Digital Coaching Can Transform Leadership Development

Coaching is an extremely hot topic in leadership development. 77% of organizations say it’s important for leaders to be coached, according to new Brandon Hall Group research, and 78% say it is important for leaders to be better coaches to their employees.

But success is elusive. Equipping leaders through coaching ranks #1 in the strategies most needing improvement in leadership development.

 The challenge is two-pronged:

  • Finding and training enough qualified coaches.
  • Scaling coaching so leaders at all levels can receive coaching as part of their continuous leadership development.

Both challenges can be addressed through external coaching and conducting the coaching virtually. That has led to the rise of a new market — digital coaching platforms. 

CoachHub, founded by two German brothers in 2018, has quickly emerged as a global presence in digital coaching, offering coaching sessions in more than 60 languages. The company entered the U.S. market in January 2021.

“Our vision is to democratize coaching, being able to bring one of the most powerful learning and development interventions to more people at scale in a much more seamless and integrated fashion,” said Dr. Liz Pavese, Senior Behavioral Scientist for CoachHub, a guest on recent a Brandon Hall Group podcast.

I mention digital coaching to many Brandon Hall Group clients seeking to expand coaching. Some question whether it can be as effective as in-person coaching. The reality, as many found with virtual learning, is it can be equally or more effective — if done the right way.

“Research shows that there really are no substantial or statistically significant differences in coaching that’s delivered face-to-face, versus coaching that’s delivered digitally, virtually or in a blended format,” Pavese said. “That’s pretty incredible because then we can really take advantage of a much more accessible way of affirming our people.”

CoachHub invested heavily in its Coaching Lab, which leverages psychologists, business coaches, behavioral scientists and other experts to build a science-backed coaching framework that can flex with customers’ logistics and coaching philosophy.

CoachHub uses a pool of more than 2,500 coaches, all of whom are certified by the International Coaching Federation or other accreditation agency, have a minimum of six years in people leadership in business and at least 500 hours of coaching experience. The coaches’ breadth and depth of experience enable employers to use coaching more strategically and creatively to develop leaders.

“We usually start by applying coaching to their existing leadership development programs. That is the classic application,” Pavese said. “But as organizations get started, they often want to apply it to support internal mobility and horizontal career movement to lower-level employees.

“That’s brilliant and gives those customers a competitive advantage because not many companies are doing that now. Organizations are also thinking about how they can attach coaching to their diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategies. That can provide much-needed interventions to underrepresented populations and helps cultivate more perspective and inclusive leadership and allyship across a broader population of people.

“So, I am really excited about how coaching can be more accessible to more people, with various new applications added once companies start thinking holistically about talent management and development.”

Most organizations are quickly trying to improve leadership development, realizing the formal classroom training is not enough to change leader behaviors. Coaching, along with a focus on practical skills and peer-to-peer interactions, is critical.

“The problem that organizations struggle with is not having enough coaches internally, not being able to train the coaches, and the coaches not having enough time. Being able to have a digital resource where you can reach out to qualified, certified coaches and get the scale, and democratize the coaching for leaders is incredibly important and a big part of the movement to modernize leadership development and make it more personal and more experiential,” Pavese said.

-Claude Werder, Senior VP and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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