The Variable Economics of Dispersed Learning

  • Dan White
  • February 18th, 2021

Variations in currency and exchange rates across the globe can make the economics of dispersed learning programs a big business challenge. Dan White, the head of Ezra's Impact Lab, talks about adapting approaches to live up to the motto of making coaching accessible to everyone, wherever they are in the world.

The Economics Of Dispersed Learning

We have an overwhelming obsession at Ezra – we’re here to do one thing: democratise coaching. Having a coach is wonderful. I’ve missed my coach recently as she had to deal with some personal things and I’ve been consumed by the need to home school two children, alongside the job of running Ezra’s Impact Lab. It’s been great getting back to being coached.

I work better with a coach. Without my coach, I go blunt.

And as we know, all too often leadership coaching, and all kinds of exotic, expensive development interventions end up in the hands of people whose privilege means they didn’t really need the boost to their careers it brings. We need to get coaching to everyone. Everywhere. Now. We believe passionately that this matters.

One of the challenges we face as we attempt to democratise coaching and create consistency of experience for learners, wherever they are, are exchange rates and the differences in costs associated with different markets. This topic deserves attention because the way we think and our expectations about market rates can have a big impact on the developmental opportunities that people get.

Recently we were talking with about how we make coaching accessible and affordable in all kinds of economic contexts.

We are truly global in our approach. We are based everywhere with a network of thousands of ICF accredited coaches in every corner of the world. We agree different rates for our coaches wherever they are to reflect different market conditions. Some countries have higher rates, some lower and this reflects an array of factors such as cost of living and the availability of accredited coaches.

What we see is that there is not always a strong correlation between the cost of living in a given country and the costs associated with procuring good coaches. This is driven by similar factors that have propelled Ndjamena in Chad to become the 15th most expensive city to live in the world. Chad’s GDP is around $700/person, compared to around $65,000/person for the USA. That’s a big skew.

This is a problem I’ve experienced long before I started working at Ezra. I remember encountering a development budget in India of less than 10% that of Europe, but trainer costs that were broadly similar. Issues include:

  • A lack of good quality development professionals in some markets
  • Pressures on these markets to retain their “low-cost” badge, and the competitiveness to secure contracts even within businesses
  • A lack of emphasis on the importance of development

All of these factors combine to conspire against talented people who do not live in wealthy countries. I believe it is important that the players involved in this situation all look at themselves to work out what can be done.

Certainly there is more we can do. We can establish coaching academies in developing markets to tap into local talent to encourage more people into coaching and we can look at ways of managing profit margins differently across markets.

But I also believe there is work here for corporations, especially those with people spread all around the world. I used to work for a large pharmaceutical organisation that was committed to equal market access to their products. In 2011 we took the then rather radical step to mirror that commitment in our approach to access to development opportunity.

Ten years ago we took the decision to give all 5,000 director level leaders access to the same learning experience. To achieve this we charged country training budgets in the West and Japan around 30-50% more in order to make the training available everywhere at a cost that was in line with local GDP and training budgets.

My finance business partner certainly didn’t thank me in terms of the complexity this decision drove – but she was fully behind it.

We all were, because it was the right thing to do. That’s the thinking that leads at Ezra, from the design of our coaching app to the development frameworks we use. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

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