From the book Mastering Executive Coaching by Jonathan Passmore (Editor)

Senior managers that ask for coaching, at IKEA and in other organisations, generally looking for a sounding board seeking new perspectives on current workplace challenges, seeking time and space for reflection and support to drive both business and their own individual performance.

Sometimes a coach is wanted for a specific task, such as:

• Providing extra focus and clarity in goalsetting.
• Giving perspective.
• Developing new skills and competences.
• Motivate individuals and teams.
• Exploring strengths to carry out change.

In 2005 IKEA started using external coaches. However, as this progressed the costs of increasing demand for external coaching led to a new approach. In 2008 IKEA decided to invest in an internal pool of coaches. Through internal coaches IKEA has developed a coaching culture within the organisation. After conducting a selection process IKEA decided to work with us at Coachutbildning Sverige AB (Swedish coach training company). The reasons behind IKEA choosing our company are several: among them are that we have very much the same values and that it is important for both of us to work in a true partnership.

At the first training program, participants were invited to commit at least 10 % of their time working with coaching. Selection was based on individuals understanding of IKEA values and culture and were managers with strong communication skills.

IKEA chose an external provider to deliver the training and support their coaches becoming ICF certified. IKEA´s view is that an internal coach should hold the same qualifications as an external. Internal coaches should be qualified to support leaders effectively and to ensure this we provide support and qualification.

The training provider, Coachutbildning Sverige AB, had close cooperation with the coaching team at IKEA during the development of the first training program. One success factor was that IKEA was very clear on what they wanted to achieve. At the same time, they were listening to ideas and incorporating the providers experience into the program design.

Apart from adjusting the training to fit IKEA´s culture and values, the program included exercises and models to meet the specific demands of IKEA. On example is “Shop-floorcoaching”: short coaching sessions based on the task the client is performing in the moment.

Coachutbildning Sverige AB also contributed to the development of IKEA´s coaching policy. For example, whether the client can bring up any kind of topic or not, and should the coaching continue even if the client wants to leave the company. At that time IKEA choose that the clients were free to bring up any subject at all and to continue coaching even if the client was in a leaving process. Some other companies are more restrictive in their approach.

Initially coaching could be focused on any topics. More recently this policy has changed, with coaching focusing more on IKEAs “Leadership Capabilities” to align the coaching process to the business. However, other topics can also be covered as part of the wider conversation.

After the training, the coaches got mentor coaching and group supervision. This to get support in order to handle different type of cases, dilemmas and to develop further.

On completion of the training coaches join the Internal Coaching Pool. The purposes of the pool are several. One is to help promote coaching within the company and to match client’s (coachees) with available coaches in the pool. Another reason behind the set-up of a pool was to give the coaches an opportunity of sharing knowledge and experience. This ensures support in handling different cases, dilemmas and to develop further as coaches.
Throughout the implementation phase many focused projects were carried out. One project was done in an IKEA-store in Sweden where all managers were given coaching by internal coaches. This project was evaluated with 67 % of the managers answered, “yes much” or “yes, very much” on the question if coaching had had positive impact on them (33% answered “yes” or “little”).

Between 2008 and 2011, four groups of 12 to 16 IKEA employees were trained to become internal coaches. The profiles of these internal coaches were a mix of high level IKEA managers and human resources professionals, from all over the world. These individualswere asked to commit to delivering 42 sessions per year per coach. The  ambition was to provide individual coaching for key managers at IKEA worldwide.

Since 2011 country based coach-pools have bene developed. The criteria and education of these internal coaches are exactly the same as in the global pool. At present, there are local pools in France and Spain. These coaches coach in the local language, making coaching accessible for more key leaders who are not fluent English speakers.

Since 2011 every year 5-10 IKEA-managers and HR-professionals take part in open training programs of Coachutbildning Sverige AB. The advantage of this is that it gives the participants insights into how other organisations work with coaching. A disadvantage can be that it does not give the same opportunities of internal networking as the IKEA specific programs does. The fact that the training is not adapted to IKEAs culture and values has not been perceived as a problem since these individuals are already established with the culture and ways of working.

Every 18 month the internal coaches at IKEA are given the opportunity to meet up. This is to network and to further develop their coaching skills. Also shorter web-based workshops have been given throughout the years. Different trainers and presenters have been invited to teach new models, tools and new ways to apply coaching. The most experienced coaches have also had training from Coachutbildning Sverige AB in ”how to mentor-coach” so now they can provide mentor coaching for individuals as wells as for in groups within IKEA.

During the Spring 2015 IKEA did an internal study as well as an external benchmark with the purpose to assess the value of coaching. The purpose was also to determine if the global pool of coaches should continue to be administrated, trained and followed up centrally.

The main conclusions of the study were:
• The clients who have benefited from the coaching were very satisfied.
• The relationship between the clients’ topics and IKEA´s needs were not clear enough.
• The amount of coaches is enough to cover the demand today, but the coaches not being used to the full capacity.
• For the coaches, it is important to have common tools and guidelines and continuous training and supervision.

During the past five years IKEA has continued to train its coaches. These have often had the focus of combining the coaching approach with leadership. IKEA has included coaching in a number of internal leadership programs. In some programs, the participants get an internal coach to support the participants development. The coaching approach fits very well with the leadership philosophy within IKEA. As one manager, that had coach training, put it”The big difference between using a controlling leadership and using a coaching approach is that coaching focuses on the person in front of me. Coaching contributes to growth and a more creative behaviour. I have gone from being Superman to becoming a coach.” Coaching builds security and confidence, and individuals feel listened to and trusted. This trust helps support a culture where people feel it is safe to take risks, and make mistakes, and where there is a focus on trying new ideas and continually learning from engagement with colleagues and customers.

IKEA continues to use external coaches, for senior managers, where independence is a key part of the assignment. The section of these external coaches is focused on their coaching and managerial xperience, which ensures that the senior managers get a positive experience from coaching, as well as the business gaining from this external input.

Table 1: The IKEA Coaching Survey
Anja Lindberg,, would like to acknowledge the contributions in this case study of the IKEA Coaching Team , and in particular Karin Åkerman, responsible for the Coach Pool at IKEA.

Anja Lindberg ICF – Professional Certified Coach (PCC)