Your Technology Strategy for Coaching

Christine Bakewell, ACC – Associated Board Member for Technology with the UK Chapter of the International Coaching Federation

Delivery of the Human Resources function within an organisation has been supported by technology for many years from payroll through to recruitment and selection processes. Technology is touching a growing number of areas within the HR realm. When considering your technology strategy, ensure in the first instance that you are making best use of your existing applications and then define any new requirements for either incremental change or a step change to harness innovations.

Using coaching as an example, let’s take a look at areas to consider within your technology strategy:

  1. Define your requirements for the virtual setting
    Before the pandemic, many coaches already served their individual clients over the phone or using video calls. The greater shift from physical to virtual has been for team coaching, with accelerated uptake of software such as Zoom or Teams to ensure sessions can continue. IT teams have responded rapidly to enable colleagues to work remotely with the tools they need to do their job. Many departments, not just HR, had little or no time to define their requirements for these new ways of working. With experience under your belt of operating in this predominantly virtual world, now is the time to take stock of how technology can best serve you and your teams.
  1. Make best use of your current investment
    I have seen many scenarios across all areas of organisations where functionally rich software is deployed but with reduced uptake of the functionality than what was originally intended. There can be a number of reasons for this but mostly it is due to a lack of new processes, training and awareness for all of those users who could benefit. The rapid switch of emphasis from physical to virtual during 2020 has exacerbated this situation for many organisations. Make time to review the systems that are currently available to your teams and ask questions such as: is everyone aware of all the functionality the software brings? how they can be best used? and are the systems being used consistently?
  1. Apps as coaching tools
    There is a growing choice of apps available that can be used to enhance a coaching experience. For example, if a client wants support with their accountability for progressing actions towards a goal in between sessions then the coach might suggest using an app. There are many apps to help with meditation, sleep and relaxation. There are apps to gauge your energy and preparedness before and after a big event such as a presentation, an appraisal or an interview. The output from the app can then be used in a coaching session to explore what was happening through that experience and what might have held the client back from performing to the best of their ability. You will need to decide on whether your coaches should be consistently recommending apps or whether they individually have free reign to recommend what they feel is appropriate at the time for a client. Whichever route you choose, ensure that coaches are sharing their recommendations for best practice across the community.
  1. Matching and tracking
    The coach to client match is considered critical to the overall success of the coaching relationship. Apps can be used to help find coaches who match specific coaching requirements. A coach will build a profile which typically includes their professional background, their coaching philosophy and their areas of speciality. Likewise the client can present information such as the challenge or opportunity they plan to bring to coaching, the characteristics they are looking for in a coach and any particular outcomes they are looking for through the coaching relationship. If your organisation is not yet using matching technology, then consider whether the need is justified within your planning horizon. If you source external coaches, then consider making matching technology part of your partner selection criteria.

Additionally, the end to end coaching journey from matching through to delivery can be tracked through a coaching management system and key performance information extracted into reports.

  1. The human and tech coach intersection
    The use of chatbots as a conversational platform is well established in areas such as customer service. Chatbot technology, which uses artificial intelligence to mimic human conversations, is beginning to mature and offer more sophisticated solutions. The area of chatbots for coaching is growing fast and is starting to be adopted by some organisations. It is also becoming increasingly available to individuals through coaching web sites. Reports are that the technology has a long way to go before becoming comparable to a human coach, but indications are that it is starting to find its place alongside a human. Benefits include on demand access to a coaching session via your smartphone and at a lower cost than a human coach.

The intersection between chatbot and human coach is key to ensure the best possible overall client experience. And this intersection may vary for different client groups in your organisation. For example, you may choose to continue with 100% individual human coaching for execs but make available chatbots for senior managers with some access to a human coach. And this intersection is likely to shift over time with a growing emphasis on tech as it matures, complemented by a skilful human coach.

You will need to assess if, or how and when, chatbots for coaching feature in your strategy. Any deployments must be carefully tracked to monitor their effectiveness against your expectations and adhere to data protection laws as well as the ICF coaching core competencies and code of ethics.

  1. Assign a technology champion
    Ensure your area has tech-savvy expertise to help define and drive your technology strategy to best serve the organisation’s coaching needs for today and in the future. Have them regularly scanning the horizon for technological advances and consider how these might feature in your strategy. Get close to your IT department strategy shapers and ensure HR requirements are on the roadmap.

If it is not already, technology must become part and parcel of your HR strategy. Help everyone to get comfortable with technology in order to make best use and consistent use of existing systems. Share best practice for technology across your coaching community. And decide on how to harness innovations such as matching apps and chatbot coaches that best serve your coaching needs.

If you need support on your organisation’s and leader’s coaching journey, do contact us at ICF and our team of volunteers will be happy to help.

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