ATD Blog

Coaching: The Future Is Here

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study is not only the most extensive and expansive research undertaking of its kind, but also a powerful look at the future of organizations and their most vital asset: their people.

These insights are further validated by the latest findings in the fields of leadership and organization development, which strongly indicate the ongoing and quickening trends of speed, connectivity, technology, and virtual or distributed leadership and working practices. These changes are here to stay and, while we all know that the writing is on the wall in terms of new ways of working, we also know that the brain, body, heart, and even, in some cases, soul are becoming overloaded. Moreover, organizations struggle to navigate the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment in which we find ourselves. How are we responding to this dilemma?

In response, a growing number of individuals and organizations have adopted coaching. The use of coaching skills and approaches has expanded beyond professionally trained coach practitioners to include managers, leaders, and human resources and talent development professionals, who apply these competencies in their daily workplace interactions.  

Coach practitioners are also supporting teams and work groups (43 percent), high-potential employees (59 percent), and new hires (20 percent). Coaching strongly supports the principles of the 70-20-10 model for learning and development, with the 20 percent being leveraged through “developmental relationships,” a core feature of a coaching partnership.

So what could be behind this growth in the use of coaching by a broader range of people and a broader range of applications? Well, we know that coaching can be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively, and we see many benefits including increased employee engagement, improved team functioning, better relationships, enhanced cohesion and alignment, reduced attrition, increased self-awareness, and greater resilience and agility with regards to change and challenge. We also saw from our latest research with the Human Capital Institute that coaching has an impact on financial performance, with 51 percent of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures reporting their 2015 revenue growth to be above average compared to their peer group.


This shift toward building organizational coaching cultures is exemplified by the winner of the 2016 ICF International Prism Award, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). In 2010, GSK created a global Coaching Centre of Excellence that standardized coaching throughout the organization by improving access, ensuring quality and efficiency, and creatively containing costs. Coaching at GSK has increased by 2,900 percent within the last half decade and has been credited with a return on investment of $66 million.

It is clear from ICF’s research findings that not only is coaching being used by more people and in more ways, it is being positively leveraged to develop individuals, teams, and organizations at the systemic and cultural level. Also evident, from both our research and the success stories we hear, are some common characteristics of organizations with strong coaching cultures:

  • Employees and senior executives value coaching. 
  • Coaching is a fixture in the organization with a dedicated line item in the budget. 
  • Managers and leaders (or internal coach practitioners) spend above-average time on weekly coaching activities. 
  • Managers and leaders (or internal coach practitioners) received accredited coach training.
    When asked to identify the biggest obstacle for coaching over the next 12 months, the main concern expressed by coach practitioners in our 2016 Global Coaching Study was untrained individuals who call themselves coaches. The concerns expressed by coach practitioners echo the responses published in the 2012 study. The responses of managers and leaders using coaching skills aligned closely with those of coach practitioners, suggesting a common shared understanding of the obstacles facing coaching in the next 12 months and demonstrating the importance of rigorous training for external and internal coach practitioners.

In addition, when asked to identify the greatest opportunity for coaching over the next 12 months, coach practitioners were most likely to identify increased awareness of the benefits of coaching. Also of note is the alignment between the views of coach practitioners and managers and leaders using coaching skills.

In summary, by increasing this awareness and the subsequent deployment of coaching incorporating the above characteristics, individuals and organizations benefit from being able to fully tap into their resourcefulness and thereby more effectively face the challenges of the rapidly changing landscape of the workplace. More than this, those individuals and organizations can also rise above those challenges to thrive and lead the way to the future of how we do business!

About the Author

Tracy Sinclair has nearly two decades of experience in the field of leadership development. As a corporate executive, board-level coach, leadership development designer, and facilitator, Tracy has worked with executives and leaders around the globe to support and enhance their professional and personal development. She spends much of her time developing leaders’ own coaching capability as a core leadership competency. Tracy is also a coaching supervisor, mentor coach, and trainer of coaching and coaching supervision. She is a current member of the ICF global board of directors and served as president of ICF United Kingdom from 2013 to 2014.

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