Emulated coaching: The next generation of online development

Peter Ryding extols the virtues of emulated coaching.

Enlightened organisations accept what the learning and development community has known for a very long time – the benefits of coaching are indisputable. Fortune magazine reports an average return on coaching of more than six times the cost.

Coaching embodies the Toaist phrase ‘To know and not to do – is not to know’. Learning itself is not the goal; it is only the means to the ends. It is the application of learning that empowers you to be the best you can be.

Coaching embeds learning – skills, knowledge, insights and mindsets – to bring about true long lasting behavioural change.

In our increasingly VUCA world, exacerbated by Coronavirus, tight training budgets, skills shortages, fast changing skillsets and remote working are challenging conventional training concepts and delivery. The need is clear: just-in-time personalised learning that is immediately integrated and applied to deliver increased individual, team and business performance.

When you combine coaching and learning you strike gold.

      “Companies that offer training alone experience 22.4% increase in productivity, but when combined with coaching that figure rises to 88%” – Gerald Olivero, Denise Bane & Richard Kopelman, Public Personnel Management.

However, coaching provision in the UK is fundamentally inadequate. As a serial CEO and master coach I am constantly frustrated at the lack of access to good coaching. The coaching continuum is broad from professionally trained external and internal coaches to line managers.

External coaching is still largely reserved for senior executives and internal coaching is typically yet another pull on over-stretched HR and L&D professionals. And although line managers should be at the heart of coaching delivery, time and again studies confirm that leadership and management skills in the UK are woefully poor and training insufficient.

The reality is that few line managers are equipped with even a basic level of coaching skills and understanding. Corona’s requirement for working from home has exposed this lack of management skills like never before.

A 2018 study in the Harvard Business Review revealed that, without specific support in coaching skills, managers typically rely on ‘tell’ mode even when they believe they are using coaching techniques. 

Even professional coaching has its limitations:

  • Cost. Most managers, even senior, have no access to a coaching budget.
  • Availability. Coaching is usually by appointment and absent when most needed to support complex decision making.
  • Competence and consistency. Whilst coaching qualifications abound, they are not all equal. Some are considerably less rigorous.
  • Expertise. The debate around the benefits of ‘clean caching’ versus ‘expert coaching’ continues. However, in my experience success is as much attributable to an ability to switch, authentically and transparently, from coach to expert as to any coaching knowledge and skills.

However, unprecedentedly, technology now enables these constraints to be overcome and for the power of coaching to be made available to all employees at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

Advances in technology and AI provide this breakthrough through emulated coaching. This is always available so help is instant and there when most needed. Sophisticated automated self-coaching tools offer powerful coaching interventions and, by coupling these with AI driven adaptive pathways, coaching can be supported with tailored, personalised content.

Emulated coaching does not pretend to be the same experience as a human coach – however, in many ways it’s better. It also equips line managers with coaching skills and supports them with continuous skills development and provides expert content when required. It empowers them to become a skilled ‘clean’ and ‘expert’ coach and to know what hat to wear and when.

By upskilling from the bottom up, it can successfully drive the elusive ‘coaching culture’ much sought after by organisations and rarely achieved by top-down initiatives.  

Advances in technology have changed the coaching landscape offering the opportunity for coaching for everyone. Whilst it doesn’t supplant the role of human coaches, traditional coaching will never be universally available. Emulated coaching can be.


About the author

Peter Ryding is a serial award winning CEO, Master Coach to CEOs and HRDs and founder of interactive upskilling software, Your Virtual Interactive Coach.



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