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Over the past decade, executive coaching has emerged as a key tool for organizations around the world seeking to produce leaders responsive to rapidly changing competitive landscapes. Published recently, The Conference Board Global Executive Coaching Survey 2016 draws on the responses of 181 leading global companies—supplemented by expert interviews and in-depth case studies—to reveal the state of the art in coaching philosophies, goals, and practices.

“When we conducted our first executive coaching survey in 2006, the field was in many ways still a novelty,” says Amy Lui Abel, managing director of human capital at The Conference Board and a co-author of the report. “Since then, we’ve seen it steadily grow in centrality—with more and more organizations building internal coaching practices, and scaling their reach to encompass an ever-growing range of executive roles. This change has posed its own challenges, necessitating organizations to continuously rethink how they manage, standardize, and innovate their coaching efforts for the next generation of leaders and market pressures.”

The Global Executive Coaching Survey 2016 is a rich snapshot of an industry in evolution. Drawing on a wide-ranging set of case studies—including Google, MD Anderson, Citibank India, L-3 Communication, Maybank, Northwell Health, and Sapient—it offers guidance for organizations of every size and sector interested in developing high-impact coaching programs while avoiding common pitfalls. Among the key themes and trends the research found for 2016:

  • In the last decade, coaching has evolved from a remedial fix for performance issues to a powerful tool for developing future leaders. The leadership pipeline now extends beyond the C-suite and top brackets in the organization; leaders are being identified earlier in their careers and developed to assume key leadership roles.
  • Use of executive coaching is more targeted than before, and often complementing other leadership development programs. Major targeted approaches in the years ahead include: development-focused coachingto broaden capabilities and prepare for future roles, 360˚ debriefs and assessments to build self-awareness about how potential leaders are perceived by peers and team members, and performance-focused coaching to reduce performance gaps and build new capabilities in a current role.
  • Evaluation represents the holy grail for organizations using coaching to develop their leaders and managers.With organizations expressing only moderate confidence in their evaluation methodologies and with growing need to show business impact and ROI, efforts and demand to measure accurately continue.
  • There has been an uptick in coaching rates, with more organizations paying upwards of $600 per hour at the CEO and C-suite levels. For the two to five levels below CEO as well as the remaining leadership, coaches are being paid more than they were in 2014. Global rates are also converging with US rates; most range 25 to 50 percent either higher or lower than US coaching rates.
  • Internal coaching is a scalable, cost-efficient way to proactively build the next generation of leaders.Sixty-nine percent of companies reported using internal coaches, and another 69 percent said they expected to rely more on internal coaches in the coming years.
  • More organizations are developing a cadre of internal coaches to initiate a coaching culture. Efforts to expand the coaching culture include embedding coaching into talent and performance management processes, developing leaders and managers at all levels to be coaches, senior leaders communicating and leading coaching efforts in the company, and using incentives and rewards to reinforce demonstrated coaching behaviors. A coaching culture can improve organizational retention, productivity, and employee engagement.
  • The next decade will likely focus on perfecting the coaching practice.Perfection does not mean more standardization, though that may be part of it, but coaching that is more personalized, widespread, in the moment, and demonstrably beneficial—showing clear outcomes measurable with technology and analytics.

“For all the advances executive coaching has made in the last 10 years, this is still a developing and extremely dynamic field,” says Rebecca L. Ray, executive vice president, knowledge organization at The Conference Board and another report co-author. “We have expansive anecdotal evidence of the power of coaching, but turning this tool of individual development into an organizational catalyst will depend on rich analytics, scalable deployments, and objective, repeatable results. The next frontier will bring in the latest in technology, neuroscience, mindfulness, and more.”

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