Are you missing the trend for the future of coaching?
Coaching, as a profession, has grown dramatically over the past 25 years from around 5000 coaches in the 1990’s to a sector of more than 100,000 professional coaches.
Alongside this growth in coaches, the sector has been maturing. We can see its moving from a broadly craft industry delivering human to human coaching, often face to face, towards one where global digital providers are taking a larger share of the market, and where digital and AI are becoming increasingly important in helping enterprise organisations to scale coaching to their global communities.
At EZRA, we’ve have identified ten new trends for the future of coaching to follow in 2024, whether you’re a global digital coach, a commercial buyer for an enterprise organisation or just following market trends. These trends include utilising the impact of digital coaching, the integration of artificial intelligence, and a changing coach education. We’ll also take a peek into 2025 predictions and beyond to see what may be coming in the future of the coaching industry, from AR coaching to outdoors coaching.
Five predictions for 2024
1. The continued rise of digital coaching
Research (Passmore, 2021, 2023) has noted the quickening pace of the migration from face-to-face coaching to digital (online) delivery. This migration sped up rapidly between 2020-2021 and, while the pace of the move may have slowed, the trend continues to be driven by two forces:
The cost saving benefit for organisations,
and the convenience of digital coaching for both clients and coaches, which more than outweigh the perceived downsides.
More recent evidence (Michelin & Schermuly, 2023) has confirmed that digital coaching delivers the same results as coaching delivered through face-to-face sessions. Some have suggested that the future may be hybrid, with coaches and clients flipping between face to face and digital modes. However, Michelin & Schermuly (2023) suggest this model is less effective, and therefore is less likely to become a common feature in coaching practice. Instead, what is more likely is the coach and client will agree their preferred mode and stick to it.
2. The growth of AI-powered coaching
Generative AI was the rage in 2023 and there were (and to some extent still is) talks of how AI could replace the human coach. However, in 2024 we see that instead, generative AI will become a co-pilot, supporting, facilitating and enabling the client on their coaching journey. Generative AI can contribute as a co-pilot in a variety of ways:
In the matching processes, to help effectively identify the best team of coaches for an individual.
Helping the coach in recommending future learnings or aspects of their coaching to focus on, acting as a coach supervisor.
It can act as a co-coach, between coaching sessions, providing nudges, prompts and supportive reflections from the human coaching session.
It could also help clients in reflecting on their next steps in development as their formal human coaching sessions come to an end.
3. The use of big data
Technology helps to enable the collection and analysis of big data. With the development of data driven performance tools, we expect to see data playing an increasingly important role in coaching. Clients may be keen to understand the impact that the coaching process has from the start to finish for example, or seek insights on participation rates, the user experience and predictive insights about talent development or the intentions to quit. Technology has the capacity to help track and measure this through big data.
4. A shift in coach education
Coach education has tended to focus on coach competencies and on personal reflection. Both aspects will remain important in ICF and EMCC accreditations, but this year we predict a shift to see far more coaching training schools, introducing technology skills alongside skills of how to coach face-to-face. These may include a greater focus on digital delivery, online assessment, a greater engagement with digital tools as well as a growing emphasis on supervision as a key practice for all coaches.
The coaching education is likely to change to reflect the growing needs of the sector, with a greater understanding of evidence and data, learning to support the emergence of new roles client side (commissioning) and in delivering coaching (Passmore & Woodward, 2023).
5. A move towards more creative coaching
The future of the coaching industry is rapidly evolving. While at an enterprise level coaching buyers will be looking to digital providers to help them promote, track and deliver coaching programs, at an individual buyer level there is a growing fascination in creative and non-digital delivery of coaching – a ‘bifurcation of coaching’. This in part is driven by coaches fascinated by art, poetry, LEGO, nature, collage and other non-digital resources creating experiences for clients, as part of coaching. These creative sessions are more likely to focus on career development, wellbeing and health, in contract to the professional, performance talent retention delivery, which will remain the focus for enterprise commissioned coaching.
Predictions for 2025 and beyond
We’re starting to unpack 2024’s coaching trends, but what might be coming for 2025 and beyond? Here are our five predictions:
1. Coachbots – it’s likely that coachbots may struggle to achieve similar competency levels as human coaches in 2024, this is certainly true when it comes to professional and master coach levels. However, the pace of technological development suggests coachbots may be reaching these standards in 2025 or 2026. Clients may then have the choice to be coached by a human, a bot or a human-bot partnership, with the possibility of coachbots / AI coaching tools ‘accredited’ in the coaching world.
2. Outdoors Coaching - coaching in nature has continued to grow since the end of the pandemic and the national lockdowns. We expect to see a continued development of that trend, as individuals seek relief from their online professional lives spent on Zoom, Google Meets or Teams. This 'Zoom Fatigue Rebellion' is already gathering pace, made popular by coaches who enjoy the ‘ying’ outdoor break, to the ‘yang’ of their digital (online) coaching.
3. Codex coaches – when you combine the growth of Meta, the launch of Apple’s Vision Pro AU and development of Codex representations of individuals with global influencers, it suggests it will be possible to talk in virtual reality with anyone, from ex-US Presidents to globally recognised sports team coaches, or any celebrity! When their codex’s are combined with Generative AI Coachbot technologies, there will be the opportunity to experience a augmented reality experience delivered through a bot, but with the voice, face and features of the celebrity.
4. Equality, diversity & inclusion - this remains a priority for many organisations, but what we mean by the term diversity continues to grow and develop. There is now a recognition that we need to look at the whole individual, not solely their skin colour, gender or ‘disability’ but also how intersectionality results in these factors playing out differently for each individual, from class and educational opportunities to neurodiversity and identity.
5. Health coaching - while coaching has developed in the health sector, we can see the potential for it to grow further in the future as an essential ingredient in preventive interventions, as well as supporting patient recovery.
What's certain as we stand in 2024 is that coaching has a bright future: a growing evidence base, diversity in coaching providers and experiences available and a growing base of leaders and individuals who have experienced coaching for themselves, who then become advocates for its adoption.
Michelin, N. & Schermuly, C. (2023) Online, offline, or both? The importance of coaching format for side effects in business coaching. Journal of Managerial Psychology, doi/10.1108/JMP-01-2023-0068
Passmore, J. (2021) Future Trends in Coaching: Executive Report 2021. Henley on Thames: Henley Business School. ISBN 978-1-912473-32-8
Passmore, J. & Woodward, W. (2023) Coaching education: Wake up to the new digital coaching and AI revolution! International Coaching Psychology Review, 18(1), 58-72. https://doi.org/10.53841/bpsicpr.2023.18.1.58
Passmore, J. Liu, Q. Tee, D. & Tewald, S. (2023) The impact of Covid-19 on coaching practice: Results from a global coach survey. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Practice and Research. https://doi.org/10.1080/17521882.2022.2161923