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Virtual coaching, AI and Coachbots – is this the future of coaching? Six new innovations from The OCM

Virtual coaching is becoming increasingly prevalent, and the potential of AI is a major emerging trend, according to The OCM’s Consultant Coach-mentors Sarah Tennant (pictured above) and Jon Horsley who share their top trends for the future of professional coaching.

Their views are supported by the findings of a report, “Coaching: Maximising Business Impact,” which is collaboration between The OCM and the Corporate Research Forum (CRF), that highlights the transformative role of technology in coaching, plus the rise of AI-driven Coachbots and immersive technologies, such as avatars in virtual reality environments.

Sarah said: “Coaching has become more accessible, reaching employees at various levels within organisations. Virtual coaching is significantly more common since the pandemic, and remains an important delivery mode, with research showing it is just as effective as face-to-face coaching. Technology is also transforming how coaching is organised. On demand coaching is part of this, and providers are making use of comprehensive online platforms to deliver, manage and evaluate their services.”

Jon Horsley

Jon added: “We see democratising access to coaching as a good thing, as there is still a place for high-end coaching provision.  However, it is important to be wary of hubris – Kodak was a pioneer in film photography, but it failed to recognise the digital revolution. The company clung to its traditional film business, underestimating the rapid adoption of digital cameras and smartphones. We must not underestimate the impact and potential of AI, and we are currently exploring potential solutions in this field.”

The OCM highlights five key trends and their implications for organisations.:

Expanded use of coaching – Organisations have increasingly turned to coaching over the past few years, and the research suggests that CRF members expect investment in coaching to continue to rise over the next two years. They highlighted a growing trend to use coaching with more thought and planning, particularly to advance organisational purpose and strategy, and complement executive development programmes.

Human-centric approach – Accelerated by the pandemic, there is a growing emphasis on reconciling personal well-being with organisational objectives, acknowledging the importance of holistic development and bringing the whole person to work. Leaders need to be more self-aware, authentic, resilient and comfortable with showing vulnerability. It also requires them to engage their employees around these qualities. The boundary between coaching and therapy, not always clear, is increasingly seen as a spectrum, with qualified practitioners offering a blend of coaching and therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness and stress management.

Strategic alignment and systemic thinking – Organisations are recognising the need to align coaching with broader strategic objectives, viewing coaching as a way of driving cultural change and support talent development. To use coaching in support of strategic intent requires standing back and thinking systemically about designing and delivering executive and/or team coaching programmes, by aligning coaching with a wider strategy or problem to solve, or a desired change. There is also a trend in using coaching within executive development programmes, to align coaching with organisational goals and foster leadership resilience in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world.

Team coaching – Focusing on “the leader as hero” and ignoring the fundamental role teams play in ensuring business success, is a big mistake. This has led to a focus on team coaching, requiring new and more sophisticated skills for coaches in managing group process and group dynamics. The accepted view that effective team coaching requires stability in the team and in the environment is being challenged by the realities of a VUCA world.  Balancing internally and externally facing perspectives is therefore critical.

The line manager as coach – Equipping line managers with coaching skills is key to ensuring effective management relationships, increasing staff performance, retention, motivation and satisfaction. The OCM has worked with many organisations seeking to shift behaviours and culture. They find providing these skills leads to managers being able to:

  • Empower teams and free up time for line managers to move away from getting too involved in the day-to-day detail.
  • Take a situational approach to conversations with reports, along a spectrum of directional to non-directional approaches.
  • Understand how to adopt a coaching approach in their day-to-day roles without adding time or complication.
  • Develop the core skills of listening and asking effective questions.
  • Build capabilities to provide constructive feedback to promote growth.
  • Foster a mindset shift towards enabling self-driven problem-solving.


Sarah added: “These themes illustrate the evolution of coaching over the past decade and offer insights into the future trajectory of the coaching profession, with the need for practitioners to adapt, innovate, and maintain quality standards in the face of technological advancements and market changes.”

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