Enlightened organizations accept what the learning and development community has known for a very long time – the benefits of coaching are undeniable. Fortune magazine reports an average return on coaching of more than six times the cost.
Coaching embodies the Toaist phrase “To know and not to do – it is not to know”. Learning in itself is not the goal; it is only the means to the ends. It’s the learning app that lets you be the best you can be.
Coaching integrates learning – skills, knowledge, ideas and mindsets – to bring about real lasting behavior change.
In our increasingly VUCA world, exacerbated by the coronavirus, tight training budgets, skill shortages, rapidly changing skills and remote working are challenging the concepts and delivery of conventional training. The need is clear: personalized just-in-time learning that is immediately integrated and applied to improve individual, team and business performance.
When you combine coaching and learning, you land the gold.
“Companies that offer training alone experience a 22.4% increase in productivity, but when combined with coaching, that figure rises to 88%” – Gerald Olivero, Denise Bane and Richard Kopelman, Public Personnel Management.
However, the supply of coaching in the UK is fundamentally inadequate. As a serial CEO and master coach, I am constantly frustrated by the lack of access to good coaching. The coaching continuum is wide, from professionally trained external and internal coaches to line managers.
External coaching is still largely reserved for senior executives, and internal coaching is typically another draw for overworked HR and training and development professionals. And while line managers should be at the heart of the coaching delivery, studies repeatedly confirm that leadership and management skills in the UK are woefully poor and training is insufficient.
The reality is that few line managers have even a basic level of coaching skills and understanding. Corona’s requirement to work from home revealed this lack of management skills like never before.
A 2018 study in the Harvard Business Review revealed that, without specific support in coaching skills, managers generally rely on the “say” mode even when thinking of using coaching techniques.
Even professional coaching has its limits:
- Cost. Most managers, even seniors, do not have access to a coaching budget.
- Availablity. Coaching is usually by appointment and absent when it is most needed to support complex decision making.
- Competence and consistency. Coaching skills abound, but not all are created equal. Some are considerably less stringent.
- Skill. The debate on the advantages of “clean caching” over “expert coaching” continues. However, in my experience, success is as much attributable to an ability to move authentically and transparently from coach to expert as it is to any coaching knowledge and skill.
However, in an unprecedented way, technology now makes it possible to overcome these constraints and make the power of coaching available to all employees at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.
Advances in technology and AI allow this breakthrough through emulated coaching. This is always available, so help is instantaneous and there when you need it most. Sophisticated automated self-coaching tools deliver powerful coaching interventions and, by coupling them with adaptive AI-driven journeys, coaching can be supported with tailored and personalized content.
Emulated coaching doesn’t claim to be the same experience as a human coach – however, in many ways it’s better. It also provides line managers with coaching skills and supports them in the continuous development of their skills and provides expert content when needed. This allows them to become a qualified “clean” and “expert” trainer and know what hat to wear and when.
By improving skills from the bottom up, he can successfully drive the elusive “coaching culture” much sought after by organizations and rarely achieved by top-down initiatives.
Advances in technology have changed the landscape of coaching providing the possibility of coaching for everyone. While it does not supplant the role of human coaches, traditional coaching will never be universally available. Coaching can be emulated.
About the Author
Peter Ryding is an award-winning Serial CEO, Master Coach for CEOs & HRDs, and founder of Interactive Development Software, Your interactive virtual coach.