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13 JANUARY 2012
Coaching in the workplace in South Africa

The results of a national survey that Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) conducted of coaching in the workplace in South Africa have now been published – the first ever conducted of the South African market. They intend to follow this up with bi-annual surveys.

The survey, conducted by COMENSA’s Research & Development Portfolio Committee from November 2010 to January 2011, encompassed coaches, coaching clients and organisations that utilise coaching in South Africa. The survey is unique in that this is the first time that the value, nature, perception and application of coaching has been investigated in a purely South African context, and not as part of a global study.

Participants included:

  • Small, medium and large organisations from the public, private, education and NGO sector, who utilise the services of both internal and external coaches;
  • Coaches, either in their own practice, working for companies that provide coaching services to organisations or coaches who are employees of organisations and are providing coaching services as part of the work that they do;
  • Individuals who have been coached.

Key findings:

The formal profession of Coaching in South Africa is largely dominated by coaches aged between 35 – 55, based in Gauteng and the Western Cape. This can be ratified by COMENSA’s membership demographics, which reflects a similar trend. A theme that emerged, when asked what the biggest challenges are to the coaching industry in South Africa, was the need for more black coaches, although COMENSA is seeing a growing diversity in its membership.

Most coaches are self-employed and work alone or in coaching teams/panels with other coaches. It seems that most coaches supplement their coaching income with training, facilitation or some form of consulting.

There is confusion between the concepts of coaching and mentoring, and a general lack of clarity about the definition of coaching. Organisations seem to define coaching to fit their applications and requirements, and most participating organisations claim only to have embraced a coaching culture within the last 1 – 3 years.

Coaching is used most frequently with Executives, Senior Managers and High Potential Employees, and is used as a stand-alone programme rather than integrated into a training programme. Coaching in organisations is most often conducted by external coaches (81% of the time).

The research shows that 75% of organisations do not integrate coaching into the performance management system, and yet coaching is most commonly used by organisations for performance enhancement (93%) and management development (90%).

The least cited reasons for utilising coaching in organisations were learnerships, addressing skills shortages and dealing with employment equity.

Only 7% of respondents claim that coaching interventions are “not successful”. Benefits of coaching for the organisation include increased productivity, better quality, better customer service and a more questioning culture. Individuals benefit from increased self-awareness, better communication skills, better relationships with others in the workplace, increased empowerment, a better quality of life and an improved ability to set goals.

The most important criteria in the selection of a coach are track record/credibility, professional training and professional knowledge. The survey did not show a clear correlation between a coach’s qualifications and the rates that they charge. However, most coaches who participated in the survey held some form of qualification whether or not it was coaching related.

The biggest hindrances to coaching within organisations were cited as employees being unsure of what coaching is, and budget constraints.

With regard to coaching clients (those participants who had experienced coaching), most had self-sourced their coaches for personal development or growth. The majority of coaching sessions took place face-to-face (96%), every two to three weeks. An alternative method of conducting coaching sessions was telephonic or via Skype.

If a coaching intervention was terminated early, it was more likely due to financial or time constraints than to any other factor, with only 3% of all respondents scoring poor in response to the question regarding how they would rate their coaching experience in terms of achieving their coaching goals.

90% of coaching clients rated their relationship with their coach as having been good to brilliant, with 61% rating their coaching experience as “invaluable”.

There is a definite correlation between the number of years that a coach has been in practice and the coach’s perception of the success of their business. Those who had been in business for 6 – 10 years rated their business as very successful, and were charging higher hourly rates for their coaching.

Executive coaching, coaching for leadership development and business/entrepreneurial coaching were the three leading coaching applications mentioned, followed by coaching for performance, personal development and life coaching.

A key challenge mentioned by coaches and organisational participants was the need to educate the SA public about coaching, what it is, the different models, what to look for in a coach, the impact and value of coaching. It is necessary to educate the public in general on the broad definition of coaching versus mentoring.

Participants highlighted the need to upskill unqualified practitioners through the introduction of some form of regulation/accreditation of coaches into the industry, to introduce quality control through professional supervision, and to ensure on-going professional development.


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