The problem: As the coaching industry grows, coaches at many firms aren’t receiving the same support and development that they provide.
Why it matters: Amid increased attention around wellness and learning opportunities, coaching has become an integral recruiting and retention tool for talent at all levels of the organization.
The solution: Take an enterprise view of coaching by investing and partnering with coaches to solve your toughest challenges.
Her manager knew that Jane had the potential to be one of the organization’s next generation of leaders. From an assessment perspective, she had the right traits and drivers, as well as the necessary operational and business acumen. Jane just needed to work on her executive presence and management skills. Normally, Jane’s manager would pair her with a coach for an intensive six-month program to prepare her for her ascent up the leadership ladder.
But there was hitch: Jane’s job was coaching executives, and the organization didn’t have anyone to coach its coaches.
Across the globe, companies are on a coaching tear—having realized that job counseling and career coaching has become a critical component of growing corporate business. This year, the job-counseling and career-coaching industry is expected to hit $20 billion in business, a growth rate of nearly 7 percent over the past three years alone. Based on capital flowing into firms that provide corporate coaching, it’s exploding even more, with hundreds of millions raised so far, and valuations of some firms exceeding $5 billion. But experts say that as coaching takes off, so does an ironic problem: coaches are being undervalued. “The business world has woken up to the value of people having a coach, but coaches themselves aren’t being supported or developed,” says Bryan Ackermann, a managing partner for assessment and succession and leadership and professional development at Korn Ferry.
Several macro trends helped start the coaching boom, from a corporate push for the wellness programs that employees demanded, to increased job training to match the needs of the digital revolution. At the start of the pandemic, the race to adapt to remote work propelled the need for coaches even more. Finally, today’s unprecedented labor shortage has forced firms that can’t find new hires to advance its own staffers. The result: the coaching sector has become easily one of the fastest growing of all sectors. Indeed, Carolyn Wilson, a senior client partner in the global leadership development practice and global head of the coaching community at Korn Ferry, sees coaching today as an important part of most firms' strategic business plans. But are the resources there for the coaches themselves? “Organizations can do a lot more to invest in their coaches,” she says.
Disrupting coaching for the better?
Historically, organizations looked at coaching as a nice perk to support and develop their top leaders. Sessions typically involved flying a team of senior executives to some swanky resort for a “management retreat.” Wilson says organizations normally sought out coaches during times of individual or enterprise transitions—for instance, to help a top executive move into a new role or to align on how to communicate a business-model change.
But the ability to improve coaching changed during the pandemic. For one thing, the accelerated adoption of collaborative digital tools made coaching scalable. For another, collective introspection about the meaning and future of work sparked the biggest-ever voluntary exodus of talent from the labor force, transforming coaching into a necessary recruiting and retention tool. “There’s nothing like a pandemic to motivate people to look inwards,” says Wilson, noting that interest in coaching often spikes during such times of reflection.
The combination of digital advancement and the rise of the purpose movement democratized the concept of coaching. It has made individualized coaching for every employee not just possible, but necessary, says Kevin Gagan, a senior client partner in the leadership and professional development practice at Korn Ferry. “Clients are increasingly shifting investment dollars to individualized coaching through a tech platform,” he says.