Remote Coaching – Reasons and Challenges
Remote work, telecommuting, working-from-home… you’ve seen the terms bouncing around for years now, with a big uptick in recent weeks as companies all over the world are arranging to maintain a form of “business as usual” without all their employees reporting to the office. Regardless of the current reason behind these efforts, working remotely is an increasingly popular option many employers are experimenting with.
As the leading agile training and coaching organization in the U.S., we’ve devoted a lot of time, effort, and resources to figuring out the most effective ways to coach, train, and mentor individuals, teams, and entire organizations toward business agility. So, it comes as no surprise that interest in virtual training and coaching services — where the coach, those being coached, or all of the above work remotely — is needed as well, as companies are adjusting to new working environments.
Cprime has been offering virtual coaching, training, and mentoring sessions in various forms for years now, so this isn’t a new or novel service. But, there’s been a clear shift recently in our customers’ and prospects’ level of interest in these options. And, while we’ve found it to be very successful and enjoyable for everyone involved, there’s no arguing that coaching or training people remotely carries its own set of challenges that need to be met.
So, we wanted to dive into our remote services from our customers’ standpoint, paying special attention to both the benefits and the challenges they’ve experienced. We spoke to a number of our most experienced coaches and trainers, all of whom have worked extensively, both in-person and remotely, under varying circumstances.
In this first article, we’ll discuss both the personal and business reasons behind the remote working trend, and how this translates to the decision to utilize remote coaching sessions. Then, we’ll highlight some of the challenges faced by our coaches and the customer team members they helped. In future articles, we’ll look at tactics our coaches have used over the years, including tools, technology, and methodology. We’ll also explore remote training, which is similar but definitely has its own set of unique skills and requirements. Finally, we’ll look at some common myths and misconceptions about remote coaching and training that experience has firmly dispelled.
What’s behind the growing explosion of remote work?
A survey facilitated by LinkedIn in 2019 found that nearly half of American professionals work from home at least one day per week, while a full 82% would like to do so. 67% of hiring managers report being asked about remote working opportunities when talking to new hire prospects. Considering the potential upside of working from home, these numbers are not surprising.
Another survey from Owl Labs noted that “the reasons respondents said they decided to work remotely were better work-life balance (91 percent), increased productivity/better focus (79 percent), less stress (78 percent), and to avoid a commute (78 percent).”
And, it’s not just a matter of being able to sleep in a little more and work in your P.J.’s. The same Owl Labs survey highlighted tangible business benefits linked to remote work that have been noted in numerous other studies as well:
In comparison to their on-site colleagues, employees who regularly work remotely…
- Are happier and less stressed
- Enjoy better work-life balance
- Are more productive
- Stay with their companies longer
- Are prepared to work longer hours than on-site workers
So, both employees and employers have valid reasons to pursue remote working. As a result, the trend is accelerating.
It’s important to note, however, that the survey results described above are based on responses from a wide swath of people in various positions and industries. When we narrow the focus to remote coaching, do the benefits translate?
Is remote coaching equally beneficial?
We reached out to our community of agile and lean coaches with an informal survey of our own, and found that the benefits were somewhat different, but equally positive. As to the end result of virtual coaching sessions, the consensus was that students came away from the programs just as well trained and eager to move forward as those who attended on-site programs.
Additionally, our coaches shared the following comments based on their personal experiences:
“I believe remote coaching (where attendees are remote) offers customers a far better experience than traditional approaches. It’s inherently more personal because the attendee isn’t part of a classroom or crowd, they’re focused on their own learning experience.”
“Recorded sessions, remote collaborative tools, assessments, remote communities of practice, robust deliverable content… all these tools and tactics help enhance the offering for attendees who take full advantage of them.”
“Just the reduction in travel expenses can be a huge plus for more budget-conscious customers. This is especially powerful when customers go into the coaching arrangement with reservations as to its real value — they’re inevitably impressed in the end.”
What unique challenges do remote coaches and customers face?
The challenges linked with remote coaching opportunities are a fairly even mix. On one hand, there are legitimate issues caused by physical separation and/or the technology the service relies on. On the other hand, there are less quantifiable issues that are more rooted in the participants’ attitudes, behaviors, and biases. While a good coach will have tools and methods on hand to battle both of these, real success is only going to come when both sides meet in the middle.
For example, here are some legitimate challenges our coaches have experienced themselves or worked with customers to overcome:
- Technology hurdles – While dozens of quality video conferencing and collaboration tools exist to help facilitate a remote coaching session, far more exist that are low quality, glitchy, or difficult to use. Feature sets vary dramatically, as does platform reliability. Adding to the challenge, some enterprise customers with aging tech stacks hesitate to embrace cloud-based solutions, which narrows the options considerably.
- Lack of experience with remote work – Although it’s incredibly popular today, remote work has not become ubiquitous. Many large companies still expect and promote traditional formats. So, even if a remote option would be less expensive, more efficient, and just as effective, they may not have the experience to recognize that. And, their schedules and workflows may not support it either.
- Logistical complications – The fact that remote coaching sessions can be accessed by anyone around the world is one of its greatest benefits. But, it’s also a significant challenge when you factor in coordinating schedules across time zones. Even when the team being coached is co-located, it’s not always easy for a coach who’s not physically present to get schedules coordinated and reduce interruptions.
- A lack of trust – One of the most common executive/managerial arguments against remote coaching is the largely inaccurate belief that, without an in-person interaction, the coach, students, or both will somehow take advantage of the situation and fail to give it their all. As noted above, years of evidence from thousands of remote employees has proven they are usually more productive and engaged than those in the office. But, facts don’t always sway a firmly held emotional belief. This is a cultural issue, and may go deeper than any one coach or trainer can reach.
These are just examples, and each organization likely has its own unique challenges to consider as well. In the next article in this series, we’ll address remote training classes and the unique pros and cons in that realm. Later, we’ll look into how our coaches and trainers have dealt with these and other challenges, and which tools and methods they rely on to ensure a remote coaching or training session is as effective as it can be.
If you’d like to dig deeper into the remote services Cprime offers, click the link below and explore.