Digital coaching can be a crucial solution that not only drives the skilling agenda but can enable a culture of continuous learning within organizations.
In an increasingly digitally transformed world, offering learning opportunities which are accessible, flexible, and, more importantly, personalised enables employees to embark on a holistic learning journey and delivers greater impact.
“Growth opportunities must be made available to employees throughout their life cycle and digital coaching plays a unique role in the learning and development (L&D) facet of organizations by streamlining personal and organisational growth,” said Naila Abdul Karim, Behavioural Scientist, Coachhub in her address at People Matters L&D Conference APAC.
Need for digital coaching in the hybrid workplace.
Interesting research by Microsoft says 66% of leaders worldwide are looking to transform their workplace to support the hybrid workplace, while 73% of employees want that flexibility. Another study by Google says that 70% of the APAC region is looking for flexibility in time and location.
However, employees also want a sense of belongingness as they seek in-person collaboration. The watercooler conversations are being missed. Against the backdrop of these differing scenarios, it becomes even more important for an organization to cater to this gap.
Hybrid workplace has brought in benefits, including higher productivity, increase in employee happiness, and lower cost in commuting. Employees have been safer by avoiding travel.
The hybrid workplace is, hence, here to stay and potentially the new normal that most of us are going to face as we progress into the new work culture. But do organizations and employees have the right tools and traits needed to thrive in a hybrid workplace?
Along with the significant benefits, hybrid workplace also brings challenges like a lesser sense of belongingness, a struggle to collaborate, the tricky work-life balance, that absence of a social connection and a heightened sense of urgency of everything to be done now.
Karim said there are certain key traits that support an individual to thrive in hybrid work environments.
“The first one is curiosity, keenness to seek different points of view, to listen to others, reflect on what you have heard and how often you are curious, open to new perspectives... pushing them to think differently at the same time. Another important trait is empathy. A lot of times it is underestimated by businesses as a business skill but based on research, it’s one of the most powerful traits that enables success in the future of work, as we have empathetic leaders who show care, concern and understanding for the employee’s life circumstances. This helps colleagues bond better, form a foundation of better resilience and build an inclusive workspace,” she contended.
The third trait to thrive in a hybrid work environment is openness to experience, she added.
“Since the hybrid age of the world, there has been a dilution of rules, norms, governing work, and you’re much more likely to thrive if you can come up with new ideas, and then turn them into innovative practices that can then start contributing to your work. Openness helps you define your own expectation, question your own assumption, and it delves deeper or grounding interest of exploring new things and being comfortable with the unexpected,” Karim said.
One might say these are very innate traits that people might be born with or they built on, however, Karim said that these are muscles within us we can build on. “A fantastic tool that organisations can use or deploy to support the employees across the organisation to build up these muscles of curiosity, empathy and openness to experience is digital coaching,” she said.
How is digital coaching different from traditional coaching?
The only major difference is the geographical distance and the ability to maximise on the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence, to improve the coaching process for both the coachee and the organization, said Karim.
“We can also democratise coaching by offering it as a digital coaching solution as it is more accessible, effective, scalable and measurable, which means it can start reaching a larger area within the business,” she added.
The beauty of digital coaching is that it gives the opportunity to the employees to take control of their own learning journey by deciding which coach, as well as when and how they would like to set their own coaching session and coaching journey as well as inspiring them to grow as a leader and as a person at the same time.
“What sits at the heart of coaching is sustainable behavioural change that supports leaders or managers navigate, explore and come up with new perspectives and solutions to tackle the new ways of work that we all are experiencing. Digital coaching support organisations at various junctions helping people to transition smoothly in times of uncertainty with a solid outcome of sustainable behavioural change,” she added.
Impact of digital coaching across the organization
Karim said that digital coaching affects three levels.
It starts with an individual. For instance, a manager helps them transform, learn new management skills and when they enact it, that further helps build performance, improve engagement, and build psychological safety for themselves first. Once that happens, it starts further embodying within the teams, which helps increase employee engagement.
“There is a clearer communication between the manager and the teams which has clear expectations, leading to better performance. Once the manager embodies psychological safety for themselves, it trickles down into their team where he or she or they can encapsulate psychological safe team where they can further thrive, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, takes that risk push for innovation and that further trickles down at an organisational level where innovation becomes the heart of it and you see stronger and safer organizational culture,” she said.
“It acts as a sticky glue that helps keep the best talent within the organization,” she added.
Coaching a ripple effect
Creating a ripple effect means implementing coaching to maximize the impact and reach of the coaching program across your organization.
Research says that the immediate circle of the leaders who are being coached start experiencing the positive effects from the coaching program. “So, when launching such programs, we identify these key influencers who have the largest networks around them, and who are actively interacting with those members of the network. By offering coaching to these individuals, you are already building a fantastic momentum towards a coaching culture,” said Karim.
How to measure the impact of digital coaching
The fact of being rich, soft and talent intervention, which has struggled to calculate a typical return on investment, has plagued coaching over the years.
Karim said there is a need to go beyond a quantifiable number because the value of coaching encompasses a lot more than a single digit.
“We recommend a holistic evaluation approach to measure the return on investment. This might look like a linear outcome but it is continuous and a rate of process which takes advantage of the traditional approach where we have to wait until the end of the coaching programme to end to understand if it has reaped its effects. With digital coaching we can start checking this as the program progresses, so if there is any alarm, we can make quick changes and not wait until the end,” she said.
How to align coaching to your company’s growth strategy
When we talk about growth strategy, we think about market penetration, product diversification, and product development. However, what is missing a lot of times is people's development. It is very important to keep people at the heart of a concrete growth strategy, said Karim.
“To enable people to execute the organizational vision and thrive in a continuous change, you can make coaching a part of a management change initiative. You can consider providing coaching as a training to managers and leaders on how to use it as a skill. Also, one can start embodying coaching skill to existing programs,” she added.