Good news for coaching consumers

Credential holders are on the rise as clients expect more from their coach. By Karen Tweedie, International Coach Federation President and Professional Certified Coach


You’ve probably heard or read by now that professional coaching is commonly used with much success in corporations throughout Europe and beyond. If you or your company have been contemplating working with a coach or implementing a coaching programme, you will be pleased to know that a recent study commissioned by the International Coach Federation (ICF) shows high levels of satisfaction with the work being conducted by professional coaches, not only in Europe, but all over the world.

The 2009 ‘ICF Global Coaching Client Study’ shows a strong majority – 78.5 percent – of coaching clients surveyed from the European/Middle Eastern/African region (EMEA) report being “very satisfied” with their coaching experience. Globally, 99 percent of coaching clients surveyed were very or somewhat satisfied with their experience (survey results representative of the survey respondent sample).

What does this high satisfaction rating mean for you or your corporation? The high rating correlates with a significant return on investment for companies and individuals who use coaching. Those from EMEA who invested in coaching within their organisations reported the median financial return to the company was 1,567 percent, or nearly 16 times their investment in coaching. These gains may have come directly from improved processes and skills being developed through coaching, increased efficiencies, talent retention or, more generally, through an improved corporate culture.

‘The ICF Global Coaching Client Study’, released earlier this year, was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Canadian-based Association Resource Centre Inc. This unprecedented study surveyed over 2,100 coaching clients from 64 countries. Thirty-two percent of respondents were from EMEA.

In addition to the impressive ROI data, the ‘Client Study’ provides the coaching industry and consumers of coaching services with valuable new information on client perceptions about the coaching industry, their motivations for engaging in coaching, their coach selection process, and their assessment of the effectiveness of coaching and more. Findings support what the coaching industry has known for some time; that employees of companies that integrate coaching can experience positive results in work performance, employee productivity, team building, product quality, employee retention and more.

According to Deloitte LPP Chief Executive Officer Barry Salzburg, professional coaching is a requirement of high-performing organisations. “Our coaching programmes help us give our people the personal attention they need as it relates to their development…In short, the results are tangible – superior quality client service, retention of top, performing talent and highly satisfied clients,” he said in 2008. Deloitte won the ICF International Prism Award in 2007 for their commitment to coaching as a leadership strategy.

Network Rail CEO Iain Coucher has seen how professional coaching delivers for his company through leadership development. “Our coaching courses build leadership across the organisation,” he said earlier this year. “Great leaders coach their people, getting the best out of them. The people are more productive, more efficient and it becomes, of course, a more fulfilling place to work.”

With return on investment – both financial and otherwise – now well documented, potential consumers of coaching can focus on the important task of selecting the right coaches for their organisations and building their internal coaching programmes. So, what are the most important qualities to look for when engaging a professional coach for your organisation? Years of experience, level of education, caliber of previous coaching clients the coach has worked with?

Using the ‘Client Study’ as a guide, 89 percent of purchasers of coaching, from individuals to organisations, consider the coach’s level of coach-specific training to be “very” or “somewhat” important in choosing the right coach. Beyond coach training, demonstrated proficiency in the coaching process through certification is important to clients, according to the study. Seventy-seven percent of respondents consider a coaching credential or certification to be “very” or “somewhat” important when selecting a coach to work with.

According to the 2007 ‘ICF Global Coaching Study’ conducted by PwC, the precursor study to this year’s Client Study, 52 percent of coaches report their clients expect the coach they hire to be credentialed. Coaches expect the demand for credentials will continue to grow as more and more people discover the impact coaching can have at all levels of an organisation—and seek to ensure they are partnering with the best.

It’s important to note that coaching is a self-regulated profession and there are many people calling themselves coaches without having the knowledge and specific training or credential to demonstrate their commitment to professional coaching standards, competencies, and code of ethics. However, safeguards are in place for organisations and individuals who want to be assured they are hiring a professional coach with extensive training and a reputable credential. The ICF offers the only globally recognised independent credential and an increasing number of coaches from around the world, over 5,500, currently hold one of three offered ICF Credentials.
Because ICF sets the highest standards for the coaching industry, a credential from ICF is extremely important when considering which coach to hire. It means the coach has: received professional training from a program specifically designed to teach coaching skills in alignment with the ICF Core Competencies and Code of Ethics; demonstrated a proficient understanding and use of the coaching competencies as outlined by the ICF and; is accountable to the ethics and standards set forth by the ICF.

If you or your company is considering hiring a coach, be diligent in asking the coach if he or she has been specifically trained in coaching skills and currently holds or is in the process of earning an ICF Credential. Don’t be misled to think a coach is competent in coaching because he or she has other professional credentials or sets high fees. If your company is interested in building an internal coaching programme, think about having your coaches credentialed or on the path of becoming credentialed by the ICF.

To meet the growing demand for credentials and ensure the global credibility and value of ICF Credentials, the ICF is working to align its credentialing programme to International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards for bodies operating certification of persons. ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards. Aligning the ICF Credentialing programme to ISO standards will provide additional security for consumers.

The initiative will increase the ICF’s capacity to satisfy demand for its credential while streamlining processes to be much more customer-centric. By enhancing the system, the ICF will continue to offer a credentialing programme that truly holds global credibility and provides permanent value for both coach and client.
Individuals interested in finding an ICF Credentialed coach for their organisation or personal life can visit the online ICF Coach Referral Service (CRS), a free public resource that allows consumers to tailor their search for an ICF Credentialed coach based on specific criteria, including professional experience of the coach, coaching specialties, desired coaching method, language preference, location and more. The CRS is available at

Results of the ‘ICF Global Coaching Client Study’ show that professional coaching within companies is proving to have a solid, measurable impact on business solutions and success.

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