An Analysis of Coaching in HRM in Education


Motivation: The purpose of this literature review is to provide an overview of coaching in the context of HRM and its relevance and future potential in education.

Approach: The birth and current status of HRM and the introduction of varying coaching models are reviewed and the correlation between HRM and coaching is investigated to establish the extent to which coaching is being integrated in HRM in education and to examine its further potential for the future.

Findings: Research confirms that coaching is, in fact, being adopted, studied and further developed in the field of education at levels ranging from teaching young children with autism, secondary school students through to university levels. Research further suggests that coaching is not merely relevant, but rather is of significant importance for HRM in the field of education.

Implications: The degree to which coaching can facilitate organisational development and management strategies for organizational culture development in the future is significant. This study recommends further research of HRM models to analyse existing and potential implementations for the integration of coaching strategies within HRM frameworks designed to facilitate organizational development in education. It also recommends further investigation of how coaching is and could be aligned within the Cultural Web of an organisation framework in order to discover further potential to influence, steer or change organizational culture through coaching.



This review will provide an overview of the birth of HRM, highlighting the evolution of its purpose and focus. It will look at how HRM and coaching have evolved and examine to what extent the coaching industry may steer or impact HRM evolution, in particular in the field of education. It will also outline how it is likely to influence the future direction of coaching in the context of HRM strategy and how it may be utilized to facilitate and impact organisational development and culture.


The Birth of HRM – The Pre-Coaching Era

The history of HRM Development can be divided into distinct phases (Kipkemboi, 2015); the administration phase, the administration, and welfare or personnel management phase (CIPD, 2017) and the human resources management and strategic human resources management phase (Hendry & Pettigrew, 1986), (Kaufman, 2015).


Administration 1900 – 1940s (The Labour Management Movement)

In this era, employees were typically managed by supervisors, line managers, recruitment professionals and welfare workers. Although this period centred entirely on administration, the theories that evolved would later become part of the personnel management educational modules proposed by business schools in the 1950s (Kipkemboi, 2015).


Administration and Welfare /Personnel Management 1940s – mid-70s

The Kipkemboi HRM study (2015) suggests that the main criteria under review in the 1950s were focussed on issues and processes along with time management. According to the talent management timeline published in the Harvard Business Review (2016) however, approximately 60% of U.S. companies were already rewarding employees following “appraisals to document the workers’ performance” during the 1940s.

In the 1950s Douglas McGregor put forward the proposal to “engage employees in assessments and goal setting” and by the 1960s appraisals were being separated to address accountability and growth (Harvard Business Review, 2016).


Human Resources Management mid-70s – late 90s (HRM & SHRM)

By the mid-90s the HRM mindset had transformed (Kaufman 2015). The focus was on personal discovery and empowerment. “It has been suggested that coaching is the most powerful method for developing managers (Lee, 2003).” In contrast, the Harvard Business Review (2016) talent management timeline suggests that from the 1970s through to 2011 the main focus was on accountability, rather than development.

The “transition” from HRM to SHRM was formalised in 1984 in the books Strategic Human Resource Management by Fombrun, Tichy, and Devanna and Managing Human Assets by Beer, Spector, Lawrence, Mills and Walton (Kaufman 2015). It was further investigated and reinforced by Hendry and Pettigrew in 1986 with their article “The Practice of Strategic Human Resource Management”.

In the Fombrun, Tichy and Devanna Model, also known as the Harvard Framework for HRM (Hrmguide 2017) we can clearly see how SHRM was developed to align mission and strategy with HRM while also considering (external and internal) economic, political and cultural forces with the latter two being clearly linked to organizational structure and respectively to HRM, which in turn points towards four key areas, selection, development, rewards and appraisals, and where there is also a clear link between development and performance.

In 1997 David Guest defined the Guest Model, which was more aligned with organizational strategies while the Warwick Model by Hendry and Pettigrew (1990) included both external and internal factors while contemplating both context and content (Agyepong, S.A. … et al., 2010).

SHRM is defined by Cascio and Boudreau (2012) as follows:

“The decisions, processes, and choices that organizations make about managing people” the two main areas of focus are “to identify the ‘pivot points’ where human capital makes the biggest difference to sustainable strategic success” and to make “investments … in human resource programs that fit together synergistically…to enhance human capital at the pivot points”.

In 2000 I was employed as regional Didactic Director in a multi-national chain of language schools. My personal experience with HR was based on a combination of accountability and development in an almost equal measure. Reporting, analytics, appraisals, and performance-based financial rewards were at the core of all our activities, and coaching was provided to management, who adopted the same approaches with staff. In my opinion, this organisation was not typical in its approach at the time.

Based on my personal experience as both coach and coachee I propose that the strategic application of coaching designed to enhance human capital at specific pivot points as described by Cascio and Boudreau (2012) has and will continue to encourage the integration of coaching in HRM which will likely continue to be further developed in the future. In my opinion this is also relevant to the education sector.




Coaching in HRM in education

The need for improved performance in education is supported by the introduction of legislation (Bush & Middlewood 1997), and the ever-increasing relevance of coaching, which is centred on self-reflection (Kellenberg & Rieger 2017), in HRM in the educational sector.

In 1974 Drucker wrote, “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices” in which he highlights a fundamental difference between business and service organisations (including education) in relation to performance. He argued that employees perform better in business organisations because their salaries are funded by revenue that is dependent on customer satisfaction whereas salaries in service organisations such as education are paid through the allocation of budgets, which do not necessarily depend on the quality of the work, the degree of performance or the level of customer satisfaction.

Contrary to this, a case study of coaching in higher education concludes that there is in fact little difference between coaching in education and any other field (Thomson, 2012).

(Bush & Middlewood, 1997) discuss the introduction of legislation by governments committed to improving educational standards through self-managing schools and colleges in the early 90s. This legislation formalizes the requirement to improve performance in education, which is dependent on people, who are managed and developed through HRM, which can be impacted by coaching. Self-reflection is considered to play an important role in learning and development and is a key element in developing professionalism in adult educators (Kellenberg & Rieger, 2017).

More recently, in 2015-2016 a study of the “Coaching the Coach” training programme designed to train portfolio coaches in under-graduate medical education was conducted (Kopechek, J., et al 2017). The training was developed following a major curriculum reform at the Ohio State University College of Medicine in 2012.

The results of this study were very positive, particularly with regard to student feedback. It could be argued that this experiment will encourage other universities to follow suit and integrate coaching practices within the HRM arena to ensure that teaching staff is empowered and trained to coach. In order to explore this further, in the next section, the evolution of coaching and what it represents for HRM in education will be reviewed.


The evolution of coaching in HRM in education

Coaching first emerged in sports, then management performance before its application in leadership and professional development. Whitmore (2002 – 2009) produced the GROW model, which is still very much current today (Nieuwerburgh, 2011). Coaching was first introduced in the educational sector in the early 1980s by Joyce and Showers (Whiterod, 2014).

Coaching is particularly pertinent in the field of education, which by its very definition is a learning culture. Reflective practice is recognized as effective for professional development (Kovacs & Corrie S 2017) in teaching (Kellenberg & Rieger, 2017) and this begs the question;; “Does coaching support, facilitate or enhance reflective learning for teachers?”

“A Study on Reflective Reciprocal Peer Coaching for Pre-service Teachers: Change in Reflectivity” by Gonen and Kuru (2016) proposes a quantitative and qualitative analysis that supports the claim that reciprocal peer coaching does indeed offer significant benefits for teacher trainees.

Coaching is still in its infancy but evidence shows that it is not only a valuable strategy for personal and professional development but is, in fact, being adopted, studied and further developed in the field of education at levels ranging from teaching young children with autism (Wilson et al. 2011), secondary school students (Lee, J., 2017) and at university levels (Whiterod 2014), (Gonen & Kuru, 2016), (Thomson 2012) (Netolicky, D.M., 2016).

Having described the evolution of HRM, and examined how coaching is being integrated in HRM in education the question of whether or not coaching can actually impact, influence or change organizational culture arises.

The University of East London confirms that coaching in education is logical and inevitable with the introduction of one of the first coaching psychology programmes, the MSc Coaching Psychology, UEL (Nieuwerburgh, 2011).

Furthermore, the intention to create the “Global framework for coaching and mentoring in education” is explained as follows “To lead the research agenda in this field” (Nieuwerburgh & Campbell 2017). This also indicates that coaching is likely to continue to evolve in HRM in education.


Coaching in HRM in Relation to Management, Organisational Development and Culture

The results of the 2012 study (Bond & Seneque 2012) suggest that coaching is a valid form of management strategy, and is “an effective approach to managing a diverse and rapidly changing workforce”.

Bond and Seneque further propose that coaching is a valid solution for organisations and managers who aim “to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency on an organizational level”. At an organisation wide level, coaching can provide a framework for human resource development that is in the “present” and facilitate “balancing individual, team and organizational development requirements” (Bond & Seneque 2012).

Furthermore, the study “Coaching Across Organizational Culture” (Kołodziejczak, 2014) demonstrates how the application of coaching in organisation management can gradually model or alter the organisational culture. In this context, it is worth noting the difference, highlighted by Lawton-Smith and Cox (2007) between coaching techniques which tend towards superficial, and the coaching process, which envisages a more in-depth and exhaustive approach to people development. This distinction supports the suggestion to construct strategic coaching strategies through careful alignment with SHRM models such as the Fombrun, Tichy and Devanna model (the Michigan/Matching Model), the Beer, Spector, Lawrence and Walton model (The Harvard Model), the Cascio and Boudreau model and the Paauwe, Guest and Wright Model.

If we consider the cultural web model as proposed by Johnson, Scholes & Whittington (2008) to further explore how organizational culture is formed and explore how coaching can impact paradigm, at the core of the cultural web model, which is based on assumptions that are taken for granted, we can conclude that reflective practice through coaching will at minimum enable educational organisations to question the assumptions upon which their culture is formed. This is, in my opinion, an example of how coaching can, in fact, become instrumentally strategic in impacting or changing the organisational culture.

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The Coaching Climate Survey Report (CIPD, 2011) by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development indicates a connection between coaching and organizational value:

“Coaching has a key role in helping build HR capability;; L&TD professionals in the coaching space can make that happen. Putting business savvy and commercial awareness at the centre of assignments will ensure that coaching delivers both organisational value and career-enhancing capability for HR professionals”.

The varying coaching models and approaches; behavioral, solution focussed and cognitive coaching (Passmore, 2016) offer further possibilities for effective integration of coaching in education according to sector-specific needs that may distinguish business coaching solutions from coaching formulas designed specifically to fit development requirements in education.



The degree to which coaching could facilitate organisational development and management strategies for organizational culture development in the future is significant in my opinion. The alignment of coaching models within HRM frameworks designed to facilitate organizational development in education represents real opportunities for ongoing improvements in HRM in education. Coaching could also be aligned within the Cultural Web of an organisation framework in order to influence, steer or change organisational culture. However, in its current state, the research conducted finds no evidence to suggest that coaching is being specifically applied at such a level in education as it would appear to be in business and HRM.

With 397 million results in Google for the term “Coaching” and 262 million for the term “Coaching in education”, coaching is recognized as particularly significant in times of considerable change in both education and society in general. The focus seems to be predominantly focussed on increasing levels of independence, resilience, and reflectivity in the individual and it is accepted that the affinity between coaching and education is based on the fact that both strive towards learning objectives and increasing human potential. This is considered to be relevant to both students and educators alike.

In conclusion, although coaching is currently focussed on empowering students and educators rather than at organisational development levels, its impact on individuals contributes to creating very positive environments, increased aspirations, improved communication and pro-active attitudes, which are all important ingredients upon which organizational culture depends and as such, coaching is in my opinion positively impacting organizational culture as a consequence.