How ICF Has Broken Down Barriers And Connected People Across Functions


ICF, a global consulting services company, has 70 offices around the world and over 7,000 employees. The ICF leadership team is committed to fostering an inclusive culture, but they realized right away that they needed an innovative approach if they were going to truly scale inclusion across their organization.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Caryn McGarry, and Justin Welk, Lead of Learning and Talent Development, turned to Imperative’s peer coaching platform, as a solution that could build relationships while creating space for authentic and honest conversations.

“We needed to find a new kind of solution that would allow us to have more open, transparent, and vulnerable conversations, while providing the space to do that safely and bravely, across our entire organization.  That’s what Imperative provided us. Imperative’s platform is one of the best examples I’ve seen of how to make learning in the flow of work actually happen in the day to day,” Justin Welk said.

“Now, more than ever, we have to be building inclusion and connection in our organization. Creating space to build connections is more important today than it’s ever been before. Without it, I don’t see us getting from point A to point B from a growth perspective if we don’t make this a priority.”

Caryn McGarry, CHRO


Scale Inclusion Across Their Organization

“Our org is extremely diverse in terms of background & expertise – we have a lot of different roles and functions who really don’t ever get to work together. We have 7,000 employees across the globe, so we knew from the beginning we can’t just launch an online training on inclusive leadership practices to 7,000 employees. We knew we had to provide opportunities for teams to engage in conversation, to test ideas, and hold each other accountable,” Justin Welk said.

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ICF’s goal was to break down barriers and connect people across functions, from diverse backgrounds and geographically different areas. The solution needed to meet these criteria:

1. Accessible to employees and requires no training
2. Easy to launch and administer virtually
3. Cost-effective to scale to all their employees
4. Based on proven research and science
5. Creates psychological safety and new networks of support


Peer Coaching on Imperative

ICF partnered with Imperative to create peer coaching networks through the Imperative platform. This enabled their employees to build meaningful relationships with one another, and provided the space to have safe, vulnerable and honest conversations.

To launch peer coaching networks on Imperative’s platform, employees began by filling out our Purpose Profile, which was scientifically designed to establish what drives a person at work. Then, they were paired off using Imperative’s data-driven algorithm. In each bi-weekly video conversation, Imperative dynamically generates guided conversations that are personalized to the Purpose Profiles of each person.

At the end of each conversation, employees commit to a specific action they want to take before the next conversation – their imperative – moving from social to experiential learning. These intentional actions and accountability can be directly connected to powerful behavior change and trackable growth. Then, each subsequent quarter, employees are matched with new peer coaches to continue the ongoing process and build more new relationships across the organization, growing their internal network of peers.

1. Accessible to employees and requires no training
2. Easy to launch and administer virtually
3. Cost-effective to scale to all of their employees
4. Based on proven research and science
5. Creates psychological safety and new networks of support


Increased Sense of Belonging

At the end of each coaching conversation, ICF employees committed to one action they would take before their next session to make their work more fulfilling. 79% of those actions were completed and employees reported that 98% of them directly impacted their fulfillment at work.

“We are really excited about these results—no question. 80% of conversations are very helpful or breakthrough, this is pretty incredible. Even more important to see that 79% of actions have been completed. The measurement piece is huge: we are making a difference and this is having an impact on the organization, and we can see that. Those moments, those actions are adding up. It’s really exciting for us on the learning team, but across the organization as well.”

Justin Welk, Lead – Talent Management


Culture of Connected and Driven Employees

After having peer coaching conversations, employees reported feeling an increased sense of belonging, more trusting relationships, and a noticeable increase in their fulfillment.

Overwhelmingly, employees reported a desire to continue peer coaching. 98% of employees described the program as “helpful,” “very helpful,” and “breakthrough.” Employees described peer coaching as something they look forward to and continue to see the value grow as they get new peer coaching partners and continue to have meaningful conversations.

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