Executive coaching is no longer just for the executives

In an effort to boost retention and engagement, companies are rolling out access to executive coaching to all of their employees.

An illustration of a whistle.

Coaching is among personalized and exclusive benefits employers chose to offer their workforce during the pandemic.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Executive coaching has long been a quiet force behind leaders in the tech industry, but that premium benefit, often only offered to the top executives, is changing. A new wave of executive coaching services are hitting the market aimed at workers who would have traditionally been excluded from access.

Tech companies know that in order to stay competitive in today’s still-hot job market, it pays to offer more personalized and exclusive benefits. Chief People Officer Annette Reavis says Envoy, a workplace tech company, offers all employees access to a broad range of opportunities. “We offer everyone an L&D credit that they can spend on outside learning, whether it's executive coaching or learning a new coding language. We do this so that people can have access to and learn skills specific to their job.”

Nick Goldberg, founder and CEO of the coaching platform Ezra agrees that a one-size-fits all approach to benefits doesn’t work anymore. “I think part of the reason why coaching and all of these companies are getting into this space is because, as human beings, we are so used to having everything completely personalized. And yet, when we turn up in our office, most of the stuff we do is not personalized,” said Golberg.

Ezra, like many other young coaching startups, recognized that employers were looking for to offer their entire workforce during the pandemic, and if the numbers say anything, the desire among corporate partners has persisted.“I think part of the reason why coaching and all of these companies are getting into this space is because, as human beings, we are so used to having everything completely personalized. And yet, when we turn up in our office, most of the stuff we do is not personalized,” said Nick Goldberg, founder and CEO of the coaching platform Ezra.

Ezra, like many other young coaching startups, recognized that employers were looking for more personalized and exclusive benefits to offer their entire workforce during the pandemic, and if the numbers say anything, the desire among corporate partners has persisted.

This year alone, Ezra is expected to deliver about 250,000 coaching sessions in 86 countries to a variety of different types of groups within organizations, according to Goldberg. The coaching firm saw a major pick up in interest during the pandemic.

“We can see how many sessions on average people have per month, and during COVID it went up by 30%,” he said. Ezra’s leaders also saw an increased frequency in the amount of coaching sessions people were attending during the height of the pandemic. No longer were people solely logging on to strategize their careers or develop management skills, but rather to talk about what was going on outside of work.

“They just wanted a place to go and download and even talk about a kid who was driving them mad,” said Goldberg.

Jessica Wolf, the CEO and co-founder of coaching marketplace Skye, has observed a similar interest among employees seeking more career-related coaching that also touches on well-being. Skye, which officially launched late last year, has a primarily female user and coaching base, and in addition to offering traditional career and leadership coaching, participants can also choose to focus on emotional well-being and personal relationships.

“The biggest issue for women and why there's such unequal representation at every level is access and support. And particularly access to support when investing in their growth,” said Wolf.

Many of these services were perfected and embraced during the pandemic as more people became familiar with telehealth. Workers became comfortable with dialing into a personal appointment from home, and video meeting technology has improved greatly over the past two years, said Goldberg. Wolf said democratizing the access by enhancing platform technology, lowering the cost and expanding access to once-exclusive networks has also made a major difference.

She also believes the coaching industry has strongly benefited from the widespread adoption of therapy (referrals to psychologists for mental health services almost doubled from 2020 to 2021, according to the American Psychological Association). The perception of coaching being reserved exclusively for executives who need performance or management improvement has also changed.

“Very seldom do we have executives coming for a coach because they are not performing well on their job,” said Wolf. “It's always very much the people that [leaders] feel are high potential and they eagerly want to invest time and money into so that they can retain them and they can see them improve in certain areas.”

In addition to retention and investment in individual employees, a leader might consider deploying a coaching service to a large swath of employees in order to help with change management.

Goldberg said change is one of the most popular coaching focuses requested by users on Ezra, especially as it relates to people managing teams and taking on jobs in tech that didn’t exist just a few years ago.

“Managers are taking on people whose jobs they never did,” said Goldberg. “A lot of the time, you rose through your career doing the jobs that people did, and then you became a manager of those people. Bringing on a new tech function or a new product team is difficult because you never did that job and you can't just call on your experience.”

He shared that having a coach can help a manager learn how to listen, empathize, learn and influence more effectively: all imperative skills as the roles within tech continue to shift with new innovation.

Goldberg also views coaching as a major tool for not only investing in new and diverse talent, but also teaching managers how to improve equity and inclusion within their organizations. Some companies are also deploying Ezra to help managers from various backgrounds understand unconscious bias, inclusivity and how to hire differently, Goldberg said.

Last, some leaders are utilizing coaching as a tool to help employees further their education. Leland, a coaching marketplace that focuses primarily on helping people get into top MBA programs in addition to career coaching, aims to reach people who don’t have pre-existing networks in such places. Much like Skye, Leland offers coaching at lower prices to reach more people. The average Leland participant has a budget of about $1,000, said John Koelliker, CEO and co-founder of Leland: a small fee in an industry in which people can pay upwards of $20,000 to attend admissions- and executive-focused coaching.

Drake Pooley, a coach at Leland, said he was unaware how many people were using coaching to get into the top business programs until after he was accepted into Stanford’s MBA program. He views a lot of the new coaching services on the market as a way to bring more transparency to the process of how people are actually rising through their careers.

“There are so many great people out there that do not really stand a chance unless they get help,” he said.

While hiring an outside coaching service has its benefits, Reavis from Envoy said that sometimes the best place to find coaches is within your own company: "These courses are great, but sometimes they move too slow — an online course over a week versus what you can learn in an hour or two from a colleague." Reavis recommends not ignoring the talent that companies already have in-house. "Whether it's working through debugging issues at a hackathon or having the CFO give a stocks 101 talk," Reavis told Protocol, "it's about what we can learn from each other."

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee mobile application. When we arrive at the coffee shop, we expect that our chosen brew will be on the counter a few minutes later. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as streaming data “in motion” instantaneously, you, and millions of customers, won’t have the in-the-moment experiences we all expect.

Keep Reading Show less
Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.

How the internet got privatized and how the government could fix it

Author Ben Tarnoff discusses municipal broadband, Web3 and why closing the “digital divide” isn’t enough.

The Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative, which kicked off in May, will roll out grant programs to expand and improve broadband infrastructure, teach digital skills and improve internet access for “everyone in America by the end of the decade.”

Decisions about who is eligible for these grants will be made based on the Federal Communications Commission’s broken, outdated and incorrect broadband maps — maps the FCC plans to update only after funding has been allocated. Inaccurate broadband maps are just one of many barriers to getting everyone in the country successfully online. Internet service providers that use government funds to connect rural and low-income areas have historically provided those regions with slow speeds and poor service, forcing community residents to find reliable internet outside of their homes.

Keep Reading Show less
Aditi Mukund
Aditi Mukund is Protocol’s Data Analyst. Prior to joining Protocol, she was an analyst at The Daily Beast and NPR where she wrangled data into actionable insights for editorial, audience, commerce, subscription, and product teams. She holds a B.S in Cognitive Science, Human Computer Interaction from The University of California, San Diego.

How I decided to exit my startup’s original business

Bluevine got its start in factoring invoices for small businesses. CEO Eyal Lifshitz explains why it dropped that business in favor of “end-to-end banking.”

"[I]t was a realization that we can't be successful at both at the same time: You've got to choose."

Photo: Bluevine

Click banner image for more How I decided series

Bluevine got its start in fintech by offering a modern version of invoice factoring, the centuries-old practice where businesses sell off their accounts receivable for up-front cash. It’s raised $240 million in venture capital and about $700 million in total financing since its founding in 2013 by serving small businesses. But along the way, it realized it was better to focus on the checking accounts and lines of credit it provided customers than its original product. It now manages some $500 million in checking-account deposits.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at

The Roe decision could change how advertisers use location data

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restricting use of location data. But that may be changing.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, the likelihood for location data to be used against people suddenly shifted from a mostly hypothetical scenario to a realistic threat. Although location data has a variety of purposes — from helping municipalities assess how people move around cities to giving reliable driving directions — it’s the voracious appetite of digital advertisers for location information that has fueled the creation and growth of a sector selling data showing who visited specific points on the map, when, what places they came from and where they went afterwards.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing. The overturning of Roe not only puts the wide availability of location data for advertising in the spotlight, it could serve as a turning point compelling the digital ad industry to take action to limit data associated with sensitive places before the government does.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories