Lessons learned: Creating an evaluative coaching programme

A large not-for-profit organisation wanted to set up a highly personalised, coaching-led career development programme that was both affordable and effective, with evaluation measures that clearly supported the investment. This was the challenge for Simon Gosney, Head of Learning and Development at the Dimensions Group and Angela Sabin, Principal Coach at Executive Life Coaching.  

Angela and Simon will be presenting their case study at the CIPD Coaching for Business Performance Conference, 12 September in London. Book your ticket today.

Together, we set out to provide a high-impact programme to develop talent, support succession planning and retain and engage colleagues. It needed to offer high quality career coaching to several hundred people, without the big ticket costs such a programme would typically incur. As well as creative design, highly focused evaluation measures were critical to the Aspire programme’s eventual success. 

In meeting this challenge, we learned 3 key lessons:

1. Data will be abundant. Be focused and ‘ruthless’ about the measures that matter most. There is so much we could measure in terms of what this talent programme delivers, how should we prioritise the most important ones to report? Learning which interventions would make the biggest difference and contribution to organisational priorities was critical to this, and relied on us taking an agile approach to measurement. Aligning this programme to emerging organisational priorities has enabled us to continually adapt and evolve the programme, identifying what works and testing the means of scaling up and replicating the likely conditions that enable such successes. This has ensured continued funding of the programme as we can point to the estimated return being at least twice the investment.

2. Don’t under-estimate the value of rich qualitative measurement. We have learned better methods of expressing results in ways that are concise and meaningful. Demonstrating effectiveness to the Board has depended in part on being able to highlight the tangible impact we are seeing in terms of retention and permanent promotions achieved by identified talent. Initially, we perhaps under-estimated the value of qualitative success stories that epitomise the benefits of the programme with a richness and texture that quantitative metrics alone simply cannot convey. It was this data which helped demonstrate a set of wider, often unintended benefits to the people with learning disabilities and autism that the Dimensions Group supports.

3. Resist the temptation to slice out the cost of thoroughly measuring and evaluating. It would have been easy to take out the cost allocated for evaluation from the programme’s budget – it equated to around 5% of the total cost. Keeping it in has helped us to secure ongoing investment for the programme, win an external award and has helped raise the bar and share lessons for how to effectively evaluate similar L&D interventions. We also learned that our system of evaluation enhances learning as it enriches the coaching conversations Angela and her colleagues have with their clients.

Find out more

Angela Sabin and Simon Gosney are presenting ‘How can we effectively measure and evaluate the impact of our coaching initiatives?’ at the CIPD Coaching for Business Performance Conference, where they will be sharing further learning and a practical evaluation toolkit. Book your ticket today.