How coaching is being managed and tracked

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Written by Helen Lewis on 28 April 2014 in Features

The need for all areas of organisations, including L&D, to demonstrate the value that coaching adds to the organisation has never been greater, Helen Lewis says

The prevalence and benefits of coaching have been discussed at length over recent years.  However, whilst coaching has been identified as the most effective talent management activity in recent research by the CIPD1, “coaches are still largely procured through ad hoc processes using trusted previous providers” 2. Moreover, only two-fifths undertake “specific evaluation of coaching interventions” according to the Institute of Leadership & Management3.

Despite significant resources being invested in coaching there appears to be very little research on how coaching is being resourced and managed in organisations. To that end, Adsum was commissioned by The Learning Curve (TLC) Ltd to investigate this research gap.  This report is based on interviews with HR, OD and L&D Directors and Managers in 69 large UK organisations collectively employing approximately 688,000 people.

The objectives of the research were:

To understand the extent to which clients manage coaching within their organisation, in particular:

  • Awareness of the number of individuals being coached  (coaches) in the organisation
  • Awareness of their annual coaching spend
  • Existence of a consistent and robust process for tracking all coaching
  • How coaches are quality assured
  • Whether the impact of coaching is being evaluated.

Key findings

57.4 per cent do not know how many employees are actively engaged with an external coach

57.4 per cent do not know the status of each of their coaching relationships.  In other words, they aren’t tracking each relationship in terms of how many sessions were contracted and how far along they are, how many more sessions are to be arranged etc.

47.5 per cent do not know what their total spend on external coaches is every year.

A quarter of organisations said they didn’t know whether or not their coaches were receiving supervision

Objectives are always agreed between coach and coachee in writing in only six out of 10 organisations

50.7 per cent are not involved in a three-way meeting alongside the coach and coachee to sign off the coaching objectives at the beginning of the contract.  In the majority of organisations the levels of line manager involvement diminish during the duration of the coaching contract.  Fewer than one third (31.3 per cent) are involved in a final review meeting.

Organisations reported measuring the outcomes of coaching in a range of ways.    The most common response, cited by over a third of organisations (37.9 per cent), was through the appraisal system.  The next most popular response was through objectives, KPIs or goals (31.8 per cent), followed by specific evaluations of each coaching contract (22.7 per cent) and using 360 degree feedback (21.2 per cent). 

Only one in seven organisations (15.3 per cent) has calculated their return on coaching investment. The main reason for not calculating ROI is the perceived difficulty in finding out the best ways to measure.

Organisations rate their level of satisfaction with the way coaching is managed on average 6.69 on a scale of one to 10 where one is not at all and 10 is completely satisfied. The smaller organisations in the sample rate their experience more highly than the larger organisations. More than a third of organisations rate their experience at a six or lower.

Respondents mentioned a number of reasons as to why their experience isn’t worthy of the highest satisfaction rate.  The most popular reason is the lack of robust evaluation and/or ROI.

Conclusions and recommendations

While a handful of organisations are very satisfied with how coaching is managed in their organisation, the vast majority feel there’s room for improvement.  By its very nature coaching is resource intensive, yet the fact that many organisations do not have an accurate picture of coaching in their organisation is concerning. 

Although not an easy task, our research shows that it is possible to evaluate the impact of coaching and, in turn, calculate the ROI.  Key to doing this is the following:

1. Each relationship should be set up correctly; that is, the coachee has some input into the selection of their coach, coaching objectives are aligned to organisational objectives and agreed in writing by the coach, the coachee and the coachee’s line manager.

2. The coach should be fully qualified, experienced and in supervision.

3. Information regarding the number of people being coached, how far along in their coaching contract each one is plus expenditure data must be kept up to date and readily available to those responsible for learning and development, along with evaluation data for each contract so that the organisation is in a position to measure the impact of coaching to the organisation and calculate the ROI.

The need for all areas of organisations, including L&D, to demonstrate the value that coaching adds to the organisation has never been greater yet worryingly so few have calculated their return on coaching investment (even more so in those public sector organisations that spend heavily on coaching).

Our final recommendation to those organisations who are purchasing a significant volume of coaching from external suppliers and who wish to stay in control of the process is to consolidate: consider handing over the provision and management of the coaching to a single supplier (with a portfolio of suitably-qualified coaches, good track record, etc.) and contract with your supplier in such a way that they are accountable for tracking the information shared in points 1-3 on the previous page with regular reporting including and especially the ROI calculations. 

You can read a full copy of the report at


1 CIPD (2013) – Learning and Talent Development Survey

2 CIPD (2009) – Taking the Temperature of Coaching

3 Institute for Leadership & Management (2011) – Creating a Coaching Culture

About the author

Helen Lewis is marketing director at Adsum


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