Senior Director of Research, Korn Ferry Institute
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The AI-enabled coach
In a world of relentless change, the conventional coaching approach—often anchored in face-to-face interactions and rigid schedules—can feel out of touch. This begs the question: How can companies blend coaching’s timeless wisdom with cutting-edge technology to unlock growth and transformation?
Organizations that want to stay relevant and competitive must constantly adapt—and at unprecedented speeds. This often requires leaders and employees to challenge old habits and gain new skills. As the pace of change accelerates and complexities increase, experts say it’s uncertain whether traditional coaching can meet these demands. “Human and machine learning roles in the workplace will change rapidly,” says Carlos Cuadrado Ortiz, Executive Coach and Associate Principal at Korn Ferry. “This will create challenges and opportunities where the coach could play a big role.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) can help coaching adapt to support the evolving relationship between people and technology, Cuadrado Ortiz says. Some AI tools offer real-time feedback regardless of location, while others jump in to streamline administrative tasks. And by leveraging these new technologies, coaches can free up their time to focus more on creating transformative experiences.
Though relatively new, AI-powered coaching is a rapidly growing field, experts say. In its new paper, “The AI-enabled coach,” Korn Ferry explores the different ways AI is changing the coaching profession—from amplifying data insights and enhancing introspection to personalizing learning content and optimizing experiential learning experiences.
This blend of technology and coaching isn't just a trend. It's an essential shift shaping the future of talent development, suggests Carolyn Wilson, Senior Client Partner and Global Coaching Leader at Korn Ferry. “With AI-guided coaching gaining traction, we see it's transforming not just how we learn but the very essence of personal growth, making wisdom and support more accessible and impactful than ever before,” Wilson says.
Still, although AI promises efficiency and reach, it also presents new challenges. Experts say a significant concern is the loss of the human connection valued in coaching. Overreliance on technology risks diminishing the personal touch, while scalability may lead to an overflow of unqualified coaches, compromising quality. People might also become too laid back, losing their sense of responsibility and motivation.
What’s more, ethical considerations come into play. AI tools are not immune to data breaches, and security issues around personal information raise serious concerns. “As we step into a future guided by AI-enabled coaching, it's crucial to navigate it with a vigilant eye on ethics and security,” says Guangrong Dai, Senior Director of Research at the Korn Ferry Institute. “Beyond the incredible potential, there is still much to be cautious of.” In addition to ethical concerns, leaders will need to pay careful attention to anxieties around AI encroaching on the unique role of human coaches, Dai adds.
While technology serves as a powerful supplement to coaching, experts say coaches will still sit at the heart of the process. Coaches act as checks and balances, ensuring that technology remains a tool rather than the expert. And while their roles may evolve, the core essence of coaching—the human connection—will remain steadfast.
It’s a symbiotic future where technology and human coaches coexist, amplifying each other’s strengths. In fact, this is the future senior leaders envision: according to a recent Korn Ferry, more than 37% of executives believe humans and AI will be great collaborators.
The blend of coaching and technology is introducing a promising era of rapid personal and professional growth. Still, one must approach it with discernment and balance, always recognizing that the intrinsic human essence of coaching remains intact. When this is conducted seamlessly, coaching thrives, magnifying the strengths of both worlds and ushering in “an era of exponential growth and abundance,” says Ortiz.