CEOs accelerate GenAI adoption despite workforce resistance

CEOs are facing workforce, culture and governance challenges as they act quickly to implement and scale generative AI across their organizations, according to IBM.

CEOs generative AI adoption

The annual global study of 3,000 CEOs from over 30 countries and 26 industries found that 64% of those surveyed say succeeding with generative AI will depend more on people’s adoption than the technology itself. However, 61% of respondents say they are pushing their organization to adopt generative AI more quickly than some people are comfortable with.

The findings also revealed that 63% of surveyed CEOs say their teams have the skills and knowledge to incorporate generative AI, but few understand how generative AI adoption impacts their organization’s workforce and culture.

56% of respondents have not yet assessed the impact of generative AI on their employees. Yet, 51% of CEOs surveyed say they are hiring for generative AI roles that did not exist last year, while 47% expect to reduce or redeploy their workforce in the next 12 months because of generative AI.

“There is incredible excitement around generative AI, and CEOs want to move beyond the AI hype to deliver business impact. Yet, without the right people and culture in place, progress will be slow,” said Matt Candy, Global Managing Partner, IBM Consulting. “As they embed generative AI in their enterprise strategy, it’s critical that executives build a cultural mindset that fosters adoption and lead people through the changes.”

CEOs plan to hire additional staff because of generative AI

40% of CEOs surveyed plan to hire additional staff because of generative AI, yet 53% of respondents say they are already struggling to fill key technology roles. CEOs surveyed say 35% of their workforce will require retraining and reskilling over the next three years – up from just 6% in 2021.

65% of CEOs say their organization’s success is directly tied to the quality of collaboration between finance and technology, yet 48% say competition among their C-Suite executives sometimes impedes collaboration. 81% of CEOs say inspiring their team with a common vision produces better outcomes. At the same time, 37% acknowledge that their employees don’t fully understand how strategic decisions impact them.

57% of those surveyed acknowledge that cultural change is more important to becoming a data-driven organization than overcoming technical challenges. CEOs cite generative AI adoption as being critical to success, but 64% say their organization must take advantage of technologies that are changing faster than people can adapt.

Trustworthy AI requires effective governance

68% agree that governance for generative AI must be established as solutions are designed, rather than after they are deployed. Although 75% of CEOs say trusted AI is impossible without effective AI governance in their organization, only 39% say they have good generative AI governance in place today.

At the same time, 62% of CEO say they will take more risk than the competition to maintain competitive edge, with 51% agreeing that the risk of falling behind is driving them to invest in some technologies before they have a clear understanding of the value. 67% say the productivity gains from automation are so great that they must accept significant risk to stay competitive.

While today 71% of surveyed CEOs are no further than generative AI piloting and experimentation, 49% expect to be driving growth and expansion by 2026.

CEOs ranked product and service innovation as their highest priority for the next three years – up from sixth place in 2023. 41% say they are willing to sacrifice operational efficiency for greater innovation.

However, a majority of CEOs surveyed point to a focus on short-term performance as their top barrier to innovation. Today, only 36% of the CEOs surveyed are primarily funding their generative AI investments with net new IT spend, with the remaining 64% reducing other technology spend.

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