What’s trending in the coaching industry?

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Recently there have been several attempts at trend forecasting for coaching in 2019, the next three years or next decade. Some of these trends may be in the distant future, such as the rise of the automated coach (AI and App-based coaching) and industry regulation of different coaching types (credentialed business coach, credentialed executive coach).

The automated coach is certainly in the beginning phase of development, with apps/Chatbots such as WYSA and Woebot, based on evidence-based techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). South Africa is not far behind, with researchers from the University of Stellenbosch Business School being busy with their own; currently in prototype version. HR Future in Dec 2017 already published an article about AI in the form of Chatbots and its opportunities for HR.

Full regulation for the coaching industry is still a long way off, if it will ever happen, and even with COMENSA being a self-regulated professional body recognised by SAQA, this self-regulation is only for our credentialed coaches, not the South African coaching industry as a whole. Certainly, people in the industry and academia are already conversing about the possible credentialing in different types of coaching, supported by limited research in this area. An example may be the Credentialed Business Coach.

Trends already in place in many organisations and growing in others include:

Measurement of coaching success

A few years ago, much was written about measuring the return on investment (ROI) of coaching. Double and triple-digit percentages were marketed, but few were supported through peer-reviewed evidence. Annual industry surveys such as those of Sherpa Coaching reports how most organisations depend on the results of 360 feedback, well-being and engagement assessments, performance reviews and the impact on business (IOB) as more reliable and practical methods. IOB has been growing steadily in the past few years, relying on a causality approach between coaching outputs (such as awareness of my behaviour during conflict), outcomes (such as renewed respect for others’ opinions instead of conflict) and business results (such as profitable new product/service decisions or best approach towards unhappy customers, because we worked as a team).

Industry-specific coaches

As part of coach selection criteria, a coach is often asked if he/she has experience in the financial industry, the manufacturing industry, the publishing industry and so forth. Also, what level of previous experiences does the coach have in the specific industry? People’s opinions vary on this concept, depending on how they understand coaching dynamics and what kind of coaching they prefer. It may be ‘pure’ coaching on the one side of the sliding scale, and thus less industry-specific background and knowledge may be required. It may be more ‘directive’ coaching on the other side, where direct experience on an executive level in the specific industry may be required. Whichever is preferred, it is important for the coach to understand the business language being used, to understand the concepts and complexities of the specific business environment.


Many organisations have been upskilling and re-tooling their managers and leaders with the foundational aspects of coaching in the past few years. It is quite popular on supervisory level where first line managers receive training in the basic coaching skills such as questioning, listening, rapport building and goal setting. Most of these programmes are focused on performance improvement, therefore the GROW model is often the centre of the coaching approach. Managers can use these skills either as on-the-spot coaching or formal, scheduled coaching sessions.

Coaching is often also integrated into leadership development programmes. The focus of these programmes may be abilities such as responsibility, authority, influence, impact on business, complexity, authenticity and leadership style. Coaching of delegates is then used to enhance the learning through critical reflection on experience and experimentation, increasing commitment and confidence, thinking space about implementation of a new leadership style, etc. These coaching conversations bridge the academic, conceptual and pragmatic worlds. The greatest success with coaching in leadership development programmes is when the coaching is augmented and integrated into the curriculum and not implemented as purely an add-on to the training.

Interpersonal skills

Even though coaching is often used for performance improvement, especially on lower levels of the organisation, it is increasingly useful on all levels for the development of interpersonal skills. The application of emotional intelligence in relationship building is not only required in the board room or for the salesperson; it is as important in the call centre, on the manufacturing floor, in the open plan office of the finance department, in the airconditioned space of IT server room. Topics ideal for coaching discussions are self-confidence, work ethic, respectfulness, dependability, being receptive to feedback, ability to give constructive feedback, body language, diversity, collaboration and so on.

Coaching millennial leaders

Without intending to stereotype the millennial culture, coaching conversations can be useful for the broader requirements by millennial leaders. Career advancement and career choice is surely applicable to all generations, but focused attention through coaching is showing a positive influence on the engagement levels of the new generation in the workplace. With the older millennials now strongly approaching age 40 already, much of the focus is turning to younger millennial employees and leaders and how they could prepare for their role and future in the organisation; how they could shape and influence the direction and social impact of the organisation.

This article was compiled by COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa), www.comensa.org.za, a SAQA-recognised professional body for coaching and mentoring in South Africa. For more information on coaching and mentoring, contact our central office on 021 035 1777 or email administrator@comensa.org.za. With our gratitude to Jacques Myburgh, Chair of the COMENSA Research Portfolio Committee.

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