Magazine excerpt: Reboot coaching

The new face of coaching is digital, democratised and in-demand, argues Pam Bateson.

Coaching has long been a part of life for many executive teams, and in recent years it’s moved to the mainstream of most workplace learning programmes.

Hay Group claims that up to 40% of Fortune 500 companies use coaching, while the International Coach Federation believes the global market to be worth £2.35bn, largely down to a 19% surge in use between 2011 and 2015.

From this perspective, it looks like coaching is here to stay – but what’s driven that? And how can we respond to the increased appetite for coaching in a way that works at both micro and macro level? 

New demands – from people like us

Use of coaching is expected to grow as leaders of organisations increasingly need support and structure to think through challenges – slowly, without distraction and with someone impartial. It’s also becoming more commonplace as more leaders experience ‘executive isolation’; and because they’re more comfortable asking for help.

What’s more, generational shifts are driving new demands for coaching. At the younger end of the spectrum, there’s a new need for personalisation and speed in the services this demographic wants to consume – the ‘Amazon Prime mindset’.

Online coaching platforms are responding to the needs being expressed by the whole organisation, not just the top layer.

Deloitte research shows that 46% of people aged 25-30 are drawn to personalised services – a need that coaching clearly responds to. Meanwhile for older workers, longer careers extending later into life necessitate adaptability. Coaching can help with these transitions, and demand for coaching from business school alumni outstrips current supply.

Online coaching platforms are responding to these needs being expressed by the whole organisation, not just the top layer. By offering better digital access to coaching services, more individuals can access coaching in ways that suit their needs. 

Going digital for increased speed and convenience

While telephone and Skype coaching has long been a feature of the profession, digital tools and platforms are making it easier for individuals to find, access and take a session with a coach.

These tools offer individuals a number of benefits, namely: 

  • More choice: digital coaching erases the boundaries of geography and improves access to coach expertise. What might be lost in terms of a relationship is made up for by the breadth of expertise that can be offered through one single point of access for users. This experience ranges from being a better leader and getting more organised, all the way through to life coaching themes like dealing with bereavement or anxiety.
  • More convenience: online coaching is more likely to be offered within easy reach of users, at their fingertips, in some instances! With 85% of the UK population having a smartphone now – a higher percentage than laptop ownership – app-based coaching is only set to become more commonplace.
  • More proximity: online coaching can also close the gap between a moment of need for coaching support and the moment of delivery. Offer 24-hour access to clients with support on hand within an hour if possible – this means learners can access support to think through on-the-job-challenges in real time. 

Digital creates wins for the whole organisation

If users come first, we must ask ourselves: who else can benefit from the power of technology? Answer: everyone else in the system! For learning and development practitioners, digital delivery can cut the hassle and wastage associated with Excel spreadsheets, missed appointments and manual feedback processes. 

And the cost-savings associated with the reduced waste – of coach time, of admin time and of coachee time – with things like travel or rearranging appointments can mean that you can offer more access to more people in your organisations. Today, this can help more people to get the benefits of the coaching conversation. And tomorrow, with another global recession predicted by 2020, it’s likely to help reduced budgets go further.

But delivering digitally ultimately means so much more than just scaling and facilitating coaching in global organisations; it also means you can spot trends and patterns on what topics people are bringing to the table within communities of users.

And just as careful listening has a powerful and transformative role in one-to- one coaching conversations, carefully listening to and analysing anonymised versions of the conversations has a powerful and transformative role within whole organisations. 

Arguably the more valuable prize is the data and analytics that can be generated by running conversations online. Imagine if we could learn how and where coaching was being most used, what top-line topics were being talked about, and how effective the coaching conversation was?


About the author

Pam Bateson is the co-founder of Thrive Partners.


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