International Coaching Federation

There is no legal requirement for professional coaches to be certified. However, like in any profession, certification adds a degree of respectability regarding a coach’s qualifications. The International Coaching Federation is a non-profit organization that provides certification to coaches around the world. 

What Is The International Coaching Federation?

The International Coaching Federation (“ICF”) sets professional standards, provides training for coaching professionals, and operates a global network for its members and those searching for certified coaches. It was founded in 1995 in the United States in recognition of the increasing popularity of coaching. In 2020, the ICF had approximately 42,000 members in 147 countries.  

What Are the Advantages of Hiring an ICF-Certified Coach?

According to this source, organizations generally prefer to work with certified professionals as it is a form of standardization. In addition, companies that use certified coaches tend to be more satisfied with the services that they receive compared to uncertified coaches. Finally, the fact that an organization uses someone who has gone through the process of obtaining an ICF membership implies certain benefits:

Professional Commitment

Even though organizations prefer a certified professional, the coaching industry employs many who have not gone through any recognized training. It is possible to simply declare oneself to be a coach. 

In contrast, ICF certification requires effort, time, and money. There are three levels of certification requiring various types of training and applied coaching hours. The training itself is usually supplied by the ICF and requires payment. Even upon certification, a coach must renew their membership every three years. All of these steps indicate a certain level of commitment from the coach.

Quality Assurance

The ICF is recognized as one of the leading coaching certification organizations in the world. It is known for applying a high standard when training its coaches, and is also part of establishing those standards for the industry. L&D departments understand the value of ICF accreditation and make it a condition of the contract when they hire a coach. Similarly, should the coaching program be unsuccessful, the lack of certification may reflect badly on the L&D staff.  

Greater Access

There are thousands of ICF-trained coaches, and each is listed in both the Credentialed Coach Finder search engine and the Mentor Coach registry. For companies that are new to coaching, the ICF’s database of coaches can be a valuable time-saver. Each coach is listed according to various factors including pricing range, methods, and specialties. 

Updated Skills and Techniques

Coaching is a growing field, with revenues in the US expected to grow by 2.4% in 2022. This growth means new approaches, more diversified specialties, and obsolescence of older methods. As part of the ICF certification process, coaches must learn about the most recent trends in coaching and be up to date with various types of techniques, ethics, competencies, and standards. 

Organization of the ICF

In 2021, the ICF reorganized into six different functional groups.

ICF Professional Coaches

The Professional Coaches group provides benefits to members and encompasses the ICF’s most well-known activities. These benefits include:

  • Business development services covering a placement in the listings that appear through the Credentialed Coach Finder search engine and the Mentor Coach registry. Members are also allowed to display the ICF logo, receive discounts on coaching-related products and services, and receive ICF-issued marketing collateral and documentation. 
  • Professional development services that involve continuing education programs and peer coaching. ICF also enables the formation of ‘communities of practice’ whereby coaches can participate in meeting other ICF members for the discussion of specific coaching areas. 
  • Connectivity services to facilitate communication between local ICF members. Many countries, and even cities, have their own ICF chapters through which members can support each other and their communities.  
  • Research services that deliver ICF-generated reports to members as well as portal access to a coaching knowledge base. 

ICF Credentials and Standards

The Credentials and Standards group (formerly the ICF credentialing department) coordinates training programs for coach practitioners. Through the Professional Coaches group, ICF provides education and best practice standards to three different levels of practitioners: Associated Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach, and Master Certified Coach. Each type is differentiated by the number of training and applied coaching hours required, with the Master level being the highest. 

The ICF also recognizes ‘coach-specific’ training. This is training that occurs outside of official ICF facilities but involves an accredited trainer or a program that meets ICF core competencies.  

Upon meeting the relevant ICF standard, a coach is accredited and can join the Professional Coaches group. Regardless of accreditation level, certification must be renewed every three years. 

ICF Coaching Education

Just as ICF accredits individual coaches, so too does it certify organizations that are involved in training coaches. The Coaching Education group (formerly the ICF Training Program Accreditation department) also has three levels of accreditation. Membership requires periodic renewal. 

ICF Coaching in Organizations

Businesses and organizations that use coaching can join this group to gain access to ICF research, participate in networking events, and receive admittance to ICF-level professional development programs. 

ICF Foundation

Based on charitable donations, the ICF Foundation provides pro bono coaching projects to social initiatives. 

ICF Thought Leadership Institute

The goal of this group is to contribute to the development of the coaching industry. The organization is composed of innovators, researchers, technology professionals, venture capitalists, and the media. These entities cooperate in the formation and maintenance of a data collection related to coaching. 

What’s the Smartest Way to Begin a Coaching Program?

Organizations like the ICF give businesses an excellent resource for locating coaches of different specialties, nationalities, and levels of expertise. But, aside from certification, the ICF does not provide any information regarding the success rate of the coach. Obtaining objective reviews requires research. 

GrowthSpace’s L&D platform greatly reduces the effort required for finding assessments of coaches, regardless of their certification levels. Part of the GrowthSpace search tool includes a grading mechanism based on client reviews. It is based on a simple numerical format that is easy for L&D program administrators to understand at a glance. 

This level of practicality is common to all of the tools on the GrowthSpace platform. Contact GrowthSpace today to discover how it powers scalable, successful L&D programs.  

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