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Virtual Executive Coaching and Career Pathing - Where Are We Today?


I have written about career development for years. My message consistently drove home that career development has to be internally motivated and that you cannot expect your employer to help you advance your career.

Taking personal control of your development will always be the best strategy for success.

However, I have seen a lot of exciting developments in the software space where smart software solutions are providing robust programs to help employees with their career development.

At the HR Tech conference, I saw several exhibitors who provide smart software tools that offer career pathing, coaching, and personal development that is easy to install, provides an excellent user experience, and is changing the face of talent development.

The product demos that most caught my attention were:

  • BetterUp – software that pairs employees with a dedicated, expert coach to cultivate the leadership behaviors they need to thrive. The coaching experience is all-virtual.
  • Pilot Coaching - software that provides virtual coaching through a series on online coursework and group coaching.
  • Fuel50 – an online career pathing software that helps employee chart and measures their career development.

My interest in these software development is substantial since the core solutions my firm CMP provides is executive coaching and talent development. I was not sure if I was staring at the face of the disruption of my business or observing some new trends that will not have any measurable impact.

The truth is, I am not quite sure where this trend will be taking us. Coaching on any level is built on developing a personal relationship. The new software tools seem to mostly built around the virtualization of delivery (online versus in-person). The software also has smartly added learning management elements to enhance the retention and impact of the coaching program.

I also am impressed with the democratization of the platforms by bringing coaching to more levels of the organization. Coaching is an investment that most employers will make for their senior talent.

The platforms that I reviewed have provided solutions on how to expand the benefits of coaching to the manager and individual contributor level by eliminating friction points in the coaching process (geography, travel, uniformity of delivery, overhead).

Driving development throughout an organization can be a game-changer. It can elevate engagement, increase retention, and provide more meaningful performance reviews. Employees will now be able to say that their employer is helping them learn and grow.

I believe that the delivery of executive and outplacement coaching will trend to be even more to virtual than it is today. The initial reaction to the introduction of virtual services years ago was that it was a step-down in quality. I do not believe that this is the case today. Technology has removed these barriers to create a coaching experience that is as high-quality as an in-person session.

Personally, my preference is still to deliver executive coaching in-person. The personal chemistry, body language, and communication flow go much better for me, fact-to-face. I do like how virtual delivery can make available to a more significant number of people. Virtual versus no coaching is an obvious choice.

Excellent executive coaching, outplacement consulting, HR consulting all share one common element – you need smart, insightful, and empathetic coaches who can help their coachees grow. There is no amount of technology that will be able to make up for sub-standard coaching delivery. Excellent coaches will be the one human element that will remain.

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