Companies like Facebook and LinkedIn are paying for employees to get on-the-clock 'life coaching'

  • A startup called BetterUp is providing a hybrid of counseling and executive coaching to employees of tech companies in Silicon Valley.
  • The coaching aims to develop soft skills like stress management and collaboration that help employees be happier and more effective in and out of the office.
  • Millennials spend more time working than previous generations, so finding fulfillment at work is a crucial part of their job satisfaction.

Millennials make less money than their parents did at the same age, yet they work more hours, forfeit more vacation days, and retire much later than previous generations.

In an effort to keep employees feeling (and performing) their best in those conditions, companies like Facebook and LinkedIn have started to pay for on-the-clock “coaching” through a startup called BetterUp. Employees meet virtually with licensed therapists and executive coaches to work on skills related to collaboration, stress management, and goal-setting.

They’re also welcome to vent as needed about burnout, relationship troubles, crummy managers, and everything in between.

“It’s about moving the needle in their personal life and their work life,” Alexi Robichaux, cofounder and CEO of BetterUp, told Business Insider.

Founded in 2013, BetterUp sells its services exclusively to large organisations with over 10,000 employees. Its clients include Salesforce, Capital One, Square, Logitech, and even Buffalo Wild Wings. Chief executives, mid-level managers, and even lower-level employees who show high potential can all opt into the service, which honours a strict confidentiality code.

Traditionally, counseling and executive coaching have been siloed, with separate providers. BetterUp’s approach is to coach “the whole person” – and have their employer pay for it. The company hopes to challenge the reputation of coaching as a hippy-dippy practice wherein “life coaches” (some with dubious qualifications) dole out advice online and charge a premium.

“Most of working America thinks that the only coaching is life-coaching, which is like some dude in Alabama on Skype and you have no idea if he’s wearing pants,” Robichaux said.

Better up app screenshots 1BetterUp

When an employee signs up for BetterUp, they find a coach by swiping through profiles on an app. (Sound familiar?) The coaches’ profiles describe their training and areas of expertise. They range from therapists and psychologists to coaches certified by the International Coach Federation. Employees video-chat with their coach through the app on a weekly or monthly schedule and follow up by text between sessions.

BetterUp aims to develop soft skills such as regulating your emotions, finding your flow, communicating a clear vision, and fostering collaboration, which are all arguably skills that are as useful at home as at work. The slogan reads, “Thrive Personally, Inspire Professionally.”

Someone who comes to gripe about a micro-managing manager has an opportunity to complain, but is also prompted to think about why it bothers them so much, and to develop behaviours that support the manager’s needs. A person who struggles with anxiety in the workplace might be prescribed a meditation regime through an app like Headspace.

Better up app screenshots 2BetterUp

Every three months, BetterUp sends employees a questionnaire so the startup can track specific data points, like employees’ assessments of their focus, problem solving, influence, “mental agility,” and “presence,” over time.

BetterUp says that 95% of members report being highly satisfied with the service (though Business Insider could not independently verify that number). The company also says that most companies using the service opt to increase their payment in the first year in order to double the number of employees who can participate. (Pricing is based on the number of users.)

Robichaux imagines that someday, BetterUp could be more than a tech company perk. If the model takes off as he hopes, coaching could become part of an employer-provided benefits package, along with health insurance.

“Millennials are the first generation to unashamedly come to the conclusion, ‘If work is taking more of my time, then it should be contributing more to my human fulfillment,'” Robichaux said. “It’s only fair, right?”

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