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Why Industrial Psychologists Encourage Evidence-Based Coaching

Researchers in industrial-organizational psychology are helping develop new and effective coaching methods.

You wouldn’t put a football team on the field without coaching the players first, so why run a business without ever coaching your employees? This type of question—and the realization it inspires—has led many businesses to embrace the idea of coaching. The problem is, not all coaching is effective.

What Is Coaching?

A lot of businesses think of coaching as a way to correct performance problems with employees or management. But that’s not what coaching is best at, because coaching is not remedial training. Instead, coaching is about identifying and developing existing skills and attributes with the goal of creating a high-performance workforce or management team. Coaches don’t reprimand, they encourage.

Why Industrial Psychologists Encourage Evidence-Based Coaching

That said, not all coaching utilizes the same methods. In fact, there are two main types of coaching: belief-based and evidence-based. Belief-based coaching uses techniques drawn from conventional wisdom and tradition. Evidence-based coaching, on the other hand, uses techniques that have been scientifically tested for effectiveness. Where belief-based coaches simply accept the efficacy of their methods, evidence-based coaches rely on methods backed by research and data.

Does Coaching Work?

Yes, studies repeatedly show that coaching works,1 even with front-line employees.2 Those who receive coaching are more likely to meet performance goals. However, if you’re going to embrace coaching, you should use evidence-based methods developed by the industrial and organizational psychology field.

Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology explores all aspects of human behavior in the workplace, and many industrial psychologists specifically study how we develop workplace skills. Through their research, they uncover what actually works and doesn’t work when it comes to improving employee performance. Unlike many so-called experts in coaching, industrial psychologists don’t base coaching theories or advice on opinion. Their conclusions are based on the scientific evidence they gather. This is what makes evidence-based coaching so powerful. The methods are scientifically proven to be effective.

How Do You Institute Effective Coaching?

Coaching can be performed by managers, peers, or outside consultants. But no matter who is handling the coaching, there are some key steps your organization can take to ensure you achieve a good return on your investment. These include:

  • Defining your desired outcomes and ensuring all stakeholders understand and agree on the objectives.
  • Making sure the appropriate people receive coaching. For instance, if your coaching objectives are to improve sales, you will likely want your sales team to receive coaching but not necessarily your financial team.
  • Ensuring coaching is done one-on-one, with no coach handling more than a few participants.
  • Training your coaches in evidence-based methods or hiring a coaching firm that practices evidence-based methods. 
  • Setting a time frame for coaching and establishing an oversight team to monitor progress and ensure coaches and participants stay on track and remain focused on the agreed-upon goals.
  • Using a 360-degree feedback process that allows both coaches and participants to provide feedback, suggestions, and concerns to each other and to the oversight team.
  • Recording and analyzing results.  

How Can You Learn More About Coaching and I-O Psych?

If you want to become an expert in coaching and/or help develop evidence-based coaching methods, consider earning an MS or PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Both of these psychology degrees can help you gain the skills and knowledge you need for a career in industrial psychology.

Earning your master’s or doctorate in psychology may seem daunting, but online education can make achieving your educational goals possible. Through an online university, you can earn a master’s in psychology or PhD in psychology without moving to be near a university campus or leaving your job to complete your coursework. Instead, you can earn an online PhD in psychology on a schedule that works for you and allows you to complete the majority of your degree requirements from home.

Online master’s and PhD in psychology programs make it more possible than ever to earn the degree you need to play an important role in evidence-based coaching.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,