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ATD Blog

Measuring the Business Impact of Leadership Coaching

Monday, August 16, 2021

Companies around the world rely on leadership coaching for talent development, yet many organizations struggle to measure the business impact. Measuring the return on investment of learning and development is a common challenge, and coaching presents its own set of difficulties. Coaching focuses on the development of soft skills and leadership capabilities that can be tough to measure. This practice is an individual experience that features one-on-one conversations between a coach and employee, so there’s often little input, oversight, or guidance from other stakeholders. Coaching engagements take place over several months, and gradual behavior change can be hard to monitor, much less attribute to the coaching intervention.

Another obstacle to measuring the business impact of coaching is the lack of consistency among professional coaches. For years, coaching existed as a cottage industry dominated by individual practitioners. Today, the International Coach Federation estimates more than 71,000 people practice coaching, of which only 74 percent hold a credential of certification from a professional coaching organization. That said, more than 500 entities certify coaches worldwide; that list is growing and is not regulated by any formal body or authority. With demand increasing, it makes sense that the number of coaches has also grown to follow suit; however, the lack of consistency across coaches can make measurement difficult and results hard to replicate.

Technology is making it much easier to manage, measure, and scale leadership coaching. Coaching management platforms are designed to lift the administrative burden of managing complex coaching programs while providing greater transparency, data, and reporting so talent development professionals can focus on expanding their leadership bench. These intelligent coaching platforms provide detailed reports, measuring progress and improvement at the individual and organizational level. More sophisticated coaching management platforms track individual performance against specific leadership skills that can be customized to meet the unique needs of different organizations. They solicit input from various stakeholders: peers, coaches, employees, managers, and talent development teams to help identify skills gaps and measure performance improvement over time.

Managed coach networks ensure consistency in the quality of the coaching experience for all learners, which makes it easier to anticipate and replicate results. Matching coaches with business leaders has also become more accurate and efficient with the use of artificial intelligence, so coaching can begin immediately, which accelerates leader development and reduces the time it takes to see real business impact.

Technology is transforming the industry, so it is easier for organizations to measure the business impact of leadership coaching and to remove the primary barriers to future growth. As a result, leadership coaching is poised for a renaissance.


Leadership coaching, once reserved as a critical intervention for the most senior leaders, is available and cost effective for leaders at all levels. Companies are expanding coaching opportunities to emerging leaders and individual contributors. They’re using leadership coaching to support diversity and inclusion efforts, expanding coaching opportunities to underrepresented populations to create a more diverse leadership pipeline. They’re using group coaching to drive collaboration and connect remote employees in a hybrid, distributed workforce. They’re using professional coaching to lay a foundation for talent management, preparing leaders to provide actionable feedback and to have more effective conversations with their teams.

The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged companies to invest in coaching to provide support to business leaders during these challenging times. Traditional classroom-based learning was postponed or canceled in the wake of the health crisis, which drove many organizations to explore, expand, and embrace remote learning. Many companies turned to leadership coaching to support leaders through the difficult conditions presented by the pandemic.


Research suggests coaching will remain a go-to strategy as organizations transition from the post-pandemic recovery to the new hybrid environment, which will prepare leaders for the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that has become the new normal.

Talent development professionals already understand the benefits of coaching, but future growth and success depends upon the ability to measure and report the business impact. Coaching is an effective method to drive organizational performance and improve the bottom line. Measuring the business impact can unlock the full potential of leadership coaching and provide an unprecedented level of data, transparency, and accountability.

If you would like to bring leadership coaching to your organization or if you’re looking to measure the impact of coaching, contact Sounding Board.

About the Author

Kip Kelly has over 25 years of marketing and communications experience, with a strong focus on talent management, executive education, professional coaching, and leadership development. Most recently, Kip managed marketing efforts at the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) where he led the ICF-certified Brain-Based Coach Training program, supporting professional coaches globally. He has designed and delivered leadership development programs for Duke Corporate Education and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, consistently ranked among the top business schools in the world for executive education. His expertise in diversity, inclusion, and the use of data and analytics in learning and development has earned him a reputation as an industry leader, having published over 60 research studies and white papers, as featured in Chief Learning Officer Magazine, TD Magazine, Training Industry, HR Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Financial Times, and a host of other leading publications.

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