What Is Digital Coaching (And What Is It Not)

Calendar Icon
February 10, 2022
Clock Icon
5 min read

The popularity of digital coaching in the business world has been steadily increasing over the last few years, reaching peak demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, with companies seeking to support their workforce through lockdowns and the abrupt switch to remote work. Nevertheless, its scope, purpose, and impact is, often, still not fully understood and a lack of clarity is made even murkier by the myths around digital coaching

To help you decide if digital coaching is the right decision for your people development and business growth strategies, this article breaks down what digital coaching is, what it is not, and the benefits it unlocks.

Which is the difference between coaching and therapy?

Before exploring what is digital coaching, let's look at the broader field of coaching. A common misconception about coaching is to assume it is the same as therapy, just in a different package. While they may, at first sight, look similar, their approach is quite distinct. The American Psychiatric Association states that psychotherapy is “a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties”, whereas the International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. 

In an oversimplistic way – but to really grasp what sets them apart – therapy is more focused on the past and coaching on the future. Furthermore, therapy tends to be seen with more legitimacy given that it must follow legal regulations. Only certified therapists with the proper training and education can practice, whereas coaching is not regulated and still lacks behind when it comes to practicing credentials. This, however, is being actively tackled by the world-leading coaching organizations.

How does digital coaching work?

As digital coaching gains traction, it’s important to understand exactly what it is and how it differs from (or adds to) traditional coaching. By definition, digital coaching is an online service, following the digitalization trend, to deliver personal and professional development programs with the help of technology. All-in-all, it means helping employees in their professional and personal development through scheduled meetings with a real human being (the coach) in a digital environment. 

Nevertheless, it’s easy to assume that digital coaching is just traditional coaching done online (i.e., over Zoom or FaceTime) when, in reality, it goes far beyond that. Although digital coaching is based on the same principles as traditional coaching, it delivers more value because it combines conventional techniques with the advantages of technology. A digital coaching platform enables greater coaching accessibility to employees, allowing for more flexibility, depth, and personalization. For instance, it makes it possible to create extensive content libraries with materials or activities customizable to each coachee, which the coach can easily share to better support their individual goals. Plus, it’s more scalable and affordable.

Coaching has an impact in a broad range of areas but its measurability is not always clear. Read our guide to learn how to measure the impact of coaching in your organization.

Who is digital coaching for? 

Another mistaken belief about coaching, in general, is perceiving it as an elitist tool, catering only to those in leadership positions. While it is true that coaching is a valuable tool for leaders, it is also a versatile and democratic tool for the entire workforce, regardless of seniority, position, or function. Every employee can benefit from it, from junior apprentices to senior executives and managers.

Within a company, digital coaching works holistically in the team since it empowers employees not only to support themselves but to support each other, too. For instance, it creates a positive ripple effect, ensuring team members and leaders are able to give constructive and effective feedback. It should also explore engaging learning techniques and measure their effectiveness, making it easy to integrate the lessons into the work environment.

Additionally, digital coaching makes it easier for anyone, anywhere in the world, and in any language, to benefit from coaching. In the words of Marcia Yokota, an Executive Coach based in Brazil, “digital coaching enables me to work collaboratively with my clients from wherever each one of us prefers to be. I believe that digital coaching amplifies the possibilities of an optimal match between coach and client. Personally and professionally, digital coaching expands my world."

Digital coaching is a partnership between the coach and the client in future-focused conversations on a topic or goal that is meaningful to the client. The coach supports and challenges the client in a personalized process in which reflection takes place, evokes awareness, stimulates actions, and fosters learning.
Marcia Yokota
Executive, Career & Team Coach, PCC/ICF, PALC/WIAL

Why is digital coaching so relevant today?

Employee well-being is rapidly becoming a key factor for productivity and retention that companies simply cannot ignore or minimize. Office perks or performance bonuses are not enough to retain or attract talent, as a much heavier focus is being placed by employees on work-life balance, mental health, and overall well-being. New Work trends, the comodity of remote work, and the personal priorities of the younger generations now representing most of the labor force, insure that this shift will establish itself further, meaning that companies cannot ignore or minimize it. One industry where these challenges are particularly tough for HR managers to tackle is the financial services sector. 

Thus, many companies are currently on the lookout for the best possible tool to support employees in their everyday lives, develop their full potential and avoid burnout – all the while, fostering overall organizational growth. Meditation apps, mental health tools, gym memberships, you name it. With so many options, it can be hard to decide which tool is best suited to support your team. However, digital coaching seems to stand out as the most encompassing and effective solution of all.

What are the benefits of digital coaching?

The Institute of Coaching, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, states that coaching in organizational and leadership settings is a key component of any successful people development strategy and that the benefits of coaching stretch across a wide range of challenges. Digital coaching, specifically, can help companies to develop the talent they have and attract the talent they need, all the while providing a personalized program for employees to reach their full potential. Moreover, coaching affects not only employees but business growth in general. Overall, companies can also expect a significant decrease in burnout and an improvement of over 30% in team performance when providing their workforce with coaching.

Because each employee has their own individual impact, it reflects throughout all areas of the company: they will be happier and more productive, and companies can expect better products (or services), stronger customer loyalty, and higher employee retention. Employees that received coaching also show:

  • Higher engagement levels 
  • Better productivity and performance 
  • Stronger business relationships
  • Better conflict-resolution skills
  • Motivation and resilience levels

In sum, despite the way it still has to go to solidify its legitimacy and clarify its purpose, the impact and the benefits that digital coaching has on organizational growth and people development are undeniable. 

Sharpist drives the growth of organizations and their people through 1:1 digital coaching and personalized learning.
What Is Digital Coaching (And What Is It Not)
Sofia Alves
LinkedIn icon

Discover more
about Sharpist

Request demo
Instant activation and on-call support