Key Points:

1. Workplace coaching is an impactful developmental intervention, it has an even greater impact for females and those more removed from the organizational setting.

2. Certified, evidence-based coaches, with a background in behavioral science will yield the greatest impact regardless of the number of sessions – benefits are realized regardless of how many times you meet.

3. Workplace coaching is an impactful developmental intervention, it has an even greater impact for females and those more removed from the organizational setting.

Despite the application of coaching in the workplace to support personal development – be it for promotion, succession, or as a general benefit to support employees – there is varying evidence for its effectiveness. With the disruption of digital coaching platforms, coaching is now looked at as an intervention that can be more accessible for employees beyond the executive suite or the favored few. Given how impactful coaching can be and with the opportunity to extend this offering to more people, organizations investing in this benefit need clearer answers to ensure they make a sound investment. 

De Haan and Nilsson (2023) research provides the most rigorous account to date by examining outcomes of workplace coaching across 37 studies that utilized randomized control trials (RCTs -the most rigorous research we can devise to study things – the same sorts of designs used in medical trials for pharmaceuticals) as the research methodology. Conducting a meta-analysis exclusively on RCT studies provides the opportunity to make standardized comparisons of the results from one study to the next and increases confidence in findings when you can compare an intervention to control groups.

What Do We Mean by Workplace Coaching?

According to the International Coaching Federation, coaching is a thought-provoking and co-creative process between a coach and client that inspires the client to maximize their personal and professional potential. It is a personalized development approach that is goal-directed, promoting the client’s decision-making and performance.

Coaching conducted within the context of work – leadership, executive, and life coaching – is what constitutes workplace coaching.

How effective is workplace coaching and what outcomes does it predict?

Overall, results showed that when compared to control groups, coaching has a moderate effect in predicting several outcomes. Simply, coaching is an effective intervention. Specifically, when looking at several individual-level outcomes, coaching has a positive impact on personal well-being, improving professional skills, and increasing the likelihood of attaining goals.

Interestingly, when comparing the difference between whether these outcomes and others were measured by others or via self-report, researchers found no significant differences. This lends more credibility to the use of self-reported measures, which is a common criticism of a great deal of existing coaching research leading to its struggle to establish a firm foothold, impact, and value in the scientific literature that surrounds it. This indicates that we shouldn’t discount an individuals’ perceptions of their progress, toward the very goals they establish and monitor with their coach or assume that a person’s perspectives are tremendously clouded by bias.

Does workplace coaching work differently for different people?

Another key area examined by this meta-analysis was to investigate if workplace coaching yields different outcomes for the most commonly studied populations, including employees, students, leaders, and general adult populations. De Haan and Nilsson’s findings confirmed that workplace coaching has a significant effect for each of these groups. Surprisingly, there were slightly lower effects for leaders and managers relative to others, indicating that the hierarchical dynamics that exists within an organizational context may diminish the effectiveness of the coaching experience. To get a better bang for your buck, it may be more prudent to offer (individual or group) coaching to non-managerial employees.

Coaching is rooted in trust, autonomy, and self-direction. When more structure and oversight is placed on the coaching process, which can be the case when coaching is used for executive development and succession, it is wise for organizations to consider the structure of coaching, the involvement of others who are not the coach and client, and what that might mean in terms of realizing the potential benefits that coaching does promise.

Another interesting finding was that coaching seems to offer more for women than men. Effects are stronger with female rather than male coaches. This is in alignment with research on motivation of learners, where some research as shown that women tend to be more intrinsically motivated than males (e.g., Vecchione,Alessandri, & Marsicano,2014), and given that coaching is a self-directive process, that requires readiness to engage. While this finding requires more research, there might be some considerations here in terms of the overall design of learning and growth opportunities that may best suit different populations. Further, it begs the question for organizations to do more in assessing readiness and willingness of coaching participants to ensure it is the right match for the individual and investment for the organization. 

Does the number of sessions make a difference?

It turns out that the number of coaching sessions doesn’t have a significant impact on whether or not coaching will be effective. This is important for several reasons. First, this demonstrates the importance of the process of coaching, that the coach and client co-create a supportive, and structured environment to meet the unique needs of the individual. Second, since coaching is highly customized to each person, it makes sense that the length of time to achieve goals will differ. Third, this also calls attention to the importance of a client’s readiness and willingness for coaching. What a person is willing to put into this process is what they will get in return, regardless of time. 

Takeaways for your practice

  1. Yes, coaching works! 
  2. People who experience workplace coaching will have greater likelihood of achieving their goals and growing their skills, which creates a return value for organizations.
  3. Well-being also increases with the experience of coaching, which can be very beneficial for organizations who are unsure how to combat the growing rates of stress and burnout.
  4. For those seeking coaching: consider your willingness and readiness for coaching as these are the essential ingredients for success, regardless of your initial goals/aims. 
  5. For organizations: focus on the impact and outcomes that coaching can provide, rather than duration and associated measurement. It turns out self-reported measures are a good source of assessing impact, and while longer coaching engagements will likely yield a more sustainable impact, depending on the need, coaching can be valuable in just a few short sessions.

Considering the critical needs of organizations today, in terms of employee re-skilling, upskilling, employee engagement and retention, it’s no wonder that organizations are turning more and more to coaching as a broader organizational development intervention to support change and transformation. With greater evidence for the practice of workplace coaching, we can now be more confident in leveraging this powerful development tool to meet the unique and personalized needs of adults. Further, the rise of coaching delivered through digital platforms, which is changing the economics of coaching – making this intervention more accessible and affordable – provides more evidence to organizations to support the value for investing in this beyond the C-suite, high potentials, and other senior leaders.

Trustworthiness score:

The trustworthiness of the study is high (90%). This means there is a 10% chance that alternative explanations for the effects found are possible.

Learn how we critically appraise studies to assign them a Trustworthiness Score.

We aim to provide you only the best available scientific evidence to inform your decisions.

Did you like this article? share it with your network by clicking on the buttons below!

Follow us on  LinkedIn, Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter to receive all the quality of scientific research in 5 minutes reads.


Vecchione,M.,Alessandri,G.,& Marsicano,G. (2014). Academic motivation predicts educational attainment: Does gender make a difference? Learning and Individual Differences, 32:124–131.

de Haan, E. & Nilsson, V. (2023). What can we know about the effectiveness of coaching? A meta-analysis based only on randomized controlled trials. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 00, 1-23. DOI:

You can find the original article here!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.