation.”

The survey of learning and development managers also found most companies (83%) use their own managers to provide coaching for staff, while 65% hire them in. A third (34%) of organisations offer no training or support to their internal coaches, who are selected on the grounds that they are line managers (53%), senior staff members (46%) or a member of the HR department (43%).

De Valk continued: “At present, many coaches inside organisations are chosen informally. Managers expressing an interest in coaching are encouraged to ‘have a go’, but coaching is a specialist management skill. You do not become a great coach just by reading a book; it calls for training, experience, ongoing development and support. A willing attitude or natural aptitude is not enough.

“Encouraging staff to coach others without suitable support may well restrict the scope and effectiveness of the coaching provided. Without appropriate training for internal coaches and a support structure, organisations will struggle to apply a consistent approach to ensure they obtain the maximum benefit.”

The survey questioned participants about the value of coaching to their staff. The majority of respondents (95%) said coaching was a direct benefit to their organisations, with 96% seeing benefits to the individual. A broad range of specific benefits was identified, ranging from improvements in communication and interpersonal skills, to improved business knowledge and skills in specific areas and increased motivation levels.

However, organisations still tend to emphasise the ability of coaching to address specific performance (26%) or behavioural issues (8%).

“Coaching should not be seen as a remedial tool. It is about delivering a high-performance culture, rather than a tool to address individual weaknesses. All levels of employee, and certainly all managers and leaders, can and should benefit from a coaching approach to management,” said de Valk.

The survey also found that 85% of organisations make coaching available to their managers and directors. The larger the organisation, the more likely it is to use coaching.

Some 90% of organisations with 2,000+ employees used coaching in the past five years, dropping to 68% among those with 230-500 employees.

This report is based on telephone interviews with learning and development managers at 250 large organisations, conducted by independent research company QA Research in February 2011. It was commissioned by the Institute of Leadership & Management.