The Dawn of the Robot Coach
April 11, 2018
In 2017, Slice, a New York tech company that builds software solutions for independent pizzerias, had a management problem.
The company’s tech staff is based in Macedonia, where high unemployment rates mean most of their new hires have never held a formal job prior to Slice. “We have a lot of first-time managers who need coaching,” said Rick Pereira, chief people officer.
Instead of moving to Macedonia himself, Pereira implemented Butterfly.ai, an artificial intelligence coaching app that provides feedback to managers on their leadership skills. The tools uses anonymous employee survey results and past performance data to rate managers’ performance, then offers tips and training content to help them improve.
Pereira, who is able to review all of the feedback, said it has helped many of his team members become better managers, including their general manager who initially had a gruff communication style. “People loved what he was saying but not how he said it,” Pereira said. Based on consistent feedback about the general manager’s rough approach, the Butterfly coach recommended a series of communication courses and articles. “Now he’s one of our strongest leaders,” Pereira said.
There is a level of subtlety there that is hard to achieve, said David William[son] Shaffer, professor of learning science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a game scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. “It’s difficult for a computer to have enough information about the world to know what a person needs to do or should do in a certain scenario,” he said.