PhD dissertation: International careers rise with coaching

In her dissertation Raija Salomaa researched international executive coaching from the following three new perspectives: how coaching has been used to attract, develop and maintain success and talent in international organisations, which factors influence the success of coaching of expatriates and how coaching develops career capital for them.

Coaching increases career capital

The doctoral dissertation showed that coaching increases the career capital of expatriates, individuals who work and live temporarily abroad in a multitude of ways. It further revealed that coaching can aid in achieving set goals as well as generating unforeseen positive results. One interviewed coachee quoted:

“Most shocking part for me was really the aspect of values and bringing sort of the emotional side of the brain into play, not just the analytical data driven decision making part, but you know, if you are not happy, you would not – perform- well- kind- of- thing was a real revolution for me and gave me a lot additional ammunition to my work.”

Coaching also increased levels of motivation, defined leadership and cultural identities as well as developed leadership, cross-cultural and coaching skills of people working abroad. Furthermore, coaching created new valuable social ties and increased the overall networking between people involved.

According to Salomaa, it is imperative within international coaching to look beyond cultural differences, as all coachees require an individual approach. Past experiences and current needs of expatriates must also be taken into consideration when starting a new coaching process.

- In order to be successful, a coach must have extensive international work experience and a strong background in business. These are necessary tools needed in order for a coach to attain adequate levels of trust required in the field, says Salomaa.

Salomaa recommends coaching as an effective instrument for staff development in international organisations, as it has the ability to adapt flexibly to the needs of a coachee. Due to the small amount of publications available on the topic of international coaching and the considerable advances in the field over the past decade, this research is abundantly significant.

- The doctoral dissertation is a useful tool for coaches working at home and abroad, human resource professionals, as well as other professionals working within international organisations, says Salomaa.

The importance of foreign experience and a background in business

According to the research, in addition to having extensive working and living experience abroad, coaches working with expats need to be able to provide sufficient challenges for their coachees.

In order to succeed, it is important to have both international business experience and a broad understanding of the language and culture of the country in question. Salomaa states that these factors have a major influence in the building of trust in coaching relationships. Creating clearly defined objectives is also necessary for building a successful coaching experience.

According to Salomaa, coaching techniques should always be tailor-made to fit a customer’s needs. The structured process of a coaching journey enables its success. Salomaa also states that coaches must be fully aware of a customer's personal goals and future prospects.

Coachees must also be open to the coaching experience: trust and confidentiality are key factors in supporting the success of coaching. In light of this, the research further revealed that coachees prefered to be coached in their own native language. Moreover, an organisation's management culture should be supportive of coaching and provide  sufficient resources needed to see the process through.

Coaching for organisational culture

In her research Salomaa developed further a coaching model, which allows professionals to pinpoint the coaching stage at which their organisation is currently at. The model also enables the identification of important factors which are to be taken in to consideration to avoid making mistakes. If an organisation is able to define and utilise this coaching model, professionals involved will be able to benefit from it.

Salomaa recommends implementing coaching strategy within business’ strategies and HR systems respectively. It is imperative that members of leadership units give their full support during these processes, for example, by including leaders and representatives within the developmental process. Furthermore, internal and external coaches should have correspondingly sufficient coaching training along with international experience.

Both internal and external coaching should be practiced with the same quality and criteria. Furthermore, coaching must be profficiently measured and evaluated. Organisations should make use of available academic research in order to develop their coaching strategies, Salomaa encourages.

The doctoral dissertation consists of semi-structured interviews and unpublished literature from international organisations. The data was collected from stakeholders participating in three different coaching processes in different countries. It was analysed using three distinct qualitative methods.


Raija Salomaa, p. 044-3505557, email:
Salomaa, Raija (2017) Coaching of international managers: Organisational and individual perspectives. Acta Wasaensia 372.
Dissertation pdf:
Publication ordering:
Doctoral Candidate

Thesis Defense 

MA, PCC Raija Salomaa’s doctoral research dissertation in the management field ”Coaching of International Managers: Organisational and individual Perspectives” was overviewed on Friday 5th of May 2017 at 12 PM at Vaasa University’s Kurtén-auditorium.

Professor Torben Andersen from Århus University in Denmark acted as the Opponent and Professor Vesa Suutari from Vaasa University acted as the Custos.

Vaasa University prepares people to become responsible leaders and proficcient experts in their future careers. Strategic areas of research include energy and sustainable development, leadership and change as well as finance and economical decision making.