International Coaching Federation - Luxembourg

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Half of today’s jobs will be obsolete by 2025 because of technology. The “human professions” like coaching and counseling, where personal contact is important, have largely been exempt from technology’s pressure, but the times are changing and a digital transformation of coaching is underway.

Studies show the return on investment of coaching, but availability is still a major issue—the vast majority of employees have no access to a coach. That’s because coaches are expensive, and “brick and mortar” coaching is time consuming and inconvenient. The future of coaching requires that we find ways to make our services radically more available, both by reducing cost and by making access easier for clients.

The most promising answer to this challenge is technology, and using technology to make our services available to anyone, anywhere in an efficient and effective way. That may be a steep challenge for a profession that has largely avoided technology other than for practice support, but it’s one that we must face.

In fact, fueled by venture capital investment, the first wave of technology-driven services in the human professions exists already. Next generation educational services like Udacity combine the best of online education with human teachers and mentors, while services like Joyable and TalkSpace provide online psychological treatment. And there are services that provide online business and career coaching.

But using technology has to mean more than just texting clients. Our challenge is to determine how these services should differ from traditional coaching in ways that take advantage of the power of technology while reducing the negative effect of the digital experience for clients. Here are the areas where we see the most promise today.


The most obvious benefit of technology is that interactions happen digitally, taking advantage of whichever communication tool is most effective for the client. Digital systems have dashboards where the coach can see all her clients and communicate with them seamlessly with whatever tool she chooses for that particular communication and client, whether text message, email, telephone or video. These platforms allow coaches easily to check in or offer encouragement, to have automatic reminders of clients to be contacted, etc. Imagine reaching each client wherever and whenever it’s best for her.


Based on research on learning and cognitive science, and freed from the binds of the two-hour session, digital coaching can be tailored to how people learn. For example, research shows that shorter lessons and more frequent assignments to reinforce learning work better than larger blocks of teaching time and less frequent assignments. Pragmatic issues in traditional coaching push to fewer, longer coaching sessions, but that approach is not most effective for clients and is not necessary with an online platform. Online systems invite more frequent, smaller chunks of coaching; in other words, digital coaching is perfectly matched to what we now know about how people best learn and change behavior.


We have all heard of big data, and online systems collect everything, allowing us to understand better what works and what doesn’t. Through “A/B Testing,” we can experiment with coaching materials and techniques to see what is most effective. A service that allows many clients also allows large-scale data collection, which means we have the “statistical power” to identify better approaches, which is lacking for most coaching practices.


As the data in these systems grows, the “gold standard” of technology is artificial intelligence, a system that recommends materials to the coach based on information about the specific client. With large-scale data, the system can make more effective recommendations for clients than any human ever could.


Most importantly, digital services allow the human coach to focus on the things that they uniquely can provide. Research from education and career counseling shows that completely online systems do not work—the human professions need a human. Coaching will continue to need coaches. While we will not be replaced by machines, machines do allow for a much better, more efficient “blended” approach, leveraging the machine to do things where the coach does not contribute value and focusing the coach on the uniquely human part of the relationship. Fortunately, our efforts can piggyback on the research in online education, summarized in the recent MIT report “Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reforms.” The education research points to a future of coaches leveraging the benefits of online platforms, and the future of coaching will be the same.


source : ICF blog

Author : Todd Murtha 

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