Virtual coaching: the benefits of coaching without constraints

September 20, 2021 - 17 min read

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What is virtual coaching?

7 types of coaching

Why should you choose virtual coaching over an in-person experience?

Why is virtual coaching the best option for remote employees?

What you should expect from virtual coaching

What virtual coaching is not

How to choose the right virtual coaching program

What is virtual coaching?

Virtual coaching is any kind of coaching that’s being delivered primarily via an online platform. As the pandemic constrained people's physical movement and video conferencing tools became more commonplace, virtual coaching has become more popular.

But good virtual coaching is more than just talking to someone over a Zoom link.

Even though it’s happening on a digital platform, participants are still coached by a live person. Who that person is, and what their approach is, make a big difference in the effectiveness of the coaching.

So does the platform, although it is possible to have an effective coaching conversation over just a phone call.

7 types of coaching

Virtual coaching, just like in-person coaching, can be utilized in a variety of ways. There isn’t really a limit to what virtual coaching can do. As long as they have an internet connection, participants can work on any number of skills or areas of development that are important to them.

Here are some of the types of virtual coaches that coachees can access digitally:

Executive or leadership development coaching 

Leadership and executive coaching is great for anyone who’s responsible for managing others. Leadership coaches teach new skills that focus on how to create team synergy, implement new ideas, and deal with interpersonal conflict.

Everyone can benefit from better leadership and management skills to influence others and do their own best work. Just because you don't have "executive," "president," or "manager" in your title doesn't mean you don't need leadership skills. In today's companies, teams are fluid, collaboration crosses boundaries, and insight can come from anywhere. Decisions, and actions, happen fast.

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Group or team coaching

Group coaching can cover any topic. The participants may or may not know each other or even work for the same company. They are being coached as a group, and the group usually stays together for multiple sessions. The power of group coaching is that members learn from each other and benefit from hearing others' experiences, reflections, and breakthroughs. For example, in BetterUp's Coaching Circles, led by a specially-trained coach who pulls relevant, actionable insights from the discussion, participants grow and discover through the process of supporting each other in the journey. 

Team coaching is one type of group coaching that tends to focus on the team itself. A skilled team coach helps team members see what is working and not working for them, facilitates conversations about difficult dynamics, and teaches team members the skills to collaborate effectively.

Group or team coaching sessions might focus on communication or presentation skills or on topics like inclusive leadership or navigating uncertainty. They can be especially effective in handling company-wide changes like layoffs, mergers, pivoting, or rapid growth. 

Health coaching

Health and wellness coaches help people to develop balance in a way that supports holistic health and growth. It’s a good fit for anyone who wants to improve their work-life balance, nutrition, sleep, and physical well-being. Coaching involves building accountability, setting realistic goals and making effective plans, devising personalized strategies, and addressing underlying issues of motivation and beliefs.

Relationship and communication coaching

Relationship and communication coaching can benefit any type of relationship, in or out of the workplace. People learn how to navigate difficult conversations, speak up for themselves, and ask for assistance when needed. A good coach creates space for a person to practice and get feedback on their communication and interaction skills.

Performance and success coaching 

Performance coaching focuses on identifying areas for improvement and facilitating focused practice and feedback. Success and career coaching are typically characterized by a focus on a larger goal, like a promotion or other milestone.

Sales coaching

More of an instructional coaching program, sales coaching is part training, part mentoring. Educators empower salespeople to hit their goals through skills training programs and feedback. At BetterUp we believe that mindsets and behaviors for sales teams — and the training to improve and maintain them for ourselves — are as important for sales performance as training in tools or techniques. 

Strategy or business coaching

This kind of coaching helps leaders develop a strategy for organizational growth or transformation. Unlike the other types of coaching, it focuses more on developing, rethinking, and executing a game plan for a specific business outcome than individual growth.

Why should you choose virtual coaching over an in-person experience?

Online coaching is growing in popularity, and for good reason. High-quality coaching — regardless of the platform — is proven to help individuals reach their goals and develop important skills. Taking it online can make a coaching experience better. In fact, virtual coaching sessions have distinct advantages for coaches, organizations, and individuals.

3 benefits of online coaching:

1. Data access and ease of feedback. With virtual platforms, participants and coaches can easily record notes and feedback on a secure platform. Managers and coachees can receive customized overviews on their growth, skills, attitudes, and weaknesses. It’s easier to monitor personal performance, reach out for support, or even switch coaches if needed. 

At BetterUp, managers get access to non-personalized, aggregate data so they have insight into their team’s needs. They can check utilization at a glance and get additional assistance interpreting data (e.g., related to DEIB goals) and achieving business objectives from a Solutions Consultant to make sure they’re getting the most from the coaching program.

2. Convenience. Web-based communication tools make it easy to meet, eliminating the need to rent an office space or commute. As with the feedback tools, progress, scheduling, and feedback are all rolled into the same platform. Most virtual coaching programs are mobile-friendly, making it possible to take sessions on the go. Coaches can also deliver relevant resources alongside the participant’s dashboard.

3. Choice and compatibility. You have more coaches to choose from. The data show that a person's experience with coaching is highly dependent on getting the right match. Traditionally, clients are limited to the coaches located near them, since sessions happen face-to-face. However, in a virtual environment, clients have broader access to top coaches all over the world. AI software can help match participants with the right coach, no matter what time zone they’re in. They benefit from greater diversity, more experience, as well as a wider range of perspectives and personalities.

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Why is virtual coaching the best option for remote employees?

Practically overnight, about 70% of the workforce became remote workers. Telecommuting brought a lot of changes — many of which were positive, and some which required adjustment. Executives are still unsure where the best place for their teams to work is. Remote workers have proven that they can collaborate and work efficiently from anywhere, but some feel like the office is still a special place.

While no one is sure what work will look like over the next several months or years, it seems that some version of remote work will be here to stay. Taking your coaching model virtual, alongside your workforce, is a smart investment.

For managers, leading a partially or fully remote workforce may be a change from what they’re used to. They’ll benefit from improved communication skills, learning to delegate tasks, and managing performance from afar. Employees may want support managing their workloads, improving their work-life balance, and learning how to get noticed — and promoted — with less face time.

With the uncertainty of the in-person office’s future, there’s no need to add one more thing to worry about. Taking coaching online means that no matter if you’re in the office or not, you can still count on having access to your coach.

What you should expect from virtual coaching:

Coaching has benefits for both employees and your organization. In fact, BetterUp data shows that companies benefit from a 31% improvement in team performance after implementing digital coaching. Here are some of the benefits that people and companies experience from virtual coaching:

1. Developing a growth mindset 

Working with a coach often starts with setting goals and benchmarks for growth. The skills participants develop while working towards these outcomes can help them become more growth-oriented. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, says that people who maintain a growth mindset are more likely to tackle complex challenges.

2. Better problem solving

Coaches help people become more effective at problem-solving by teaching them to ask the right questions and use the right techniques. People can learn to work through challenges and blockers on their own, or develop the communication skills to ask for help more effectively.

3. Improves mental health and decreases burnout

Almost any area of wellness can be tackled via virtual coaching. That includes nutrition, sleep, holistic wellness, performance, and work/life balance. These experts can provide practical techniques and work with participants to improve their physical and mental health. A recent statistic from BetterUp found that employees who received personalized digital coaching experienced a 52% decrease in burnout. In addition, recently published research showed how coaching acts as a standalone intervention that can adapt to each individual and help them improve in multiple measures of well-being.

4. Improves adaptability and resilience

Working with a coach helps participants learn different ways of approaching challenges and managing setbacks. Practicing skills like reframing can help people improve their adaptability, increase their sense of ownership over their professional and personal lives, and build resilience. 

5. Increases retention

Coaching is an investment of both time and money in your workforce, which makes them feel valued. People who feel that they are appreciated and growing at work are likely to stay with their organizations longer. This allows the company to keep their best talent, promoting professional development while reducing turnover costs.

6. Improves strategic planning skills

Through effective coaching, employees learn to focus on factors within their control, such as communication, time management, and their attitude. By actively participating in the process, they learn to break large goals into smaller steps and improve their chances of achieving them.

7. Improves individual and team performance

To create long-term, sustainable growth, people need to be able to identify and measure areas for improvement. Coaching provides a space for people to identify areas for growth and measure their progress. BetterUp's Whole Person Model tracks key areas that can be both measured and improved.

What virtual coaching is not

There are some common misconceptions about virtual coaching. While it is true that it’s a convenient and versatile solution, there are some things that virtual coaching shouldn’t be used for.

Virtual coaching is not:

A replacement for therapy

Coaching can be helpful in supporting mental fitness and reducing burnout. However, it shouldn’t be used in place of support from a qualified mental health professional. Coaches are trained to know when a situation may need to be referred for additional help. If you’re looking for mental health care, many practices are now providing telehealth services. 

A substitute for management

Coaches help build skills that make a difference in the workplace, but they’re generally not employees or managers of the company. They shouldn’t be asked to make decisions for the company, review employees' work, or given confidential material. They are there to develop the skills that help employees and leaders grow within their roles, and have only their client’s interests at heart. Managers will still have to lead their own teams.

An easy fix

No coach has all the answers. In fact, the best coaches often lead you to find the right answers yourself. Coaching is an interactive process that involves asking tough questions, reflecting, making changes, getting uncomfortable — in short, some difficult work. There’s a good chance that coaching can lead you to the outcomes you want, but don’t expect to get there overnight or without any effort.

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How to choose the right virtual coaching program

There are many coaches that specialize in personal development, and they all bring something different to the table. Before you launch a coaching program at your company, you’ll want to ask yourself some questions to figure out which program is right for you. Take out a piece of paper or open a fresh document and answer these questions:

  1. What does success look like?

From a big picture perspective, what difference do you think coaching will make at your company? What will people say about their experience? Will they be happier? More productive? Get promoted?

  1. What measurable changes do I want to see as a result of this investment?

What are your goals? Now that you have an idea of what success looks like, how will you measure it? Do you want to increase revenue, reduce turnover, or decrease sick days? Do you want to improve employee well-being or job satisfaction?

Don't underestimate the value your employees will get from coaching. Employees want support for their own professional development and well-being. They want to feel that they are cared for and valued, and they also want help to stay relevant. A thoughtful, high-quality coaching program can check all of these boxes.

  1. How long am I willing to commit to coaching?

Your changes likely won’t occur overnight. Are you willing to commit to training for the long haul? Because it takes time to develop a rapport and a strategy with your coach, most effective coaching requires a 4-6 month commitment.

  1. How many people at my company need to be coached?

Are you a startup, established enterprise, mom-and-pop, non profit, or solopreneur? Is everyone getting coaching or just a few key members?

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the target population?

Obviously, we don’t all know our blind spots, but it helps to have an idea of the areas you want to focus on when choosing a coach. While most coaches can help with overall areas of improvement, knowing what you want to work on can help you narrow your choices to the most effective coach for you.

  1. Does this coaching organization have experience with companies like mine?

Many coaches specialize in specific industries or areas of growth. You might want someone who’s good with freelancers, tech companies, or businesses scaling towards an IPO. Your company and your experience is unique — take time to find someone who understands your story.

  1. Will this coaching program grow with me?

Maybe you’re leading a fast-growing company, or planning to switch careers. Take that into consideration when choosing your coach. Programs like BetterUp have an extensive network of coaches to draw from, and can support the needs of any-size corporation — as well as one-on-one (D2C) coaching in case you decide to go solo.

Personal growth doesn’t have limits, and neither does virtual coaching. By taking the development experience online, people always have access to a support system and the help they need to achieve their full potential. Whether for individuals or growth-minded companies, virtual coaching is a flexible, efficient tool. It has the ability to empower people to leverage their unique strengths, gain valuable feedback, and make their dreams come to life.

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Published September 20, 2021

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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