Coaches are professionals who are focused on helping others with personal improvement. They have relied on basic communication systems like emails, but the profession is slowly transforming as it embraces technology.
By Ingrid Johnson
Technology is disrupting every industry, and that includes business coaching. Some industries, like health and wellness, were early technology adopters. Other industries, like business coaching, have not been as quick to embrace the advantages that advanced technology can bring to the coaching process. They are not tech free, but they do continue to utilize the most basic technology tools like emails and automated periodic satisfaction surveys. These are not behavior or thought changing activities, and changing behaviors to improve outcomes is the point of leadership coaching.
Technologies that can improve the coaching process and lead to measurable outcomes include things like app-based remote access to development and assessment programs, feedback systems, and data analytics for measuring progress against goals.
Technology is also redefining the "face-to-face" meeting, enabling coaches to access leaders across geographies by using virtual meeting software. This is just the beginning of an ongoing industry transformation.
Steps of the Coaching Process
Coaching management systems (CMS) and other technologies are already in use in the coaching industry. The trend will continue, and technology will be used at every step of the coaching process, in conjunction with face-to-face meetings either in person or online.
For example, CMS technologies can assist with the selection of the coach by using algorithms that analyze variables like the personality characteristics of the coach and coachee to make the best match to increase the likelihood of success. Once a coach is selected, the CMS can be used to develop a coaching plan, document and monitor progress toward goals, provide assessment tools and a two-way feedback platform, and generate data analytics that include ROI.
Some of the systems available today enable an organization to manage all coaching assignments on a single technology platform. During the coaching initiative, coaches can use technology to provide resource materials like TED talks, learning and development videos, and relevant Web-based articles. Technology can also be used for coaching program evaluation.
One of the new trends is also called transactional coaching which technology can elevate to enable coaches to provide coaching at all manager levels across the organization, and not just at the executive level. The use of app-based tools makes transactional coaching much easier to manage. The coaching technology company Coachmetrix refers to this as the app + coach model.
Transactional coaching focuses on short–term goals and specific problem solving performance, while transformational coaching focuses more on empowering people to better manage complex business challenges now and in the future.
Looking to the Future
Companies like Coachmetrix have already built coaching platforms, but what does the future hold in terms of technology?
The Forbes Coaches Council predicted the next five to 10 years of evolution in the coaching industry. Some of the predictions are already in play, like automated coaching enabling people to meet anywhere and anytime without regard to location. That is just the beginning of the transformation. Automated coaching will expand the role of coaching throughout industries as workforce demographics continue to change with the retirement of Baby Boomers and the growing segment of younger employees. Companies need to develop and implement initiatives for the transfer of knowledge and wisdom.
The Forbes Coaches Council also predicts companies will require coaches they hire to demonstrate how they have achieved success with clients. Measurements that demonstrate progress can come from tools like 360 interviews, pulse surveys and structured feedback. Coaching will continue to diversify and become accessible via increased access to the coach and digital coaching programs capable of incorporating real-world experiences.
The Institute of Coaching has been leading the transformation by sharing information on coaching tools that enable organizations to achieve coaching goals. There is already a large number of tech tools available that support all the different aspects of coaching – developing action plans, engaging coaches and program partners, ratings, reflections and feedback, evaluations, and so on. One of the interesting suggestions is the addition of biometrics in which coaches can use wearable devices to accomplish things like detection of physiological states, data visualization, and interventions to help users sustain resourceful physiological states.
Effective or Too Impersonal?
There are two schools of thought as to whether the trends toward more technology-based business coaching is wise.
People who support this trend point to the ability to reach more leaders at all levels, to make coaching more easily accessible, to offer interesting and varied development options, and to enhance data collection and analytics that can lead to better outcomes.
Those who have hesitations fear that technology makes coaching too impersonal when it is supposed to be one-on-one face time. It is more difficult to assess a person's psychological state over Skype. There are also concerns that people get too wound up in using technology rather than focusing on the goals, and the coaching-coachee relationship building process can never fully mature when virtual coaching provides the primary points of contact.
Technology is not intended to be an end in itself. The coach must still ensure the program maintains quality and effectiveness, and data analytics can play a big role in keeping the program on track.
Coaching programs do depend on the coach and coachee developing a productive relationship, so it will take special attention to this aspect when some or all of the coaching process is done via technology. However, there is little doubt that the coaching industry will continue to move toward greater use of technology.