Despite being acutely aware of the benefits of coaching, only half of UK companies actively coach all of their staff, according to research by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

The report, 'Creating a coaching culture', says that 80% of companies use coaching as a staff development tool, with 95% reporting benefits to the organisation and 96% seeing benefits to the individual being coached. But coaching is predominantly targeted at senior level employees, with 85% of companies surveyed coaching senior managers and directors, compared to just 52% providing coaching for non-management staff.

Penny de Valk, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership and Management, said: "Coaching is the single most cost-effective development investment an organisation can make as this learning naturally spreads across the workplace. Yet our research suggests that a limited segment of the working population receives coaching. Companies direct it at the lucky few rather than embedding a coaching culture across an organisation."

The survey of learning and development managers found that 83% of companies use their own managers to provide coaching for staff and that 65% use external coaches.

According to the survey, a third (34%) of organisations offer no training or support to their internal coaches - they are selected on the grounds that they are line managers (53%), senior staff members (46%) or a member of the HR department (43%).

De Valk continued: "At present many coaches inside organisations are chosen informally. Managers expressing an interest in coaching are encouraged to "have a go", but coaching is a specialist management skill, you do not become a great coach just by reading a book, it calls for training, experience, ongoing development and support. A willing attitude or natural aptitude is not enough.

"Encouraging staff to coach others without suitable support may well restrict the scope and effectiveness of the coaching provided. Without appropriate training for internal coaches and a support structure, organisations will struggle to apply a consistent approach to ensure they obtain the maximum benefit."

The survey questioned participants about the value of coaching to their staff. The majority of respondents (95%) said coaching was a direct benefit to their organisations, with 96% seeing benefits to the individual. A broad range of specific benefits were identified, ranging from improvements in communication and interpersonal skills, to improved business knowledge and skills in specific areas and increased motivation levels. However organisations still tend emphasise coaching's ability to address specific performance (26%) or behavioural issues (8%).

The survey also found that 85% of organisations make coaching available to their managers and directors. The larger the organisation, the more likely it is to use coaching. 90% of organisations with 2,000+ employees used coaching in the past five years, dropping to 68% amongst those with 230-500 employees.

Source: Training Reference

The full report "Creating a Coaching Culture" can be found on the ILM website: www.i-l-m.com/research-and-comment/9617.aspx

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