The Future Of Coaching In The Workplace
By Lise Lewis, President, EMCC
Professional status, occupation or a transitory fad masquerading as a catalyst for change? This is a question which can be applied to coaching being accepted as a serious activity that adds value to, for example, business performance and success.
Coaching has grown exponentially with some expecting the ‘bubble to burst’ as the market became saturated with people seeking a new venture which appeared to attract generous rewards with minimum efforts. Coaching has, however, sustained and continues to spread across Europe and more recently emerging globally in the Far East and South America.
Despite this popularity and growth, the marketplace is confused and not confident about the quality of the coaching services available. People are familiar with the word coaching and not always with the definition about what it is or what it achieves. There is still the common perception of coaching being strongly aligned to sports and the expectation that the activity will be similarly universally applied in all circumstances. Also, organisations want to be sure that their investment during financially challenging times is a cost effective option for individual development and business improvement. It is likely, therefore, that the buyers of coaching will seek more reassurance about the competence of the coaching services they buy. In fact, there are already signs of this occurring in the public service through invitations to tender for coaching services.
So, what is happening to help these buyers? What is evident is that some of the leading professional bodies are setting standards and providing benchmarks for best practice. They appear keen to see the industry self-regulate and show that government intervention isn’t necessary. By setting standards, their membership is able to distinguish their practice as competent, professional and ethical.
Buyers of coaching are therefore being encouraged to be more discerning in their purchasing. Through the standards becoming available they are able to ask more searching recruitment questions. Potential providers of coaching services can expect to be asked, for example, about their experience in terms of number of clients, hours of coaching and what has been the success and achievements for clients being coached.
Supervision is also being encouraged as a quality management tool and to demonstrate that a coach is practising professionally in gaining formative, restorative and qualitative support for how they work. As with all services which are offered as a ‘profession’, there is increasing focus on continuing professional development. With the boundaries of coaching, counselling and mentoring becoming increasingly blurred, understanding the various models, tools, techniques and frameworks available is essential in keeping up with thought leadership in coaching.
The final judgement on the future of coaching in relation to professionalising the industry and all that entails in relation to guidelines for standards, code of ethics, education route and so on, can be perceived as being in the hands of the buyer. One scenario is that the coaching fails to deliver because of the quality of services and buyers become disillusioned. Alternatively, If a client is happy to use the services of someone they trust, believe in and feel supported by, they may not see value in the efforts being made by the professional bodies to encourage practitioners to gain qualifications and work to a set of standards.
Whatever individuals’ views about coaching may be, it is increasingly becoming recognised as a viable performance development activity. Although still in its infancy, the future for coaching is likely to benefit from the growing evidence on the positive impact of coaching on business success. Efforts by professional bodies to raise the quality of coaching through creating benchmarks for standards of individual practice and coaching skills training programmes are also likely to reassure investors that coaching is cost effective and adds value.
A next step in securing the future of coaching is to sustain and develop the existing cooperation between professional bodies already demonstrated through a joint Code of Conduct and extend into other areas that build confidence for those curious about the impact of coaching. A common set of core competences for capability in coaching is an example.