What is virtual coaching and how does it work?

CoachHub · 1 October 2021 · 8 min read

The new world of work continues to evolve on an almost daily basis. Virtual tools like virtual coaching offer both the safety and the flexibility required to keep up with the demands of employers and employees. But what exactly is virtual coaching? And how can that work for your organization? Below, we’ll walk you through the basics of virtual coaching as well as the benefits and how you can get started with a virtual coaching program for your business.

What is virtual coaching?

To put it simply, virtual coaching is an in-person coaching session where the coach and one or more clients have a conversation through a web-based video chat. In some cases, the coachee may prefer not to have a visual and communicate audio-only.

Virtual coaching sessions are led by a professional coach trained to facilitate growth based on each coachee’s unique goals. Virtual coaches can provide clarity, insight, and direction. They accomplish this by utilizing their training and expertise in the power of active listening and honest feedback. The ideal virtual coaching experience is where the coachee leaves with a better understanding of themselves, their challenges, and how to meet their personal goals.

Virtual coaching isn’t the same as therapy. But like therapy, coaching offers insightful outside perspectives as well as tools to help people better understand themselves and how they interact with the world around them.

Virtual coaching is also a bit different than traditional corporate training. Training is a fixed, pre-prepared, non-personalized  way to learn pre-determined goals, usually in a limited time-frame, whether we talk about digital, hybrid or classroom learning. On the other hand, coaching is a fluid, flexible process where the coach and coachee work together to work towards goals. Coaching changes and grows with the coachee and directly places responsibility and ownership into the coachees’ hands.


What are the benefits of virtual coaching?

Now that you understand the basics of what virtual coaching is, let’s discuss some of the benefits of digital coaching and how it can help your people and organization.


Virtual coaching combines technology with genuine relationships

The demand for safe, virtual workplace tools continues to skyrocket. However, workers still crave authentic, personal, human connections. Virtual coaching offers the best of both worlds by providing a human-centered experience seamlessly combined with the flexibility of technology.

This approach is even more critical to today’s workforce, which is increasingly populated by generations who have lived their lives online.  Additionally, online solutions are suitable for the bottom line too. Organizations can create customized learning and development experiences that cost significantly less than orchestrating in-person events with virtual coaching, while at the same time being accessible to a much wider audience.

Virtual coaching is available from anywhere

In-person coaching sessions are effective, but they have limitations. Aligning sessions with hectic schedules is already tricky. Having to navigate travel and location constraints makes it all the more challenging. Then there are the health and safety concerns around in-person meetings. Virtual coaching is not only safe; it’s accessible to any member of an organization that has an internet connection. With virtual coaching, anywhere in the world can become a safe space for growth when a person needs it. In addition, remote coaching can help coachees be more open and transparent with their coaches as there’s a greater distanciation.

Virtual coaching is flexible

As we mentioned above, mobile technology and data networks mean that virtual coaching can meet employees where they are, wherever they are. This freedom empowers people to take ownership of their learning opportunities on their own terms. The flexibility of virtual coaching also makes employees more likely to engage and reach their goals.

Additionally, clients and coaches can spend a virtual coaching session anywhere they wish. Allowing individuals to create their idea of a comfortable environment can impact the quality of discussion during a virtual coaching session. When clients feel safe, they are more likely to be open within the coaching session and discuss their genuine concerns. This connection, paired with the ability of coachees to create their own safe environment, is something that can’t be duplicated in an office.

Virtual coaching encourages diversity

Virtual coaching allows organizations to create diverse groups that bring together a more comprehensive range of viewpoints regardless of their locations. Part of the beauty of coaching groups is the diversity of new ideas and approaches present. Virtual group participants can connect with peers from a broader cross-section of their organization. Virtual coaching also lets coachees have the opportunity to learn from people from different cultures whom they might not otherwise have the chance to meet.

Virtual coaching increases information retention

Although it may seem counterintuitive, being face-to-face via a screen makes it easier for employees to stay present, actively participate, and retain information. In fact,

Studocu did an analysis of multiple case studies with thousands of participants and found that e-learning increases retention rates by 82% on average. This increase in retention isn’t just beneficial for employees and workplace operations; it also means less time (and money) spent on coaching and development programs.

Virtual coaching works just as well as face-to-face coaching (If not better!)

Many people assume that face-to-face coaching must be better than virtual coaching.

However, a study published in 2009 in the British Journal of Psychology found that “gaze aversion benefits cognitive performance, not just by disengaging visual attention from irrelevant visual information, but also by interrupting social interaction processes involved in face-to-face communication.” This study suggests that the coaching experience can be better when eye contact isn’t required. Virtual coaching is one option that meets that need and offers all the same benefits as in-person coaching.

Many organizations also have leaders accustomed to virtual conversations, but find themselves challenged to make the most of the medium. For these individuals, virtual coaching provides an additional benefit of modeling great virtual discussions. Virtual coaching is a natural fit for developing this newly crucial soft skill in real-time.

Virtual coaching makes work culture better

Organizations that implement virtual coaching programs see an 86% increase in productivity, a 56% increase in employee engagement, and a 32% increase in employee retention. By blending the best of in-person and virtual coaching sessions, the learning experience can be personalized to reach individual and organizational goals.

Virtual coaching delivers on personal development and ROI

The personal benefits of virtual coaching are wide-ranging. Empathy, effectiveness, flexibility, and measurable results all make virtual coaching worth the investment. Whether focusing on performance, talent development, employee retention, DE&I, or well-being, virtual coaching equips workers with new knowledge and skills to achieve the best outcomes.

91% of employees who participated in a coaching program reported an increase in their self-reflection, awareness, and sense of purpose. And 80% of coachees agree they have gained competencies useful for their profession.

Virtual coaching delivers on ROI

Not only does virtual coaching improve work for individuals, but it also elevates the whole organization. Virtual coaching simplifies the delivery of coaching as an L&D investment – streamlines and simplifies contracting, opens up a global pool of accredited coaches and is cost effective. The ROI for companies who invest in developing soft skills such as agility and resilience is an impressive 256%  (International Growth Centre, 2016). Those stats extend into 250% ROI for companies that invest in employee well-being (CoachHub, 2020). And a 167% increase in employee net promoter score (NPS) for organizations that create a sense of belonging (Harvard Business Review, 2019).

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How does virtual coaching work?

Every virtual coaching program operates a little differently, but they all focus on the coachee’s journey. Here’s an overview of one approach that’s seen proven success: 

Step One: Set Goals

The initial phase of the coaching process focuses on setting goals by exploring each individual and organization’s unique needs. Self-assessments that help coachee’s find clarity on their potential and challenges. Together, the coach and coachee will create a roadmap for growing and developing in a way that will help them meet those goals.

Step Two: Work towards Growth

Once goals are established, coaches and coachees will meet via scheduled video or audio calls. During these sessions, progress, blockers, challenges, and successes are all discussed. There may be other learning experiences or tools that can help facilitate insight and growth.

Step Three: Reflect and re-assess

In any coaching relationship, it’s essential for coachees to have regular opportunities to reflect on how their situation has changed. Many top virtual coaching platforms are supported by automated analysis and statistics to help inform insights and progress. From there, progress and goals can be re-assessed and addressed through the coaching relationship.

Virtual coaching is here to stay

No matter how the new world of work develops, organizations will continue to focus on being flexible in how they work. Technology will continue to evolve, and new and exciting solutions for how we work and interact with one another will become not only available but the default choice for businesses. Virtual coaching is only one of the vast number of meaningful conversations that will continue to happen virtually across the globe.

How to get started with virtual coaching:

It starts by taking inventory of your organization, your people and your goals. Do you want to focus on leadership? Well-being? Individual growth?

Once you understand what you want from a coaching experience, it’s important to find the right virtual coaching platform. After choosing a virtual coaching platform, it’s time to educate employees about the virtual coaching experience. Let them know what virtual coaching is, how it can help them, and introduce the coaching approach. After employees hear the benefits, it’s easy to get them to buy-in.

When you’re ready, your virtual coaching platform will be prepared with onboarding experts and coaches to help make getting started easy. Before you know it, you’ll have established virtual coaching as a key employee benefit that helps your people and your organization be the best they can be.

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CoachHub is a leading global talent development platform that enables organizations to create personalized, measurable and scalable coaching programs for their entire workforce, regardless of department and seniority level. By doing so, organizations are able to reap a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity, improved job performance and increased retention. CoachHub’s global pool of coaches is comprised of over 3,500 certified business coaches in 90 countries across six continents with coaching sessions available in over 80 languages. Serving more than 1,000 clients worldwide, CoachHub’s innovative coaching programs are based on proprietary scientific research and development from its Innovation Lab. CoachHub is backed by leading tech investors, including Sofina, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Molten Ventures, Speedinvest, HV Capital, Partech and Silicon Valley Bank/SVB Capital. CoachHub was certified as a carbon-neutral company and consistently measures, reduces, and implements strategies to minimize its environmental impact.

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