Techno-coaching: automated systems mean more employees can be offered support in their careers

Tech-enabled coaching platforms can be used to target broader, wider, and future business needs to provide a platform for personal and business success at all levels says Liz Sebag-Montefiore

Coaching, traditionally, has been a face-to-face, personalised arrangement designed to address the issues and needs of the client. Hands-on and high touch, requiring an investment of time as well as the fees for a qualified, professional coach. Coaching is the most powerful development tool an employee can experience, because it is personalised. The ICF says that every dollar invested yields benefits between 4 to 8 times the level of investment.

The pandemic, lockdown, and work from home have presented us all with unprecedented challenges and afforded a unique opportunity to re-evaluate how we work. There seems to be a groundswell for organisations to provide a more supportive environment, where personal or professional challenges are acknowledged and support offered if needed; coaching is increasingly popular.

Coaching has benefited from new technologies too. Choosing a coach used to be a matter of reviewing profiles and videos, chemistry meetings with a few coaches and then contracting a programme with the chosen coach, juggling diaries to arrange a reasonable schedule of meetings that will deliver on the client’s objectives. Smartphones, tablets and videoconferencing have made life easier for all parties.

Practical coaching

Coaching software makes it easy to offer and manage coaching, using distance-based coaching on systems like Zoom or Teams, sharing data and resources on a coaching hub, while the multiple possibilities offered by virtual reality are still to be explored.

The benefit of technology in running a coaching initiative are very practical:

  • Easing the process of finding and choosing a coach
  • Business and project management for the coaching contract, administration for booking and managing coaching session
  • Implementing easy to access remote coaching via teleconferencing to complement face-to-face coaching, including recording coaching sessions for reference purposes
  • Evaluating the coaching contract, sharing data and tracking progress
  • Provision of resources and information to supplement the initiative

Bots can be useful in some routine aspects of the process, but the human touch remains essential; that said, coaching technology is going to make it much easier to offer and access programmes, so that employers are likely to find it possible to offer coaching more widely. Artificial intelligence will not replace coaches but will make it easier from them to schedule and manage coaching so they can focus on the human element.

The future of coaching

Business success is, by and large, rooted in change, and as part of that our business environment is changing and developing. Change is a given – technological advances, legislative change, evolving consumer tastes, socio-economic and demographic change all mean business and leaders must adapt and change to thrive and survive in a dynamic environment. How we learn and teach are changing at pace.

Coaching will undoubtedly rely on new technologies as they become more widely available. AI, augmented reality and virtual reality offer new approaches. Videoconferencing allows a coach to maintain eye contact as though in a face-to-face session but a coaching meeting enabled by a virtual reality headset is a game changer.

VR is an innovative way to allow clients to experience ultra-realistic simulations while in a safe space which happens to be a digital space. With simulations, coaches can create an immersive space that puts their client to the test and helps them explore and practice their new skills, without any real risk or pressure.

Technology to the forefront

New technologies offer a level of immersive participation that affords increased engagement and feels like a real interaction with their coach or a simulated exercise. The increasing availability of virtual coaching platforms will make group coaching, in particular, easier to promulgate as working online or in a virtual space makes arranging team meetings for coaching and training simpler. Technology makes the administrative side of running professional coaching programmes simpler and affords real-time data, alongside progress tracking reporting.

These tools will become more popular as we all develop our confidence and understanding of online coaching and see how they can be used to enhance the coaching experience. The potential for add-ons in terms of materials, podcasts and videos adds functionality for both coach and client. And online lends itself to episodic, serial delivery of materials, assessments and gamified components that can complement the main programme.

The benefits identified in online/virtual coaching are: convenience, a safe personal space and cost/time savings for individuals and for organisations. There are downsides – some coaches feel that clients prefer face to face meetings and are perhaps more likely to be distracted in an online meeting.

Coaching future leaders

It seems clear that organisational clients will expect more coaching to be delivered online, and will increasingly look to online coaching platforms for delivery of executive and group coaching. I believe that we should be offering a holistic coaching approach using online tools, remote and face-to-face delivery, combined with discussion forums and educational resources. Coaching leaders and managers enables them to adapt quickly to manage people and processes in new ways, including an increased focus on collaboration, rather than control in the new world of work.

As the business world faces more challenges from disruptors, the behaviours of leaders are more critical to business success. A strengths-based approach to coaching creates an environment where leaders can focus on:

  • Collective leadership
  • Leadership in disruption
  • Business agility

Tech-enabled coaching platforms can be used to target broader, wider and future business needs to provide a platform for personal and business success at all levels. Accessible and automated systems mean more employees can be offered coaching, mentoring and materials to support their career path and development aims.

This democratisation of development opportunities is important in the post-pandemic workplace where we adjust to hybrid working in a changing business landscape.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is an executive coach and Director of 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy. 

10Eighty have recently launched their coaching app, ‘Flow’ that allows clients and coaches to make contact and contract with each other. Then they can work, communicate and meet, sync calendars, share information and resources, and have access to training courses, podcasts and discussion forums.  For more information, click here. 

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