How Can You Measure the ROI for Executive Coaching?

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Imagine you have just completed a six or 12-month executive coaching engagement that your organization paid for as an investment in you. How do you measure success when the boss and human resources ask? This is a scenario many people think about when hiring an executive coach. “How will I know the engagement is successful?”

As a leadership development course facilitator for the past 20 years, I’m used to handing out or sending online course evaluations.

Questions like:

  • How relevant was this course to your job skills required?
  • What did you learn?  
  • What will you do differently as a result of attending?

Results are compiled and scored to justify the expense of the course. A similar evaluation process can be used in executive coaching. There are many pre and post behavioral assessment tools out there that organizations can invest in to measure success, or it can simply be through questioning and establishing ratings at pre, mid, and post engagement.

Measuring goals and expectations at the beginning

At the beginning of the coaching engagement, executives identify three or four goals and rate where they see themselves currently on a scale of one to 10 for each goal. An executive coach will also typically have them identify how they see this skill or goal impacting business results. For example, the goal may be to delegate more in order to have more time to work on strategic initiatives and have more visibility with employees or perhaps building strategic relationships cross functionally for exposure to challenges in other areas of the business.  Another goal may be to improve presentation skills content and delivery for an executive level audience. The initial rating given usually falls between a three and a six.

It’s common for executives, especially those with technical backgrounds,  to be involved in too many details of the work and have minimal to no visibility to employees. Many employees that I interview say their boss is really busy, in meetings most of the day and rarely do they interact or they may comment on presence and how boring their presentations come across as they haven’t thought about the level of audience and how to best deliver the message.

The measurement of success at the end of the engagement is asking “Is this actually happening and have you seen an improvement?”

Is the boss more visible and available to employees and do employees have more delegated work?  Have cross functional relationships been built? Have people noticed a difference in confident presence and more engaging style when presenting?   What’s the business impact of this? Increased employee engagement and satisfaction which results in higher ratings on engagement surveys and 360 feedback.

Executives model behaviors they want others to follow when it comes to employee engagement.  It’s important for an executive coach to have them identify where they would like to see themselves at the end of the engagement for each goal or skill set. Typically it’s a number increase of two to three. Use the same process with their superior to make sure there is alignment on goals and the increase in skill level desired is achievable in the engagement time. This provides a baseline measurement of where the leader and the boss consider current skill level for each goal identified. Once the 360 feedback process is complete, validate how the feedback received relates to initial goals identified, modify as needed based on feedback, and begin the development plan process.

Midway check-in evaluations

Midway through the engagement, the coach will check in to assess progress made to date. The executive and boss conversation happens again to discuss noticeable improvements for identified goals and gather specific examples of improved behaviors demonstrated. The rating questions are asked again and numbers are recorded to show progress. It is a great opportunity to make sure things are on track and identify anything that may have changed or surfaced that needs to be added to the development plan.

Wrapping up the executive coaching engagement

Fast forward to the end of the engagement, when the executive and their boss both rate the goals and look at where the executive is seen today on each goal on a scale of one to 10. The executive coach will share the number where the executive started for each of their goals, the midpoint number and if/how they have achieved the desired goal and what they will continue to work on going forward. This is all documented to show improved results from the coaching engagement, resulting in a very clear ROI of the executive coaching engagement.

As you can see, there is a simple way to measure the coaching engagement and improvements in skill.  Everything is documented. Average improvements result in a number increase of 2 and sometimes 3 on each particular goal. If the engagement is 12 or more months, you may consider doing another 360 feedback for specific examples of improvements made over the course of the year.  

By Christy Kercheville

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