Why the pandemic has seen a growth in coaching

It’s been abundantly clear that the last two years have forced businesses across the nation cut back on all sorts of typical activities. But what might be a surprise to some is the fact that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the global coaching industry actually ‘grew’ last year – to become a near-$3 billion industry according to latest data.

The research – The 2022 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study (GCAS) – commissioned by us, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) – found that coaching hasn’t just ‘survived’ the pandemic, but has ‘evolved’. Rather than being a one-to-one practice, it now includes a wider spectrum of people, learning a wider set of tools.

In fact not only has awareness and engagement with coaching continued to grow [our data found 70% of all respondents around the globe had some awareness of coaching], the results also tell us one important thing: that in times of great change, and increasing pressures and demands, coaching is only seen to be more relevant.

But there are some interesting other trends that the study also reveals:.

Millennials and urbanites are driving coaching demand

The 2022 GCAS shows awareness of- (and demand for-), coaching is strongest amongst younger people. While 37% of employees overall were aware of coaching and 15% had engaged in a coaching relationship, millennials punched much higher, displaying 81% awareness of coaching and 47% engagement with it.

Respondents living in metropolitan areas or large cities also reported much higher coaching awareness (36%), compared to other geographies. By comparison, 26% of respondents in suburban communities and 16% of respondents in rural areas indicated awareness of coaching.

What’s clear is that while HRDs have long been a driving force for recommending coaching to the C-suite and other high-performing employees, the pandemic has changed what people across the organization want from their personal and professional lives. As such, we believe all employees are likely to demand, investigate and participate in coaching.

Answering the ‘Why?’ Top reasons to engage a coach

Across the board, respondents’ leading reason for participating in coaching was to improve their communication skills, with at least 31% of every generation expressing this as the case.

Other top motivations indicate individuals wanting to engage in coaching to improve their work/life balance and increase self-esteem and self-confidence.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 18% said that coaching occurred due to a career change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The upheaval and stress of the pandemic has obviously prompted increased demand for coaching, as people seek support for new challenges.

The research reveals the top outcomes desired by those who participate in coaching are closely aligned to the reasons respondents want coaching in the first place: fulfillment and success in life, including career, personal relationships, and more.

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Myth-Busting the “Non-Credentialed” Coach

Because coaching is a self-regulated industry, the ICF has long advocated that coaches hold professional credentials. The 2022 GCAS clearly showed that for those who engage in coaching, working with a credentialed coach resulted in a quantifiably better experience.

The majority of respondents who participated in a coaching relationship said their coach held a certification or credential from a membership organization. More than half of these respondents were very satisfied with their coaching experience, compared to only 27% of respondents whose coach did not hold a credential.

Amongst those who expressed awareness of coaching (and expressed a desire to have coaching relationships), 78% said having a certified coach was important to them. Notably, all generations said it would be very important for their coach to hold a credential or certification.

Where next? The future of the coaching industry

It is evident from the 2022 GCAS that awareness of- and demand for- coaching continues to grow. But there is still more than can be done. Awareness of coaching is less amongst the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation (just 52%) – so this is one area HRDs could focus on. It would also be good to see more coaching outside metropolitan areas.

For both these things to happen it’s crucial HRDs continue to understand and promote internally the important role coaching can bring. Not only does it help organisations with major transformation, it improves the lives of employees, and helps them reach their greatest potential.

To learn more about the 2022 GCAS findings, visit coachingfederation.org/research/consumer-awareness-study

Magdalena Nowicka Mook is the Executive Director and CEO of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Previously, she held positions with the Council of State Governments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. She is a trained coach and a frequent speaker on subjects of coaching and leadership. She received a master’s degree in economics and international trade from the Warsaw School of Economics, Poland. She also graduated from the Copenhagen Business School’s Advanced Program in International Management and Consulting.

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