Micro-coaching: Solving 'People Challenges' at Scale

70% of change management programs fail. 88% of people do not apply the learning from training to their work. On average, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy. Even if the exact numbers are unreliable, one thing is crystal clear. Failure is the rule, not the exception.

Intuitively everyone agrees that 'your people are your most important asset'. Yet, investments in people are common sense but not common practice. They are hard to measure and we lack effective tools to see clear results. Therefore most HR departments are powerful only in theory.

I would love to see the world in which managers see a 10X result from investing in their people and investments are as easy and clear to make as in technology. To make that world a reality we need tools that bring 100X results that even the blind will see.

Coaching is one such candidate. According to several studies, coaching brings ROI of 529% or more, it boosts productivity 88% in comparison to a 22.4% increase in productivity after management training, and it shows a 55%+ improvement in leadership evaluations. If you aren’t convinced yet, you might also want to feast your eyes on a few meta-analyses looking at a large variety of coaching studies. The message seems clear. Coaching in its many forms is an effective tool for a large variety of organizational pursuits, but especially for improving goal achievement and performance.

Yet, coaching isn't affordable for most businesses. In western Europe and North America, the price for coaching can fall anywhere from $100 to $1000 per hour. That’s why a layman is more familiar with the term 'executive coaching', which is the prerogative of senior executives. Any other type of coaching is quite rare.

We invented a new approach to coaching in order to solve the scalability challenge of coaching. We call it micro-coaching. It all started with a simple idea: 'what if we do coaching via chat?' The idea developed to something much more than just coaching via text, but I will tell more about that later.

Innovation 1: doing coaching via chat

What if we do coaching via chat in Teams or Slack, instead of doing it face to face or via a video call? Suddenly, one coach can handle up to 50 people per week in comparison to the traditional 10-20 clients per coach. Why? Because communication via chat is a lot less draining than face to face.

Does coaching via chat work as effectively as face to face? We haven't done comparative studies yet, but our observations and feedback tell us that it definitely brings a load of value to participants.

For some people, it might take time to get used to typing everything. Nonetheless, most of the people say that writing things down helps them to clarify their thoughts. And that coaching via chat is less emotionally taxing for them and is even possible to do while commuting. Here is one of our customers:

"I would rate the service at 9 out of 10. The why is twofold. One is the low threshold compared to "full-blown" coaching. The time investment is small. Compared to the other extreme, a calendar reminder: the interactivity and the "there's someone on the other end" feeling creates a bit of pressure to take it seriously."

Innovation 2: data collection

Coaching is a bottom-up approach. It's focused on the individual. Doing coaching via chat with micro-coaching actually brings a whole new dimension to it: using data to improve the culture and processes of the company with a top-down approach.

Doing coaching via chat allows us to collect enormous amounts of qualitative data - the conversation history. When you coach 50+ people and have all the conversation history after a month of work, it's easy to anonymize data, spot patterns, and deliver an in-depth report. We report on the coaching progress, yes, but that's not the most interesting part. Our clients are repeatedly surprised about the blind spots and challenges we uncover.

Why aren't these insights found through employee surveys? My guess is 1. Lack of trust, 2. it's hard to uncover the root causes of the problem in a survey.

Innovation 3: chatbot elements

How do you scale coaching via chat even more? A chatbot is an intuitive idea. Lately, chatbots got a bad reputation due to customer service failures. What if we build a different chatbot, though? One that asks questions and provides coaching exercises instead of providing answers.

We don’t have complete faith in fully automated solutions, at least yet. Chatbots still aren't able to deliver an experience that is personal enough, and also it's harder to commit to homework when talking to a chatbot. That's why a hybrid solution seems more feasible. For example, a participant could have one session with a coach per month, and then do 3 weekly chatbot exercises before the next coaching session.

In sum

Coaching is an effective tool. Unfortunately, most of the companies can't afford it. That's why we invented micro-coaching, making it accessible to potentially every employee. Another challenge with coaching is that it is overly focused on the individual and not enough on the organization. Micro-coaching allows us to use conversation history to find patterns and blind spots that we then report on to the organization's management, often to their surprise.

We need better tools for organizational and people development. Our hope is to develop micro-coaching as one such tool that can combine both bottom-up and top-bottom approaches.


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