August 2, 2021

It would be an understatement to say that 2020 was a year of disruption. Over the past year, organizations large and small have had to shift and in many circumstances, completely reconsider how they built and managed their work teams. This seismic shift in the world of work has rippled into 2021 and it won’t be stopping anytime soon. 

However, this shift comes with some positive opportunities. The routines and processes unsettled by the pandemic are laying new groundwork for a unique employee experience that will continue to evolve and offer new ways of working and development coaching. All parts of the employee journey have been affected by the pandemic, and employee development and coaching are no exception.

When we look at trends, we have to look beyond today and even this year to make important decisions about digital coaching in this new environment. After taking a future-oriented approach, some key trends start to emerge and are worth keeping an eye on.

Top 10 Digital Coaching Trends

1. Digital coaching is here to stay 

Not that there was any doubt, but the move of today’s workforce into hybrid and remote-first environments has cemented the ability to deliver coaching anywhere. Digital coaching is growing in popularity, and employees and candidates will come to expect it as an option from here on out. Many businesses are also turning to digital coaching over traditional training programs. They understand that it has noticeable benefits for employees and the organization as a whole.

While you might be worried about how this affects the coach-client relationship, don’t worry. In reality, it’s nothing genuinely concerning. 

Research shows that digital coaching is equally effective as in-person coaching. It turns out that its facetime that is crucial to getting effective coaching results. Just like with in-person sessions, the key is to build a trusting relationship with clients. Instinctive human communication methods like eye contact, facial expressions and empathetic body language are all possible in the digital space. All it takes is the right technology and a solid internet connection.

It’s the coach, tools, and relationship with their clients that will help them achieve success, whether sessions are offered in-person or online. Digital coaching is now the preferred method of coaching among young people and entrepreneurs.

2. Coaching goes mainstream

The idea that coaching is only for a select few is dying. Coaching is an effective development method and digital coaching allows the scale you need to accomplish it. Ten years ago, employees and employers alike considered coaching an option for those who were struggling. However, in today’s new world of work, coaching is regarded as a valuable addition that all employees can find beneficial. It’s also an effective strategy to build up young executives as they begin to find their footing, rather than waiting to pinpoint problems to solve.  

Coaching has also expanded beyond the world of executives and large corporations. Now anyone looking to navigate a significant life transition can find value in working with a coach. Events like a job change, leaving the workforce for parenting or stepping into a new role are all trigger points for clients to reach out to job coaches. And more and more often, clients are continuing those coaching relationships across career transitions, creating valued relationships and long-term plans. 

And those are only the direct career benefits of working with a coach. Both professionals and executives are increasingly turning to their coaches to help them work on health, wellness, stress, and fatigue concerns. 

Companies are also continuing to see the value in investing in coaching for their employees. Many organizations provide lists of trusted coaches, offer coaching as part of their benefits packages or keep coaches available via a retainer. Some progressive organizations are even hiring a full-time resident coach to help any employee whenever and however they need. 

3. Bridging the digital gap with humanity

As coaching moves to a digital-first model, it’s more important than ever to prioritize connection through live sessions, chat and personalization that can scale adequately and feel human to coaches and clients alike. 

The key to that lies with creating a relationship-based approach. As we said before, it’s not physical proximity that matters, but facetime and meaningful relationships. It will continue to be necessary to continually strive to create an authentic people-focused approach to your coaching practice. It’s not unlike taking a customer-centric approach in any business. To that end, research by Deloitte found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that were not focused on the customer. This data reiterates the importance of empathy, emotion, and honest connection that isn’t just the key to business success, but the key to all interpersonal relationships, especially if you want measurable results.

Digital coaching platform

4. Measurement is more than essential

Increased engagement, productivity, and retention are vital outcomes and you need ways to connect it to all of your development activities, including coaching. Neglecting to set KPIs and measurement standards can make it challenging to prove progress and ROI to both individuals and organizations. You need to find the metrics that are right for the results you’re trying to achieve, but a few other metrics that are good to keep an eye on include:

• Completion or progress toward individual development plans/action plans.

• Yearly goal achievement.

• Pre- and post-360-degree assessment progress.

• Employee levels of engagement/retention.

• Promotion or promotability of clients.

5. Flexibility matters

Whether its format, device or the ability to shift priorities, agility in coaching will be a trend that a digital coaching platform is uniquely positioned to solve. Convenience, cost-effectiveness and other practical benefits aside, a flexible coaching approach is going to be required to maintain momentum and achieve success.

For instance, in business coaching, leaning into flexibility can expand your client base. Being flexible enables busy clients juggling multiple work locations to access support when it works best for them—opening both your calendar and your client’s knocks down one of the most significant obstacles to pursuing traditional business coaching. 

6. Support in between coaching sessions 

Episodic coaching alone can’t solve the development challenges of tomorrow. Looking for ways to supplement the work of coaching beyond weekly sessions strengthens the relationship and helps progress continue and good habits to stick. The more you can implement learning opportunities and additional touchpoints throughout a client’s coaching journey can profoundly increase the impact of your work together. 

7. Coaching will be a part of the culture 

With remote workforces becoming the norm, a unified coaching approach can be a part of the connective tissue of an organization as it evolves to function in the new world of work.  More and more, it will be necessary for coaches to look for ways that will allow them to help rebuild the idea of company culture in a digital-first world. As coaches begin to integrate into company culture, coaches will have opportunities to help leadership make more significant decisions, solve problems, and add value to HR and people times. 

8. Diversity emphasis

Emphasis on DE&I initiatives is correlated with improved business performance. It is a much-welcomed addition to organizations, and coaches are in a unique position to help drive progress and cultivate diverse talent. Organizations will be looking for coaches who are able to offer honest guidance and leadership development opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups. In addition, coaching is a natural fit for helping to build and maintain a diverse workforce as it already focuses on finding effectiveness through personalization and empathy.  

9. Tangible performance over softer goals 

For many years, organizations and even some coaches have focused on developing soft skills or laying out a development plan without measuring tangible progress along the way. As data and analytics become fully integrated with every part of work, coaches’ projects for clients will need to follow suit. Fortunately, digital coaching is already prepared to deliver on this, and a sea change will help organizations realize that coaching is the most powerful way to catalyze individual performance.

10. Change readiness 

One carryover from the pandemic that won’t be going away anytime soon is that we can always use help when it comes to transformation. This theme will carry through to every part of work, including how organizations choose and use digital coaching platforms. Finding a good partner is a crucial step to staying on and ahead of these trends and delivering success for coaches, clients, and organizations.

digital coaching platform

As you can see, digital coaching is changing and it is also the key to accelerating broader business change. This may seem a little daunting at first. Still, with the right partner and the right attitude, these challenges can offer some significant and positive possibilities for metrics and analytics. Adapting to the changes in digital coaching can help you with crucial business outcomes as you navigate the uncertain future. 

Consider this: 

70% of coachees report improved work performance

96% of coachees are highly engaged (compared to 30% of employees are involved with current learning platforms)

85% of managers who have received coaching outperform their peers in soft skills such as agility and resilience 

4x higher earnings per share growth rate for companies with highly engaged workforces.

Staying on top of these trends does take some work and some strategy. However, it also means your organization will always have the most powerful approaches and tools to increase your competitive advantage and more importantly, the experience of employees and clients.