Yannis Niebelschuetz is co-founder and managing director Coachhub, a Berlin-based startup offering a wide range of digital coaching courses. Last month the company won a further $4 million in VC funding, bringing its total backing to $21m. Here Niebelschuetz tells Red Herring about engagement-driven management, e-learning and how firms should really be seeing their employee turnover.
Please describe the founding idea behind Coachhub, and any issues you faced when first forming your business plan.
My co-founder and I have always been passionate about business coaching and its direct impact on employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement and retention. When my co-founder and I launched our first company together over ten years ago, we hired business coaches to help us nurture the management team into effective, inspiring leaders.
And even back then when coaching wasn’t as prevalent or popular as it is now becoming, I saw first-hand how it actually transformed high performers and managers into the kinds of leaders who motivate, empower, inspire and instill respect and trust among teams. That’s powerful.
While face-to-face coaching made sense for the working environment 10 years ago, that isn’t the case anymore. It can be very costly, time-consuming and doesn’t accommodate the digital-first behaviors of most employees today, who use their mobile devices for every possible task (both for work and personal). It’s not future-proof and contradicts the rise in digital workplaces and e-learning.
On top of that, coaching has historically had a stigma attached to it, as it was often used as a last-resort tactic to curb poor performance or address behavioral challenges. But the true value and impact of coaching today has less to do with fixing problems and more to do with building highly-engaged, performance-driven and fulfilled teams who genuinely enjoy coming into work every day.
Changing the perception and understanding of coaching – and why it should be part of HR’s long-term recruitment and retention strategy – is extremely important to us. And by providing organizations with the most robust digital tools, qualified coaches and data/analytics, we are determined to demonstrate just how impactful, measurable and scalable coaching can be.
How vital was it for you to base the company in Berlin – especially as you have such an internationally-scalable digital product?
We were very purposeful in choosing Berlin as our headquarters for a number of reasons. For one, it has a diverse community and the world’s top international talent flock to this city. Plus, it’s become known for being a breeding ground for entrepreneurs and has a large concentration of capital. If you add the vibrant energy of the city into the mix, we wouldn’t want to pick any other city as our headquarters.
Which coaching and management techniques are most often missing for mid-level company employees – and how does Coachhub bridge that divide?
Despite the rise in digital workplaces and e-learning, we still see many organizations latching onto traditional methods of professional development, such as seminars/workshops, classroom-style training and online courses. But these are generic, one-size-fits-all and usually only implemented once a year as a tick-box exercise for HR. They don’t take into account the individual professional development needs, priorities, challenges and goals of each employee.
This is something our coaching platform can address and resolve, by providing employees (regardless of their department, role and level of seniority) with access to the most robust digital tool, qualified coaches and data/analytics to guide them through their personal development goals and set milestones/achievements along the way.
By doing so, employees will be happier, more productive, less stressed and more engaged with their colleagues. And when this happens, they will feel more fulfilled, more trusting and more loyal to their employers. As a result, organizations will see their engagement and retention rates improve drastically. It’s a cyclical effect and one in which our platform plays an integral role.
Could you give me a quick example of a Berlin-based case study which led to an ROI for the company using your platform?
When music and audio streaming provider SoundCloud came to us for help in building out a coaching program for their global workforce, they had very specific needs and criteria that needed to be met. First, they needed a digital tool that was easy to use, dynamic and could be adaptable to several languages and time zones (to match their employees’ needs).
Second, they wanted to create a coaching program that was personalized to match the individualized professional development needs, goals and priorities of each employee (rather than traditional, classroom-style, one-size-fits-all training). It has been seen as a success within SoundCloud’s HR department.
According to Aleks Sibilia, Senior Manager of Learning & Organisational Development at SoundCloud, “CoachHub’s approach perfectly supports the development of our managers and, in my opinion, should definitely be a part of modern management development.”
How does your company plan to use its latest funding round? How important is it to scale the business quickly?
We plan to add over 100 new staff across multiple departments, including sales, marketing, product development and coaching relations, just to name a few. We are also looking to bring on behavioural scientists who will help us bridge the world of science and coaching to better educate organizations on the importance and value of coaching to solve their business/HR pain points.
2020 is an important year for us – we want to be strategically focused in everything we do and allocate the right resources, budgets and priorities that will make an impact on our business and position us as the global leader in talent development.
Is employee turnover and onboarding still something you believe most brands undervalue?
I wouldn’t say that organizations undervalue employee turnover. It’s actually one of the biggest priorities for organizations across every industry sector and country. But most organizations still look at the problem of turnover through traditional glasses and use old-school methods like seminars/workshops, classroom-style training and online courses. They may do so because they simply don’t understand the value of coaching yet or they may have preconceptions about the costs and ease of implementation of digital coaching platforms.
Historically, there has also been a stigma associated with coaching, where it’s been used as a last-resort tactic to curb poor behaviour or improve performance of teams/leaders. But as recent articles in the Financial Times and Forbes have shown, the demand for business coaching is extensive and growing at a fast rate. By offering mobile coaching sessions to employees, organizations can tap into the existing mobile-first behaviors and lifestyles of their workforce, while simultaneously helping them become the best versions of themselves and reach their full potential.
Coaching, in my opinion, should also be seen as the new must-have HR benefit. Superficial perks like free lunches, massages and gym memberships are nice to have, but don’t make any real impact on employee engagement and retention. This is why we want recruiters and HR/onboarding specialists to think of and offer coaching as a key recruitment strategy to attract the best talent – and retain them.