HAL 2018

IBM’s Watson is now offering career coaching to hourly employees

What can’t Watson do?
What can’t Watson do?
Image: AP/Seth Wenig
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Hourly work rarely comes with benefits. But the baristas, waiters, and retail workers of the world might soon have access to a benefit formerly reserved for the C-suite.

A new partnership between IBM Watson and the workforce management platform Kronos will give hourly workers access to personalized career-path coaching. The virtual coach will advise workers on available opportunities within their company and the skills training needed to get them.

According to the US Department of Labor, 58% of the American workforce—over 80 million people—are paid by the hour. Using software to lower the barrier to career development can supplement the work of managers, who might not have the time or the training to help employees holistically think through their careers.

“The opportunity to serve this important segment of our global workforce, and the enterprises who rely on hourly workers, is significant and a major commitment for both our companies,” says Aarti Borkar, vice president of product management and design for IBM Watson Talent.

Kronos is used by about half the companies in the Fortune 1000, among other clients. For large employers—especially employers of hourly workers in low-margin businesses like food service and retail—it’s not economically feasible to hire a human advisor for every employee. Though virtual career coaches are limited in the scope of their offerings, the ability to scale professional development with the click of a button is perhaps a benefit in which companies will be increasingly willing to invest.