There is a variety of terms in the field of coaching. This is due on the one hand to the fact that coaching is not a protected term and on the other hand, because the coaching profession is still very young. This means that there are currently no mandatory criteria that coaching has to meet. So how can the term coaching platform be defined?
Online coaching platform
Based on the definition of online counseling (Reindl, 2009), a coaching platform offers the possibility of digitally bringing an expert and a person seeking advice together. Together they can tackle the challenges that the person seeking advice faces. The interaction takes place via various end devices (e.g. laptop, tablet, smartphone) and various communication channels (e.g. video, phone, e-mail, other messaging services), so that communication can take place both at the same time and at different times. In addition, the coach can use various interactive tools, such as messaging or whiteboards, for digital coaching. The range of tools varies depending on the quality of the platform.
The coach has the option of using online tools that they can use to support things such as digital coaching. The tools can vary depending on what the online platform offers. Each coach can decide which tools to use in coaching and which ones to consider useful and successful.
Which quality features make the difference?
There are a number of quality characteristics that should be given in order to guarantee a professional coaching process. This article focuses on the most important features. With a checklist you can quickly and easily check how professional a platform is and whether it meets your needs. A good coaching platform should first be very user-friendly. At best, companies, coachees and coaches can easily view and manage all relevant information here. The format is tailored precisely to the respective target group. A good platform also enables companies and coachees to take advantage of the coaching offer transparently – when it comes to set coaching topics, appointments, personal assessments, etc. A decisive quality feature is data protection and IT security, which are of essential importance for the user. Regular quality assurance and the improvement of the platform through additional user support can also be cited as additional features. We direct our attention in detail to the three most important features – target group orientation, transparency of the offer, data protection and IT security.
Target group orientation
The needs and expectations that the coachee has of the platform and the coach, are the starting point on which the concept is based. A clearly structured website and appropriate user-friendliness are the basis of a professional offer. Is it business coaching or is it rather private topics that can be better found in life coaching? This places different demands on the design of the coaching platform, whereby the boundaries in the coaching itself are often fluid.
Transparency of the offer of the coaching platform
The coachee or the company should be able to quickly and easily get an overview of the framework and conditions of use. It should be clear how the coaches are qualified and trained. The scope of the services (number and duration of the coaching sessions) is also an aspect that must not be ignored. If only a few of these criteria are identifiable, the offer should be treated with caution.
Data protection and IT security
Since coaching involves very sensitive data, this feature is of particular importance. The operators of a coaching platform must take active and preventive precautions to protect their data, for example by using SSL encryption. In addition, restrictive regulations for storage and access to data stocks are necessary. Ultimately, it also includes a formulated data protection and security concept.
How can the professionalism of digital coaching offers be assessed?
In the step model by Berninger-Schäfer (2018), a classification model for digital coaching is presented, which is based on four steps. The functionality and complexity of the levels increases step by step. The first level lists the basic media communication channels such as telephone, e-mail and chat. The second stage includes coaching and non-specific forms of collaboration of all kinds such as whiteboards, e-learning and management systems and desktop sharing. On the third level, there are individual coaching tools, behind which are image materials, a list of the inner team and a sociogram. These can be used individually or together. On the last level there is a complex, mature, interactive and professional coaching tool, which has interactive 2D and 3D worlds, competence development, customisation and many other functions. This fourth level represents the most professional form of digital coaching.
Classification based on functionality and process support
While previous classification approaches are mainly based on the functionality and benefits of digital coaching offers, they largely ignore the process level of coaching. Therefore, we dedicate ourselves to our own classification, which differentiates between functionality and process support in digital coaching:
The more sophisticated the functionality of a digital coaching platform, the more diverse the tools the coach and coachee have at their disposal. This is used to make digital coaching as interactive as possible and to implement interventions as is done in presence coaching. A good digital platform should therefore have three basic functions:
- Various communication channels such as chat, telephone, video conference, etc., in order to be able to make contact in a variety of ways.
- Customer service that accompanies the coach and coachee through the digital provision of learning materials and supports them in the event of technical difficulties.
- Transparency and secure management of data, be it the results of visualisation exercises, transfer tasks or goals, documentation of notes or appointments that the coach and coachee can securely access.
The more the process support is weighted, the more extensive the entire coaching process is mapped and automated via the platform. For example, some platforms focus specifically on the placement of coaches, while other platforms support the coaching process holistically. This includes the selection of suitable coaches, coaching process management such as finding and reminding appointments, or the documentation of coaching sessions including document management, an overview of sessions, or saving notes and evaluation results. A major advantage of this process support is the possibility of individual progress measurement. In addition, the coaching sessions can be easily managed for both the coachee and the coach.
With the following checklist you can check whether a digital coaching platform meets your requirements.
Download the Coaching Platform Checklist here
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