Me: “What measures do you have in the business we can use to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching”

Client: “Well a key measure for this leader would be employee engagement”

Me: “How often do you run your survey and when was the last one?”

Client: “Annually and we just ran it a month ago.  That’s one of the reasons why we identified coaching for this leader.  He’s well below the curve.”

This scenario is probably pretty familiar to any coaches or buyers of coaching.  It’s a rare occasion when the end of a coaching engagement is followed shortly by the company’s annual engagement survey.  I was lucky enough to have been spoiled early on in my coaching career when just that situation occurred.  Within the client’s annual employee engagement survey, manager in question scored at the very bottom within his function.  He was a key talent though and valued from a technical perspective.  It was important that he could be developed and coaching was chosen as the way forward.

We achieved a fantastic result together and in the next survey he came at the very top of their function for engagement.  There was another great result though, in that the HR function in that organisation found it far easier to get the Exec to buy into, and importantly fund coaching.  They had to wait quite a while for that evidence to come through though.

The argument has been won at board level.  Organisations know that employee engagement makes a positive impact on the bottom line.  Bi-annual surveys are becoming more common but really it’s not good enough. This might sound harsh but in today’s VUCA world when leaders and teams have to move fast, engagement surveys that take six months aren’t fit for purpose.

Companies don’t invest in a marketing campaign and then wait a year to see if what they’re doing is making a difference.  Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  I’d add that these measures are only of value if they’re timely.

The measurement of employee engagement needs to become dynamic enough to be actionable in today’s world.

I was heartened to find that there are companies out there that measure engagement dynamically, in near real-time.  Systems that can target a particular area of the business under a specific leader and we can know if what we are doing is making a difference.

We’re all more connected so this gives us the opportunity to be more dynamic here.  I’m interested to see what develops with ‘Sentiment Analysis Technology’.  There’s quite a good article here.  Sticking with self-reporting tools, there are other outfits like Thymometrics or TinyPulse that give more real time options.

Myself and other coaches work hard to identify concrete measures to demonstrate the value of what we do.  I know from clients that they appreciate this as it helps them promote coaching internally.  They know coaching delivers.  I look forward to the day when I don’t have to have a version of the conversation above.

Gregor Findlay is a highly experienced Executive/Leadership Coach whose mission is to help leaders and leadership teams be the best they can be so they in turn, make the biggest positive difference for themselves, for their people and for society.