3 Keys to Running a Sustainable Digital Coaching Program

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a beautiful garden, feeling a breeze on my face and hearing the leaves of the trees gently rustling. In this serene and reflective space, my memory turns to the past activities I’ve undertaken, and I start making two mental lists: one for activities I sustained to the end, and one for activities I quit prematurely. My first list is relatively short, but my second list includes more items than I can keep track of.

How can you overcome the challenge of sustaining activity?

I hear birds chirping and dogs barking in the distance, and I think about my work as a learning experience designer. It occurs to me that this question is incredibly important when developing and rolling out digital coaching programs.

A well-crafted digital coaching program can help people initiate and sustain specific behavior changes. However, before automated coaching can work its magic, people first have to start and continue engaging with it for some length of time. So here’s the paradox: people need to sustainably change their behavior in order to sustainably change their behavior.

If you intend to harness the benefits of digital coaching in your organization, it’s worth considering this paradox and how to overcome it.

I’ve seen my fair share of brilliant programs fail, I’ve also seen some notable successes, and I’ve learned many lessons from comparing the two.

For now, I’ll share with you three specific lessons I’ve learned about getting the best results from automated coaching within an organization:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

I’ve written it three times and included an exclamation mark because it’s that important. Digital coaching is more likely to achieve its purpose in organizations that have extensive communication channels and well-defined strategies. These organizations communicate to create anticipation for the automated coaching program, to remind users to start a new session, to start discussions around questions raised and insights gained during the process… and so much more.

A good communication strategy keeps the digital coaching program front of mind, and creates hooks that reel users back in to activate behavior change.

2. Identify and nurture your champions

There are usually a few individuals in a group of users who are naturally enthusiastic about a specific digital coaching program. They have immense intrinsic motivation and need little or no nudging to sustain their own engagement. These are the people we want as champions. They are the ones who can motivate the rest of the group and drive the activation of change in their behavior.

Organizations that run successful automated coaching programs identify these champions early, acknowledge them consistently, and create opportunities for them to communicate and transfer their energy and motivation to others.

3. Include the leaders

Thinking back to the first major digital coaching program that I worked on, I received feedback that I’ll never forget. The sentiment of the users was unanimous. It boiled down to this: “We love the experience and are learning so much, but our line managers should really be doing this too.”

This instantly made perfect sense to me. Not only do leaders set the example that others follow, they are also the ones who can create an empowering space where others can apply and refine their insights and skills.

People are more likely to sustain their engagement with a program if they see that their leaders value it, and if they feel that they’ll be able to meaningfully apply the lessons they learn.

I’ve mentioned just three of the many possible strategies that can be used. In the same way that being here in this garden has inspired me to reflect on this, I hope that what I’ve shared here will inspire you to do the same.

So what other strategies could you use to unlock the full benefit of digital coaching and activate behavior change at scale?
I look forward to seeing your comments below.