• Vanya Koonce


Because I’m a passionate believer in coaching and optimistic about the technology’s ability to optimize its impact, I would like to share some perspectives on what this future may look like in the short and long term. In this article, I will tackle questions like: Is the coaching “industry” (if we are ready to call it that…) growing? Who are the winners and the losers in the coaching arena? And what does technology have to do with all of this?

First, let’s look at the facts. The International Coaching Federation’s most recently published Global Coaching Study in 2016 found that the estimated global total revenue from coaching in 2015 was $2.356 billion USD, representing a 19% increase over the 2011 estimate. (I’m so looking forward to seeing the new data from the 2019 study which will be published in the second half of 2020). Statistics published by MarketResearch.com also reported the U.S. estimated market value for personal coaching was $955 million in 2015 and $1.02 billion in 2016, compared to $707 million in 2011. They predicted that the US personal coaching market will grow by 6.5% by 2017 reaching $1.08 billion. IRISworldreport.com’s post on Sep 2019 claims that the total revenue for the industry is estimated to 15bn dollars, and annual growth between 2014-2019 is 5.6%.

What do all those numbers mean? - YES, the demand for coaches is growing if these estimates are correct. But so “What”?!

In all of the above surveys, the most cited concern facing coaching consumers and providers is the lack of regulation in the industry. No regulation naturally leads to a lack of common ethical standards, many unqualified competitors and a lack of consensus around how to track the ROI (Return On Investment - or more appropriate for coaching, Return On Impact) of coaching engagements. Not to mention that these services are usually available only for a privileged few, such as executives, managers, or people who can afford the luxury of spending a few extra hundred dollars per month on life coaching.

I sometimes get frustrated when I end up in conversation with professionals who refer to themselves as “coaches” after having participated in a single training or, after being coached for some time, have decided they possess all the knowledge they need to be a coach too. While I agree that it would be a better world if everyone were to acquire the coaching skillset, the idea that anyone can be a professional coach is problematic for a few reasons.

While it might work for those who have strong business backgrounds and marketing skills, the trend of self-proclaimed coaches ends up creating significant misunderstanding around what coaching is, and what it isn’t.

A lot has been written about the future of work, AI, robotics, and machine learning. What is consistent across the board is that the skills that will remain in high demand in the future (besides coding and data science) will be strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. While digitization and globalization are the driving forces in today’s market, its "winners" will be the companies and individual coaches that utilize technology in their practice.

The leading coaches of the future will create collaborative software, "one-stop shops" and offer online coaching certifications, training, “virtual campfires” for coaches to learn from each other and connect on common coaching philosophy. Popular coaching schools (iPEC, CTA, Hudson Institute, CoachU, Adler Coaching School and such) will have to focus more on hybrid learning offerings and building communities vs graduate cohorts. Emphasis on-demand supervision, mentoring, learning and practicing.

Affordable Coaching

They will offer affordable coaching on digital platforms—and utilize dashboards where coachees and sponsors (if any) can access real-time data, track progress and measure various ROI metrics of success. They will be able to prompt their clients with AI-driven learning suggestions, reminders and alerts based on coachee personality type, learning style, social/work environment, goals and aspirations that are embedded in the algorithm. These services will be easily replicable and delivered globally, at little or no cost. Besides data privacy concerns the use of coaching platforms will support scientists to create and run more research which is much needed.

Strong Scientific Background

Coaches who have strong scientific backgrounds and degrees in human behavior, positive psychology, gestalt methods, and neuroscience will also have a leg up. While it will take more time for coaching platforms (a few notable ones being - Thrive Partners, BetterUp, LeggUp, Sounding Board, MyQuest, Torch, Emplify, Soar) to fully integrate AI, and biometric tracks such as body temperature, heart rate, eye tracking, facial recognition, and other engagement patterns these trends are already underway (a topic for another article).

Microlearning, Gamification, Wisdom Transfer

The future demand will also focus on microlearning, gamification, and wisdom transfer. These methods will eventually supersede the traditional coaching structures (i.e. the 2-hour feedback sessions, with a six-month plan of action where you meet your coach once every 10 days in a period of six months to a year). The traditional approach will likely disappear in the next 5 years or less.

When coachees are faced with the choice to pick from 10 mediocre providers and one excellent one, you know whom they will choose.

In not so distant future for a basic coaching conversation, individuals can talk to devices such as Alexa, Siri, Echo or usefully AI-driven solutions (PocketConfidant, CoachBot by Saberr who are just in the beginning to disrupt the traditional way we consume coaching). We will see more human-machine partnerships to fully satisfy our clients.

Coachees of the future will have higher expectations than ever: they will know what coaching is and expect measurable results based on scientifically proven principles that enable them to create more positive, innovative, and sustainable workplaces. They will use coaching to create a better work-life balance and live purposefully.

Organizations like ICF, EMCC, AC, IOC, IAC will have to adjust and think about what additional competencies and resources are needed to provide adequate regulation and support to these fast-paced industry trends.

For now, I am not aware of any platform that provides real-time data to coaching sponsors or clients. The most sophisticated platforms of today simply collect data and convert it into reports. This is great compared to 4 years ago when I interviewed 100 successful coaches and found out that 85 % of them are keeping their notes and records in a paper format. I thought “ The least I have to help those people save some trees”.

What will remain: the desire of people learning in a memorable and fun way, to feel safe to share and have the conversations they need to have with themselves. Environments that will stimulate breakthrough thinking. The sense of personal connection and care. And isn’t that all we really want?

#coachingandtech #futureofcoaching #AI #ICF #EMCC #IOC #leadership

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