A few weeks ago, I argued that coaching needs to be measured by its Return on Humanity, not just its Return on Investment. I’ve taken a look at the research that proves that coaching really does have a return on humanity.
Return on Humanity: Goal-striving, Wellbeing and Hope
By that I mean that it makes a difference in goal striving, well-being and hope (Green, Oades and Grant, 2006). These researchers found that a group of people who went through a coaching programme:
- made significant increases in goal striving progression compared to a control group who showed no such changes.
- had higher satisfaction with life compared to the control group.
- had increases in subjective wellbeing (satisfaction with life) and psycholigical wellbeing (personal growth, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, purpose in life, self-acceptance)
- had significant increases on the variables Pathways (seeing ways forward), Agency (perceived capacity to propel themselves forward to reach a desired goal) and Total Hope
Return on Humanity: Hope
In another study by Snyder, Rand and Sigmon (2002) about Hope Theory, the researchers found that positve emotions and wellbeing follow from the unimpeded pursuit of one’s desired goals. Given that coaching supports and challenges people to identify and pursue personally significant goals, we can see that that pursuit will in turn result in greater hope and more positive wellbeing.
Return on Humanity: Mental health and Quality of Life
In his study on goal attainment, metacognition and mental health in 2003, Grant found that participants in a coaching programme “reported levels of depression, anxiety and stress were significantly reduced” and quality of life significantly enhanced.
Return on Humanity: Hardiness
Oulette (1993) found that hardiness (a commitment to goals, a sense of control over life events, and a perception of change as a challenge) protects mental health. Grant, Green and Rynsaardt (2007) showed that compared to a non-coached control group, coaching leads to :
- increases in hardiness, supporting individuals in commiting to goals, believing they can control those events, and seeing change as a challenge rather than a complete block
- increased hope
- decreases in depression
So we’re seeing that coaching can indeed facilitate goal attainment, improve mental health and enhance quality of life, even when these latter two are not specifically targeted in a coaching programme.
Return on Humanity through self-reflection?
You might think that personal reflection – perhaps in a journal – could attain something similar. But Grant et al (2002) found that “journal keepers were in some way stuck in a process of self-reflection, and were primarily engaged in a process of understanding their personal behavioural, cognitive and emotional reactions, rather than moving towards goal attainment” (Grant 2003) through insights. Lyubomirsky, Tucker, Caldwell and Berg (1999) found that self-reflection actually led people to consider their problems to be unsolvable.
So that gives us at least some evidence that coaching leads to a return on humanity. We can deduce from the research around employee engagement that these elements of increased goal attainment, mental health and hope will also help a business to achieve its goals.
Return on invesment
What I do know, from a business point of view is that:
- “Coaching has a 2x greater impact on business results (productivity, engagement, etc.) vs. paying for performance.” Bersin & Associates
- “Training alone gives 20% change in behaviour, while training plus coaching leads to an 88% change in behaviour.” Olivero and Bane
- One study asked coachees for a conservative estimate of the financial benefits gained from coaching. Average response was a gain of $100,000, with 28% indicating over $500,000. Lore Research
- Several ROI studies (Manchester, MetrixGlobal, DDI/AstraZeneca, Triad Performance) across coaching programs in several companies show returns of 5-6 times cost as a result of increased capability, teaming and performance.
- Executive coaching is more highly rated as a form of senior leadership development than business school programmes by a significant margin. Ridler Report
What are your thoughts about coaching’s return on humanity? What other research have you come across? I’d love to hear from you in the comments box.