Reducing the cost of executive coaching

Let’s not beat around the bush – executive coaching isn’t cheap.  In fact if you measure your learning and development interventions in terms of per-person contact time, it’s probably the most expensive development activity you will undertake.

The returns that executive coaching can deliver back to your business are the subject of much examination.  You don’t have to search for long to find both philosophical and pragmatic calculations of what you might expect to get back in terms of business value.  If you’re struggling, try this 2009 ICF study that estimates returns of 344% on executive coaching investment, but balance it with this 2012 ICF study that states that better understanding of the benefits of coaching and credible ROI measures represent the two biggest challenges facing the industry.

Regardless of the magnitude of the returns possible and how credible the returns are, one thing is certainly true – we want all more for less!

There are many ways in which you can reduce the cost of your executive coaching interventions without reducing the quality of provision.  Here are 5 questions to ask of your business, and your provider:


1. Is choice important?

One of the expectations of executive coaching is that the coachee will be able to choose their own coach.  Whilst choice CAN be an important factor, it is by no means essential for everybody.  We have provided one-person-shortlists for many coachees for many years, with no reduction in quality and impact.

Reduced choice for the coachee opens up the opportunity to significantly rationalise the size of your coach portfolio and the associated cost of management.


2. Can we use days instead of sessions

Coaching is typically charged on a per-session basis, representing the time it takes for the coach to conduct a session, including their travel time, preparation and expenses.

If you have multiple coachees within your business, consider tighter scheduling of your coaching, allowing multiple sessions to take place on a single day.  This change allows for the consolidation of expenses and pricing to be negotiated on a per-day rather than per-session basis. 


3. Do we need to be in the same room?

Coaching using the telephone and web conferencing works.  In fact for most people it works as well as face-to-face coaching (for some, even better).  

It isn’t always appropriate to have ALL coaching sessions conducted virtually, and the method doesn’t work for everyone, but consider what options you have for virtual and blended modes of coaching delivery.


4. Could more cost less?

Economies of scale work in coaching too, so consider the marginal cost of increasing the number of people having coaching in your business.

When combined with some of the previous questions, there is significant scope to increase the number of assignments per coach, reduce the per-session cost and secure better rates for your business.


5. What do your coachees do next?

Experiencing coaching is an important element in the development of the coach.  In fact there aren’t many coaches who didn’t enter the world of coaching after being initially coached themselves by somebody else.

Start thinking about the coachees in your business as a potential talent pool. Could these leaders coach others in your business and reduce your reliance on external coaching providers?


A ‘race to the bottom’ cost approach to executive coaching procurement helps no-one and can severely impact the quality of provision you receive, but that doesn’t mean savings aren’t possible with a little pragmatism.

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