I’m not easily surprised, but I am when I see something like this: According to The Wall Street Journal, companies are now turning to robots to train and coach young managers.
*Insert your bad manager joke here*
According to The Journal, the training comes in the form of a bot, “a manager-training app powered by the artificial intelligence of IBM ’s Watson.” Yes, this app has a name — “Coach Amanda” — and it gives management tips by phone in five- to 10-minute videos and texts that the trainee can read when they have time during their workday.
I’m all for leveraging technology like AI-driven apps for training purposes. This is simply another high-tech tool in the training toolbox, and frankly, we can use all the help we can get to improve the terrible state of management in America today.
It’s a pretty critical need. As the WSJ story notes,
“As more Millennials move into management jobs, many are finding they lack basic training in such supervisory skills as delivering feedback and delegating work.”
A new crop of AI-driven coaching apps and platforms are aiming to fill the gap, including Butterfly, Qstream and LEADx, the Philadelphia-based maker of Coach Amanda.”
Apps help to supplement hands-on training
That all sounds good, but there’s a problem here and it’s not with these AI-driven apps.
It’s this: new managers need to get trained by more senior managers — preferably their supervisor. Apps are fine to supplement training, but if that’s the primary training young managers are getting, we’re all in big trouble.
Here’s a quote from The Journal story that drove this point home:
“Coach Amanda isn’t as good as a human coach, says Kevin Kruse, LEADx’s founder. ‘If you can afford $250 to $500 an hour, go get a human,’ he says. ‘But AI is democratizing leadership training.’ The cost is far less — $30 a month for individual buyers, and $20 a month for employees (or less for larger employers). Several employers and about 600 individuals are using the platform, and several consulting and accounting firms are testing it.”
In other words, your only options for training new managers is personal coaching at $250-$500 per hour, or, an AI-driven app.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Missing the elephant in the room
What’s wrong is that it seems to miss the elephant in the room. Younger managers learn faster and better when they can draw on the experience of people who have seen it and done it all before — the senior managers they report to.
I know, I know; all these companies that make training apps will tell you that senior managers are too busy with other management duties to spend time working with trainees, and while there may be a little truth to that, it’s mostly BS.
Managers learn best when they learn from other managers. They need to be put into situations where they can experience a wide variety of management challenges under the watchful eye of leaders who have done it before.
You don’t get that kind of guidance from a management app, and it doesn’t cost you upwards of $500 per hour for a pricey coach either.
Remember management by walking around? It’s a great management practice I highly recommend, but you won’t get much help from an app with that.
Needing more than your AI app can offer
I’m happy that bots like “Coach Amanda” are around to help remind new managers of the little things they should be thinking about.
There’s value in that.
But, the state of American management will get worse — if that’s possible — if we delude ourselves into thinking that AI-driven apps are the big answer to effective management training.
I’ve seen way too many managers who don’t understand that management is a constant process, and that the people they manage can’t ever get enough of their guidance and time.
So, consider training apps as a nice supplement to your hands-on feedback your newbies are getting, but if you want your rookie, Millennial managers to learn things like how to deliver feedback and delegate work, well, you’re going to need more help than “Coach Amanda” has to offer.
John Hollon is an award-winning journalist and nationally recognized expert on leadership, talent management, and smart workforce practices. He currently is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media. He also was founding Editor of the popular talent management website TLNT.com, and before that, Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com.
John also held editing positions at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Orange County Register, and was top editor for Gannett at two statewide papers —Montana’s Great Falls Tribune and The Honolulu Advertiser. He also has deep experience in magazine and online publishing as editorial director at Fancy Publications, VP of Editorial at Pets.com, and Editor of the San Diego Business Journal.
In addition, John is an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, and a board member at the Kronos Workforce Institute. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business & Management, and lives in Southern California.