What do you think of when you hear the word “coaching?” For many people it’s football, or perhaps a motivational seminar. But coaching in the workplace today actually includes a wide range of categories that might not be so obvious. Unfortunately, most types of traditional coaching are difficult to scale, so only a small number of high-value employees at any given company get access to them. However, this is starting to change due to the rise of app-based coaching. It’s now possible for companies to offer coaching “suites” that include multiple types of coaching – meaning there could be something for everyone.

Before we explore the challenges of traditional coaching and the evolution of new digital platforms and apps, it’s important to share what some different types of coaching looks like. Leadership coaching (the type of coaching most often associated with work) is a personalized approach for leaders that enhances their performance and helps them achieve short term and long term organizational goals. But this isn’t the only type of coaching – here are some other categories of coaching that businesses are offering employees today:

  • Mental and Physical Well-Being: Resources to help people build healthy diet and exercise habits, health screenings and incentives at work, and access to mental health counseling are some of the ways that organizations can provide coaching for employee well being. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought an increased focus on mental health both at work and home, and apps and services like Calm for meditation and sleep, and Modern Health for online therapy have become more popular.
  • 1:1 Executive Coaching: These engagements involve matching a professional coach with an employee, going through an assessment to create a development plan, and addressing specific business and interpersonal challenges the employee may be facing. As the name implies, this type of coaching is usually reserved for executives and high-level leaders, sometimes only the CEO.
  • Integrated Coaching: This type of coaching embeds coaching sessions into a broader leadership development program or initiative. It can reaffirm and reinforce lessons learned in leadership training.
  • Team or Group Coaching: This type of coaching occurs in a group session that’s highly structured and prescriptive to help individuals work in a team environment more effectively. It often focuses on communication and management at the team level and may be run by an internal department like HR or by an outside consultant. For example, Birkman International offers personality assessments combined with team leadership training to coach managers about how to best manage the specific personalities of the people that report to them.
  • Financial Coaching: This type of coaching covers financial literacy and will help employees reach financial goals. It typically covers topics like budgeting, managing debt, understanding spending habits and creating an emergency fund.

Challenges of Traditional Coaching Spark New Digital Innovations

Traditional coaching is difficult to scale due to cost and limited coaching resources – even if an organization had an enormous budget, there are only so many professional coaches available. This matters because the biggest factors in employee retention include having a good manager and feeling like they are growing and developing their skills at work. Coaching can help with both of these. So giving coaching to all employees, particularly middle managers and other people leaders, can lead to greater effectiveness and retention across the board. Every organization should want that, right! Which is why organizations are moving beyond just C-suite coaching and trying to create programs for every employee.

But understanding the new technologies and approaches and how to scale them is still challenging for many HR or People Analytics teams.

But one thing is clear. Part of the answer is to offer a suite of coaching options across multiple categories, with multiple approaches. Research shows this is good for employees and the business. With this approach, not everyone gets the same type of coaching, but everyone who needs or wants it has access to some type of coaching that can benefit them. Perhaps the C-suite has access to 1:1 executive coaching, directors and VPs have access to regular integrated coaching with human coaching networks like BetterUp or SoundingBoard, all managers have access to an AI-based service like Cultivate, and all employees have access to a suite of apps like Calm and You Need a Budget that provide well-being and financial support. Today, no single offering or category can scale to support everyone, which is why a robust overall suite of coaching options can be so powerful.

Digital Coaching Platforms are Part of the Solution and the Future

AI technology gets talked about a lot these days, and when it comes to coaching, it really does add an additional layer of coaching capabilities that helps make certain feedback scalable and uniquely insightful. While events or meeting with professional coaches certainly have their value, platforms like Cultivate allow individuals and organizations to look at how digital behaviors might be impacting teams, well-being, psychological safety, culture and much more. These types of applications and digital platforms scale very well, with no restrictions due to a shortage of human coaches and at a fraction of the cost per user. Coaching options like this can realistically be made available to every employee that wants them, making it possible for organizations to offer a “suite” of coaching options as mentioned above.

Joe Freed, CEO
Joe Freed, CEO

As Co-founder and CEO of Cultivate, Joe is focused on building leadership development and future-of-work technology for the digital workforce. In addition to leading Cultivate, Joe enjoys writing about workplace trends, teaching about startups and product management at UC Berkeley Extension, and occasionally running a marathon.