As leaders push AI adoption, workers are feeling strained, CEOs say

Although CEOs are moving quickly to implement and scale generative AI, they’re facing workforce, culture and governance challenges that may slow the pace, according to a May 16 report from IBM’s Institute for Business Value.

For instance, more than half of CEOs responding to a survey said they’re pushing generative AI adoption more quickly than some employees feel comfortable with, and half said they’re hiring for generative AI-related roles that didn’t exist last year. However, more than half of CEOs also said they haven’t yet assessed the impact of generative AI on their workforce.

“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,” Matt Candy, global managing partner for IBM Consulting, said in a statement. “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.”

In a worldwide survey of 3,000 CEOs from 30 countries and 26 industries, 64% said succeeding with generative AI will depend more on people’s adoption of it than the technology itself.

Although 63% of CEOs said their teams have the skills and knowledge to incorporate generative AI, few said they understand how generative AI adoption will affect their organization’s workforce and culture. Half said they are hiring for generative AI roles, but 47% expect to reduce or redeploy their workforce in the next 12 months due to the technology.

Most CEOs (81%) said that inspiring their team with a common vision produces better outcomes. At the same time, 37% said their employees don’t fully understand how strategic decisions impact them.

In addition, 35% said their workforce will require retraining and reskilling during the next three years, which has jumped dramatically from only 6% in 2021.

As companies move forward with AI adoption, many leaders have said AI is already changing their organizational structure, according to a Pearl Meyer report. In response, leaders are developing change management strategies and communication plans to keep employees informed.

Although 80% of companies report investing in AI in 2024, half aren’t sure about the business impact of the technology or how to implement it, according to an Orgvue report. Leaders cited barriers to AI adoption such as lack of organizational expertise, employee skepticism and sluggish regulations.

Among tech leaders, half anticipate a combination of layoffs and hiring in 2024 as a direct result of AI adoption, according to an Ernst & Young report. More than 60% said emerging technology has made it more challenging to find top tech talent, and about two-thirds said their company has instituted internal development programs to help employees keep up with gen AI tools.