Artificial Intelligence in Coaching and the Job Market

By Christa Ilieva

In more and more jobs AI will perform better than humans, without necessarily replacing them…

Rapid improvements in technology can be life changing. For others it is job changing! Christa Ilieva takes an indepth look at the latest developments in chatbots and artificial intelligence and how these technologies are impacting coaching and employment.

What is Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things and what would be the possible impact? 

One of the widely used definitions of Artificial Intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. 

AI combines certain specific characteristics such as: (i) complexity: with machine learning, AI can learn from other AI (ii) autonomous behaviour: depending on the application, AI software can reason, gather knowledge, plan intelligently, learn, communicate, perceive, and manipulate objects. (iii) data driven: AI entails data gathering, data processing and data analysis; (iv) openness: AI combined with hardware can create new tangible products and/or deliver services. However, AI has for now only a limited capability to mimic emotions.

The Internet of Things (IoT), is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. With IoT proliferation in daily life, the virtual and material worlds would merge and every domain of society will be touched.

AI and IoT bring and will bring many positive developments, as liberating people from difficult jobs, shortening working times and improving health. At the same time the rapid introduction of new technologies and AI in all areas of life, raises also questions: 

  • What direction will the increasing autonomy of AI take? AI will act within its safety limits independently, autonomously and without supervision.
  • What will be the impact on human social relations due to the increased use of interfaces for human contacts, in parallel with the shrinking places of human gathering at the work place (teleworking), romantic relations (online dating), friendship (social networks), free time and going out (online games and virtual reality), internet commerce, e-administration, etc.
  • What will be the legal personality, legal rights and obligations given to AI? What will be the rights and obligations of AI on the job market, compared to those of people? Will AI/robot rights be equal to human rights?
  • What will be the impact of AI on the job market, and what measures are taken to adapt human workforce to the forthcoming changes?

AI has already an impact on almost all segments of the job market (farming, transports, manufacturing, customer services, medical care, schools, hotels, banking and stock exchange). Many concrete examples can be given about companies using AI: Uber, Marriot, Bank of America, Pizza Hut, Nestle, Walmart, Amazon, Tesla, Shiseido, Adidas, ING, Zara, numerous industries in China and Japan. In 2018 JP Morgan introduced software that replaced 360.000 “man hours” with processes that take only a few seconds. Digital technologies produce cars, drones, smart homes and even viruses. In more and more jobs AI will perform better than humans, without necessarily replacing them though.

The nature of the remaining jobs will change considerably, impacting the social integration of people, who will need to adapt to new requirements in an increasingly complex job market.

According to a study of the University of Oxford from 2013 (Fey and Osborne), 47% of employment in US will be at risk by 2034 due to automation. 

The McKinsey report from 2018 on the future of jobs estimates that “Automation and AI will lift productivity and economic growth, but millions of people world-wide may need to switch occupations or upgrade skills…”. The reports adds that “We estimate that between 400 million and 800 million individuals (one fifth of global work force) could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030 around the world…“. It also says that “A larger challenge will be ensuring that workers have the skills and support needed to transition to new jobs…”, concluding that “75 million to 375 million may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills.” Unavoidably, such profound changes on the labour market will start trickling down to the coaching profession and coaching clients. 

AI coaches could theoretically understand more quickly the needs of a coachee thanks to data.

What can the coaching community do in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) context?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. This is completely aligned with the huge needs that will arise from the fundamental changes that AI is expected to produce on the job market. 

EMCC and ICF could start a reflexion on how the coaching profession could adapt best to these changes and use it as an opportunity to popularise further the use of coaching as a tool of transformation and change adaptation. Moreover, coaches – on the basis of their closeness to executives and human resources in companies, but also to people in all spheres of society- could give valuable feedback and make proposals. Industries and governments could also be included in this reflection process. The aim of the feedback and proposals would be to facilitate the training and integration process of the clients left behind by the introduction of AI, reorienting them to new career paths. 

One ICF initiative, that had already taken place was launched by ICF France in 2018 entitled “Will AI be the coach of tomorrow?“ and it raised the question on how to link artificial intelligence with emotional intelligence. 

A very important role of the coaching profession would be to raise awareness about the importance of this topic, and the timely and adequate preparation for these large scale and quick changes, as the responsibility for the success of this transformation cannot be left only to the individual. Coaches can play a very important proactive role with proposals to integrate coaching ex-ante in the process of AI transformation of human societies, in order to be next to the people in periods of time when their support will be most needed.

Some new coaching practices 

The coaching profession cannot exist independently from people and coaching thrives on changes in the world. Some new coaching approaches and tools in an AI-transformed human society include and might include among others:

Coaching and training support based on AI: 

  • coaching chat-bots and apps. self-improvement apps. For example AIMEE Kronos (Artificial Intelligence for Managers and Employees), learning app Qstream;
  • conversational interfaces, teaching assistants, digital tutors
  • digital coaching: advantages: coaching between sessions, easier connection with clients and improved accessibility, increase of number of clients
  • augmented coaching tools 
  • coaching for specific jobs, using digital simulators

Coaching sessions in different configurations with the participation of :

  • coach, coachee and AI coach;
  • coach, coachee, manager, and his AI assistant
  • group coaching of human and AI employees
  • coaching of managers who employ mixed staff (human and AI employees);executive coaching on new methods of management; coaching when the AI is the boss of human employees?
  • coaching AI coaches, AI mentoring;  possibility of an AI coaching another AI ?
  • AI coaching people in the setting of business and executive coaching. AI can interact with employees, managers and human resources, thanks to access to data AI can foresee issues that can be resolved in advance.

New elements in training and accreditation for coaches:

  • guidelines for work with AI coaches and AI, based on practice in the working environment
  • help elaborate specific coaching approaches for the huge scale transition due to AI, including existential coaching, reorganising of free time
  • including in the coaching curriculum a chapter on managing technological transition and adapt accreditation accordingly
  • contributing to values for AI coaches
  • reflection on possible new definitions of coaching
  • coaches contributing to the better understanding by AI of the social context

New coaching approaches:

  • coaching assisted by AI to complement human coaches
  • development of entirely new branches of coaching. For example in a society where work will no longer be the anchor of society.
  • help develop coaching strategies, so that certain skills are not entirely lost for humans
  • new coaching tools to resolve issues between AI and humans
  • new coaching tools to manage the psychological impact of mass introduction of AI and robots;  coaching tools to manage performance stress at work under productivity pressure and certain lack of anonymity. Right to forget and right to forgive? 
  • coaches could play an important social role by expressing in confidence people’s needs in a period of transition
  • coaching by AI: AI will have access to enormous data using a global network with exhaustive information on coachees and coaches. How will the discrepancy in the level of available information affect coaching between AI and humans? As AIs are linked to networks, a human coach should coach all AI’s simultaneously? AI coaches could theoretically understand more quickly the needs of a coachee thanks to data.
  • developing adapted coaching approaches for the young people who are using predominantly AI interfaces from their early childhood, with a focus on direct human interaction. 
  • new coaching practices to motivate and prepare people to participate in a job interview in competition with an AI, and in front of an AI panel member (AI job interviews are already used in several countries). Despite this there are biological limits of speed and volume of information that can be processed by humans, which cannot be overcome even by the best training. Relations on the job market and between human and AI coaches will be probably characterised by cooperation, complementarity and competition.
  • millennial managers will turn more and more to digital coaching and digital “deputies.” 
  • coaching on the emotional interactions between AI and people. There is already a certain convergence between humans and the digital world. On one hand digital interfaces become more and more user friendly, but also people are adapting constantly to new technologies. Humans attach themselves to AI, but the “attachment” of AI to people will remain for the foreseeable future a pure imitation. For humans emotions are essential as emotions are behind motivation and goal setting, which is the drive of a person’s behaviour. There is the opinion that emotions play an important role in coordinating mind’s sub-programmes. Despite the entry of AI coaching, the value of human presence and true empathy will remain a precious gift which human coaches can give. 

One of the big differences between AI and human intelligence is the process of thinking and mind awareness. In 2018, the author of this article visited the exhibition “Artists robots”  in Paris (, and the impression was that though the artistic works often approached what human artists do in terms of techniques and artistic creativity, the process was different, and this was reflected in the end result. Artist robots combined easily in new ways (there was 20% liberty of expression given to the artist-robots) all kinds of artistic elements, which is one of the essential traits of creativity, On the other hand exactly this feature of not having emotional taboos (for example disintegrating completely a human face or creating difficult to support sounds only from algorithms) gave the author an uneasy feeling of meeting an alien intelligence. Emotions and emotional intelligence are based on thousands years of biological evolution to go in pair with cognitive intelligence. As the process affects the end result, it will be difficult to imagine that an AI coach will give the same results as a human coach. 

The more functions humans delegate to AI and robots, the more the difference in process might influence the end results. Different end results in coaching should not be a bad thing, as long as they help people to develop to reach their highest reaching goal. 


The doubling every two years of computer power, data, and funding will bring an exponential introduction of AI, not to mention the possibility of quantum computers joining forces with AI. 

Besides the criteria about technical security, there should be also taken into account the general impact on people and society of the mass introduction of AI. What will be the impact on psychology and public health of collaboration between humans and AI?

ICF, EMCC and the coaching community should proactively contact industries and respective government authorities so that the coaching profession be integrated in this unprecedented transformation of the job market from the very beginning: by coaching employees to orient themselves to new professions, jobs and occupations, by contributing to training programmes, by coaching on the new relations between humans and AI, using the whole palette of present and future coaching approaches and tools to help develop the full potential of people. 

About the Writer:

Christa Ilieva is economist and holds a Master in International economic relations. She has experience in this field in different environments: private and public sectors and NGOs in several EU countries. Christa is graduate of the Kingstown college Advanced Diploma in Personal, Leadership and Executive Coaching and pursues with passion her coaching practice. She has also hosted solo and collective painting exhibitions. Christa has participated in brainstorming conferences and platforms on the impact of New Technologies and Artificial intelligence on society.