There has always been a great debate on how tangible the results are in business coaching. To help business coaches and organisations to evidence the results and impact of business coaching interventions, we can apply to use of diagnostic tools. There is a good range of different tools that give tangible results to the success of coaching.
There are many psychometric tests, gauging everything from psychological fitness to cognitive ability, skills and performance. In many organisations such tests are used as a pre-recruitment screening exercise, self-awareness, management development, training initiatives and coaching. The data is often sensitive, sometimes confidential, and the time period of the testing needs to be taken into account. The fact that people learn and change means that the often fixed and deterministic approach of psychometric tests should not be taken at face value. Practitioners and Psychologists can administer and give feedback on instruments such as MBTI, Paradigm FiT In 5x5™ and OPQ during recruitment and development programmes. Many look at personality in terms of dimensions and seek to identify core behaviours and skills.
360-degree feedback is often used to inform business coaching assignments precisely because it offers feedback on performance and behaviour from all levels of the organisation. The instrument should be well designed and properly worded and the emphasis should be developmental, not punitive or performance focused.
For example if an individual receives the feedback that they procrastinate and thus delays the timing of projects and/or communication, this can be fed directly into the business coaching session. As with many psychometrics and other appraisal data, the individual will already know about their 360 degree profile, this can be a productive stepping stone in the coaching process.
Many specialists are familiar with instruments such as the Honey and Mumford learning inventory, Merrill-Reid communication styles and the Kolb learning styles approach. These tend to use questionnaires to develop a 'construct' of the individual's preference, such as their tendency towards activist/reflector or theorist/pragmatist, Analytical/Driver or Amiable/Expressive. These self-inventory tools only look at the results through the eyes of the test taker and this can be different to the feedback of colleagues and how they see the individual. This will still give you a good base of where to start the coaching sessions.
Team performance data can be garnered from everything from six sigma data in an engineering operation to team development models such as the Belbin or Paradigm team roles inventory in the FiT In 5x5™ when used appropriately.
They can range from basic questionnaires to sophisticated psychometrics. Although team development coaching is likely to be the province of highly qualified coaches and leaders, the information from team interactions, where relevant, can be very useful in assisting coaching conversations. Given the growing importance of collaboration, communication and knowledge-sharing, there are a growing number of tools measuring how people interact within organisational settings.
Larger organisations use surveys of some kind to gauge the opinions and views of their employees. Employee engagement is increasingly seen as a key driver of sustainable organisational performance and helps staff retention.
Engagement scores can often provide detailed information on how leaders are engaged with their team. They can be used as a basis of discussion for coaching in leadership development. An employee survey can also be used to identify disengaged and burnt-out employees, especially those in key areas, to 're-motivate' them and to identify personality conflicts where they 'down rate' their manager so much that they stand out from other team members. Looking at the manager's data may identify a personality clash. Given its often subjective nature, such data should be used not as a decision tool but as a discovery tool. The Paradigm ODMAP is very effective at analysing results.
Human Resource departments have other information that can be used to evaluate the impact of interventions such as coaching. Systems contained within HR information databases - storing information on such issues as absence management and retention, job levels, promotions and vacancies - can all be used to some degree as data for gauging the impact of coaching and other learning and talent interventions.
All of the above requires a systematic approach using well-designed tools. Boudreau and Jesuthasan (2011) provide a compelling framework for HR analytics that can be applied to coaching. It comprises:
Analytics that are logic driven are those which use key company data and information flows and link these with the various aspects of an organisation. For example, if an organisation has a major sales and customer service aspect to its operations, how are practitioners using this business driver to ensure that coaching helps develop key sales skills and behaviours? They should be able to use performance and appraisal data linked with sales target data to connect the various capability needs for which coaching might be appropriate.
Segmenting employees and teams is a key driver of an evidence-based approach. Segmented data can be used to gain insight. For example, if the sales performance in one team selling slower-moving goods is differentiated from those selling fast-moving goods, better decisions can be made about how to develop teams. Perhaps coaching in the business objectives and environment of key customers and suppliers could provide new capability to one team and working on sales conversations could help another.
Developing an understanding of how the organisation works across its varied departments, centres and partnerships means recognising the value of integration and synergy. This is a vital component of the evidence-based approach and enhances effectiveness. In an NHS trust, for example, if we know that clinical staff are offered a coaching-based leadership programme, this can help us align other areas that work in partnership with them, such as nursing and lab staff. This helps coaching and mentoring interventions to become effective and widespread and adds increased value if done properly.
Ensuring that investment and resources are targeted in order to drive the best outcomes is the role of optimisation. Using the insights already gleaned from our investigation of analytics and our judgements about segmentation helps to inform and target interventions such as coaching. For example, though it's often assumed that coaching works better with high-potentials and leadership teams, evidence from call centres shows that coaching can be a very effective mechanism for developing and retaining employees with limited career opportunities and fairly routine job roles.
Information documented under the title of 'diagnostic tools' is to be attributed from the CIPD 'sustainable organisation performance' research report September 2012.
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