Jonathan Passmore and David Tee published in “Coaching Today” their review of the continually evolving digital coaching industry. In their review, they discuss different types of digital coaching and offer guidance on how to select a digital coaching platform or software. Below we discuss their review, sharing the key insights and takeaways most important for executive coaches.
The rise of digital coaching
The COVID-19 pandemic served as a pivotal moment for the coaching industry, igniting a surge in the adoption of digital coaching methodologies. With more than 80% of coaches transitioning to online coaching in 2021, this shift is poised to become a lasting trend (Passmore, 2021). Digital coaches cite the convenience of digital interactions, reduced travel costs (leading to increased income on average), reduced time loss commuting, and increased flexibility as reasons they favor digital coaching. Furthermore, the ICF’s 2023 Global Coaching Study echoes these findings, stating that “the coaching profession continued to expand at a robust pace” following the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coaching landscape continues to evolve, this digital revolution has reshaped the industry, making it more accessible and adaptable for both coaches and clients than ever before (Passmore & Tee, 2023).
What is digital coaching?
Passmore and Tee define digital coaching as “a technology-based, live, coach-client collaboration, using audio and visual channels of communication, enabled by secure digital communications protocols, which enables scalable and measurable outcomes for individuals and organizations” (2023). According to Passmore and Tee, “three players dominate the market: EZREA, BetterUp, and CoachHub” (2023). However, there are a variety of digital coaching organizations, many of which focus on specific clientele needs.
Digital coaching platforms vs. coaching software providers
Passmore and Tee identify two types of digital coaching: digital coaching platforms and coaching software providers. Digital coaching platforms are “effectively online coaching providers. They provide coaches both with access to their platform and with clients.” They set rates of pay and do a majority of the “behind the scenes work” such as collecting payments, managing “corporate client relationships,” winning coaching contracts, compliance, often times insurance, GDPR, sustainability, and anti-slavery policies (Passmore & Tee, 2023). Coaching Software Providers are more akin to a “club.” With these organizations, coaches set their rates, but are responsible for finding their own clients and performing the necessary “behind the scenes” operational work. Coaching software providers make their money off of the “income derived from coaches” using their platform (Passmore & Tee, 2023).
Selecting the right provider: 10 critical questions
Passmore and Tee provide readers with ten critical questions to consider before choosing a digital coaching platform or software.
What do I want to get from the relationship?
Do you want clients provided to you? If so, what type of clients?
How much “behind the scenes” operational and administrative work such as “management and billing” are you willing to pass on to the organization?
What criteria do they set for new coaches?
Is performance monitored?
Are specific credentials required?
Are there membership fees or dues?
What insurance do I need?
Do you need “professional indemnity insurance”?
What insurance does the organization have in place and what risks are being passed to you?
What rates per hour do they offer?
What currency is used to pay coaches? Will there be an exchange rate difference or fee?
Are there bonuses, commissions, or raises?
Is the pay rate fixed per year?
What privacy standards and ethical practices does the platform operate?
How is personal data collected and used?
Are coaching conversations recorded?
What are general “privacy and security policies”?
How long is personal data stored?
What restriction does the provider apply to your other work?
Is exclusivity required for participation in the organization?
In what ways does the provider use evidence-based research to underpin its work?
How has research “informed the development” of the organization’s coaching model?
What research studies has the organization completed?
What arrangements does the platform offer for training, development, and supervision?
Are there learning plans provided to coaches?
What courses, events, activities, or seminars are available to coaches?
Are learning resources available for a fee or are they included in membership?
What values guide the business/organization?
What are some examples of the organization “living out” their values?
Are there case studies available for review?
What do other coaches say about their experience working for them?
Ask LinkedIn connections about their experiences
Examine review boards for additional insights
(Passmore & Tee, 2023)
A note for sole practitioners
While the digital realm of executive coaching continues to expand, Passmore and Tee encourage “sole practitioners” to “think about the unique differentiators” they provide their clients. They state that sole practitioners must “provide personalized services such as outdoor coaching or psychometrics, focus on a market niche, and draw on their black book of contacts” (Passmore & Tee, 2023).
In summary, the digital coaching industry has witnessed significant growth since the pandemic, with over 80% of coaches transitioning to online coaching (Passmore, 2021). Passmore and Tee's critical review provides valuable insights for executive coaches, covering digital coaching types, platform choices, and crucial questions to ask when selecting a provider. As the industry continues to evolve, this review serves as a valuable resource for coaches navigating the digital coaching landscape.
The original study can be found here.
ICF (2023, April 11). Robust Growth: 2023 Global Coaching Study Results Are In! - International Coaching Federation. International Coaching Federation. https://coachingfederation.org/blog/robust-growth-2023-global-coaching-study-results-are-in.
Passmore, J. & Tee, D. (2023). The Future is now: Coaching Today, (July), 47, 8-13.
Passmore, J (2021) Future Trends in Coaching: Executive Report
2021. Henley-on-Thames: Henley Business School and EMCC International.
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