Blending traditional and digital coaching tools for greater impact

Blending traditional and digital coaching tools for greater impact

team working together on laptops

This resource article, written by Saberr, which creates ‘people development software for forward thinking organisations’, argues that a blend of traditional coaching skills and digital tools (such as CoachBot, a product developed by Saberr) offers the best opportunities for coaches and mentors in the new world post-coronavirus.

Coaching drives better performance and allows people to have happier and more profitable careers. And yet in most organisations, coaching is only available to senior teams and leaders who are already personally successful.

That’s because coaching was traditionally high-touch and required a significant financial investment, which was usually reserved for the privileged few. The assumption was that by coaching leaders, performance gains would trickle down to the wider workforce – so that’s where the money was spent.

However, this is changing. Organisations are starting to recognise the importance of a coaching culture across the entire company, opening up a huge opportunity in the coaching market. But it’s still not possible or practical to scale traditional high touch coaching to a whole organisation, which is why companies are looking for new solutions. A blended approach is about to boom.

The opportunity 

Some 98 percent of managers feel they need more training and support, however person to person coaching, while incredibly valuable, is difficult to scale. Coaches can’t be in more than one place at a time, and organisations don’t typically have the budget to employ a coach for every team. This leaves a lot of organisations stuck at either end of a loose spectrum.

coaching spectrum

What companies really need to develop their people is a point in the middle. Something that blends the best of the two approaches. Something flexible, adaptable and affordable that delivers results.As a coach, a blend of class experiential training and digital tools puts you in a unique position to create the managers of the future. Combining experience with value added tech enables you to check in regularly, sustain behavioural change and achieve organisational objectives faster. And most importantly, now more than ever, it allows you to offer coaching at scale to teams located anywhere in the world.

A new world

2020 has changed many people’s working lives beyond recognition, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever return to ‘normal’. While many are struggling at the moment, it’s likely there will be some positive changes for organisations and employees in the longer term. As we’ve been forced to work remotely, infrastructure and working practices that might have been five years out have been implemented in just three weeks. Workplaces will become more agile, adaptable and innovative. Employees might enjoy new types of flexibility that were previously out of the question, and with the right support we might be able to drive up today’s low levels of engagement.

This new world of work will also have a huge impact on the coaching community.

Things to consider

Managers will need support – Senior leaders have made big decisions quickly, and so the solutions that have been implemented will not be perfect. One of the most significant changes is the increased autonomy for managers and teams. These new organisational structures will require more support and coaching than ever.

One of the most important areas of focus will be building and maintaining trust within teams. This doesn't happen overnight and is an even bigger challenge for remote teams, so managers will need support and training. In a more autonomous organisation, these managers won’t just be the top teams, but will also include middle managers, and this is where the ability to scale becomes increasingly important. The addition of a digital tool can help you serve more managers and teams.

Flexibility is essential – There will always be a place for face to face coaching. There’s no substitute for direct contact, and taking a day office to work on teamwork can offer a huge boost to performance and morale. But the reality of tomorrow’s workplace is that teams will be in the same physical location less frequently, so a digital tool will become an essential instrument in a coach’s toolbox, allowing you to check in regularly and remotely with your client teams.

Budget will be a factor – Adding a digital tool can also help you continuously serve a client even when they’re facing budget constraints, which is likely to be the case over the coming months. Staying digitally connected will help you maintain a relationship with your client and provide continuous support and coaching at a time when they really need it. When budgets are less stretched, they’ll call on you to work through some of the more complex issues that need one to one guidance.

Co-existing with technology to boost business

Some coaches are nervous about technology. They question whether automation or AI can replace the contextual understanding of a human being. But there’s a growing community who are actively looking for digital tools to supplement their practice. We’ve seen increasing enquiries from coaches that want to stay connected and offer something more than a traditional practice – even offering to work in partnership to digitise their coaching sessions.

Coaches who are already working with CoachBot have helped to explain the benefits to their peers who are more skeptical about coaching apps.

Proving return on investment – Using pulse surveys integrated into a digital coaching product means what was once difficult (such as showing impact in terms of numbers) is now more quantifiable. For example, teams using CoachBot have seen an average of 22 percent performance improvement in the first six months. Coaching partners have been able to use these figures to prove a return on investment to the organisations they work with, thereby securing longer contracts that can weather times of crisis.

Acquiring new work on top of existing business – The coaches we work with tend to retain their existing contracts. Typically these contracts are with leadership teams who have the budget for in-person coaching and see huge benefits from the coaching they receive. Some of these teams have used digital coaching tools to nudge them to keep up good habits in between sessions, while others have maintained their existing contract.

A digital tool makes a coach even more valuable, as they are able to offer coaching at scale. Imagine if every team had a coach – how much more successful would the company be? This is only possible by leveraging technology. As a coach, you can position yourself alongside a digital tool, providing the company with insights they have never been able to gather in the past, and providing you with a successful and sustainable business.

Nicolas Ceasar, Head of Learning Development and Coaching at Saberr says, ’CoachBot helps us to support an increase in global and virtual team working. Saberr’s technology is attractively easy to use and not intended to replicate a human. It nudges a team to pay ongoing attention to the how as well as the what of the team by actively diagnosing the extent to which team members are aligned.’

Making it work: A case study

How does a blended approach work practically? Every team and organisation is different, so there will be variation in the approach. This case study shows a typical delivery of blended coaching, so you can see how people and technology can seamlessly integrate for mutual benefit.

Iptor, an organisation going through huge transformation and significant downsizing, needed a solution to help them rebuild trust in the organisation, improve collaboration within and across teams, and achieve ambitious growth targets.

The approach – Saberr matched Iptor with a CoachBot accredited coach who had expertise in their type and size of organisation and set of challenges. Together, Saberr and the coach co-designed the programme, deciding when a digital solution or human approach was most appropriate. Iptor’s CEO and HRD were also included in creating a timeline for the coaching.

How it worked – Sponsorship within the company's executive team was crucial, so the project started with a half day, face to face coaching session, facilitated by the accredited coach and Saberr’s customer success lead. The session helped the management understand the importance of coaching, and the objectives for the project, and ensured they were familiar with using CoachBot. By the end of the session, some of those who were most skeptical became the biggest advocates of the blended approach.

Next, Saberr and their accredited coach hosted six remote webinars to kick off the programme with 50 managers within the organisation. Following the webinars, CoachBot was launched across the business and teams started regular digital coaching. All the time, CoachBot was gathering data to inform senior leaders where more focus was needed to help improve performance and increase trust.

At a six month review of the programme, Saberr, the accredited coach, and Iptor’s CEO and HRD reviewed usage and results and identified 20 managers who would benefit from more one to one coaching. Saberr’s accredited coach then went on to offer monthly coaching sessions with each of these managers for six months. This was a new opportunity and set of clients for the coach, and might not have previously been identified without the digital support from CoachBot.

Results – The result of the programme was as follows:

• Team performance improved by 26%
• Teams reported being 54% more clear on their shared objectives
• Teams felt more comfortable sharing challenges with their colleagues and managers (82% of participants agreed)
• 85% of commercial teams who had regular retrospectives reached their sales targets, as compared to only 68% of those who did not have regular retrospectives

Benefits to you as a coach

Connect between your coaching sessions
– Keep material alive with automated nudges and follow-ups to team members. Check in on progress on the tool as part of the preparations for your next session.

Become a team coach orchestrator – Move your work from coaching only one or two teams in an organisation to leading coaching throughout the organisation. Retain the coaching you normally do, but supplement it with a coaching tool. This gives you the opportunity to train managers, HR or members of the teams you’re working with to scale coaching to their own teams, where you can coordinate and keep a dashboard of all the team coaching activity within and across the organisation.

Develop a long term relationship with your client organisations – Use organisational insights gathered in the tool to find and articulate patterns of culture and teaming in the organisation, enabling you to create a conversation and dialogue with the senior leaders on how to take forward the culture and teaming in their organisation.

Expert opinion: Professor Peter Hawkins

The need for team coaching is such that organisations can neither afford to employ external team coaches for every team they have, or train up enough internal team coaches. CoachBot allows companies to make the best use of internal and external team coaches, while having a product that not only reaches every team in the organisation, but helps look at what’s going on in the relationship between the teams. This enables them to create a ‘team of teams’ culture across the whole of a large enterprise.

We can use internal and external team coaches much more effectively where they are most needed and yet provide a coaching approach to every team inside the enterprise.

About Saberr

Our vision is to put the world’s most capable digital coach in the hands of every workplace team. Saberr helps managers become better leaders and improve their team's performance by equipping them with an on demand, scaleable tool which helps them run interactive team sessions, and provides a library of learning content built alongside the world's best team coaches.

In a new world of work, managers need a tool designed for remote teams. CoachBot can help them build trust, save time, and improve the performance of their team. It makes meetings easier to manage and provides data to analyse performance at a company level.

To date, customers have reported:

22% performance increase
43% improvement in psychological safety
12% increase in employee engagement within six months

The publication of blogs by different authors and companies featuring various products does not imply EMCC UK endorsement of such products.

Photo: CoWomen/Unsplash