Thabiso Baloyi: Addressing the digital divide in coaching

Thabiso Baloyi works with Awakening Excellence and specialises in coaching for business,
career and personal empowerment and growth.

Prior to the pandemic, coaches and their clients would engage predominately on a face-to-face basis. Much like any other skills development session or even therapy, being physically present in a room together is thought to be the most efficient way to ensure skills transfer and for the client to
feel heard, seen and understood.

The pandemic turned this notion on its head, driving coaches – like the rest of the world’s professionals – to quickly adapt to doing coaching sessions over video conferencing platforms.

However, says Thabiso Baloyi, this shift created another challenge for the industry’s small businesses and private coaching professionals in the process.

“Yes, there was an increase in interest around coaching interventions, but we found that big
corporates would approach other big institutions for coaching instead of small businesses and
private coaches,” says Thabiso Baloyi. “There was a perception that the bigger coaching institutions
offered more state-of-the-art facilities in terms of video conferencing for remote coaching sessions,
which boosted their credibility.”

It’s true that platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom are an extra cost – particularly if a small
business isn’t already signed up for certain software packages that grant them access to Teams, and
Zoom charges a fee for unlimited live video chatting. A small business or private coach may not be in
the position to afford the added expense, especially during the pandemic when business was already

On the other hand, WhatsApp calls and video chats for example allowed many coaches to engage with clients
for free. The problem then was that clients were faced with the high cost of data in order to attend
these sessions, which was not always feasible.

“Our industry depends on communication, and these factors caused a great deal of disruption
especially for the smaller players in the industry, many of which will have gone out of business as a
result,” says Baloyi.

There are, however, many other merits to working with small coaching businesses that South
Africa’s large corporate would do well to remember. These include:

  • Flexibility – small businesses can vary coaching hours to suit their clients, while large businesses often adhere to stricter working hours.
  • Innovation – Small businesses can quickly adapt to new technology and digital platforms, where corporates might need to recover the costs of their legacy systems before considering new technology.
  • Lower coaching fees as overheads are kept to a minimum
  • Supporting the growth of the SMME sector
  • Better at managing client relationships and affording the client focused attention
  • Meeting B-BBEE scorecard points
  • Small coaching businesses and private coaches have the same qualifications, experience and ability as any other business

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