Career coaching used to be a perk of the boardroom. However, in recent years coaches have flung open their doors to embrace people beyond the C-suite. The coaching industry is worth an estimated $1 billion in the U.S. alone. At the last count, there was 53,300 coaches worldwide with 18,800 of them in Europe and 17,500 in the U.S.
Increasingly, we’re seeing organisations opening up to the idea that coaching is for everyone. Many companies are seeking ways to bring coaching techniques to every employee’s working day. That can take the form of specific career coach training for managers and team leaders, to hiring external coaches to run one-on-one or group sessions. There are many ways that technology is helping career coaching become mainstream, both in-person and online.
The career coaching role, whether adopted by a manager or a professional coach, can be broken down into several elements. By considering these, we can explore which elements might present opportunities, or indeed, limitations to the adoption of technology.
However, Headspace isn’t a replacement for a meditation retreat and many Xero users like having a human accountant on hand when important questions arise. We are social creatures and so human interactions will always be critical.
Technology might instead enhance human interactions through a blended approach to career coaching. There may be times where light-touch support by technology is what someone needs. At more pivotal points or challenging times, teaming technology with in-person career coaching might provide the level of support needed.
There is an exciting opportunity for technology to make elements of coaching more accessible and affordable – so that great career support is no longer purely the reserves of senior leaders or so-called ‘high potential’ programs:
Technology is already being used to ask questions that help individuals to ‘self-solve’ and build self-awareness. With chatbots becoming more sophisticated, individuals can answer coaching-style questions in an intuitive, responsive, human way.
Going to a coach in-person or virtually may become the next step for people looking to go a level deeper or get additional support following an initial step using technology. For career coaches in businesses – for whom coaching is only a part of their job – this could make their lives easier by enabling the individual to come more prepared to a career conversation.
This element of coaching is one that may be more difficult to enhance using technology. The essential coaching role of ‘connecting the dots’ and opening up new perspectives is something that typically happens over time, is aided by experience and requires judgement of an individual’s situation.
That said, it’s not difficult to imagine a world where intelligent use of data on career decisions, career pathways and career options can be used to support or inform someone’s career choices.
Technology can help with the habit-forming element of coaching. There are apps like Done and Habitify that can track habits and goal achievements. Many of these apps have built-in incentives that encourage accountability yet they can lack the power that comes with having to face someone in person if you haven’t made the progress you planned.
Accountability groups on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp have become a common thing in health coaching circles. The same might soon apply to career coaching. Indeed, some career and life coaches have begun to offer courses, group sessions, and one-on-one appointments via WhatsApp.
There is evidence that individuals feel more able to be vulnerable when interacting with a ‘bot’ than a human, which suggests that technology may provide a safe space for people. However, a trusting relationship between a coach and an individual undoubtedly adds a huge amount of value which technology is more likely to facilitate than replicate.
Here’s a simple fact: when people are able to solve problems for themselves they solve them better.
Here’s a painful truth: most leaders don’t allow their people to solve problems for themselves.
It’s only when a person has a true sense of ownership that they show a true sense of commitment to the task.
It’s only when they can readily see the path they need to take that they’ll readily follow it. And it’s only by being coached and not told, that they’ll ever learn to find their own solution.
Chemistry counts for a lot in coaching. Without the right chemistry, an individual is unlikely to stay with a coach for very long or to open up to them. Noomii is an online directory where you can find coaches based on your goals and makes it quicker and easier to find one.
However, coaches often cite ‘fit’ and ‘chemistry’ as barriers to starting a coaching relationship – often meeting several individuals for initial conversations before bringing on a client.
Imagine if the sophisticated data science, psychology and machine learning that sits behind sites like match.com could be applied in a coaching context. Individuals could be matched with the ideal person to coach them on a particular career challenge.
Technology is now opening up support around careers and work life happiness to more than just the select few. Career coaches aren’t hidden inside boardrooms anymore.
Online coaching through Skype, Facetime, or WhatsApp can be cheaper than in an office, can be fitted into a busy work day, and hasn’t got the geographical limits that traditional coaching has.
Someone can arrange to virtually meet a coach who lives in a completely different city or country. Muse’s online coaching enables people to choose from a menu of different coaching options, including a CV review or 30 minute Q&A session.
Traditional coaching may still be out of the price range for many, but technology is helping to bridge the gap. Over the coming years, it’ll transform the conversations we have about our careers in the workplace and beyond. If everyone begins using these solutions, then we will all become a bit more informed about the value that career coaching can bring.