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CEOs value technology over Workforce


Two-Thirds of CEOs Believe Technology Will Be Their Firm’s Greatest Competitive Advantage Nearly Half Say Robotics, Automation and AI Will Make People ‘Largely Irrelevant’

A global study of CEO perceptions by Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY) finds a startling lack of top-leader focus on, or confidence in, the value of the people in their organisations, while they instead are putting a higher value on technology and tangible assets. Korn Ferry conducted in-depth interviews with 800 business leaders in multi-million dollar global organisations on their views concerning the value of people in the future of work. Among the key findings: Sixty-three percent say that in five years, technology will be the firm’s greatest source of competitive advantage. Sixty-seven percent say that technology will create greater value in the future than people will.

Forty-four percent say the prevalence of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will make people “largely irrelevant” in the future of work. Further indicating that the leaders are not putting the appropriate focus on people, the study found that when asked to rank what their organisation’s top five assets will be five years from now, the company’s workforce did not make the list. The top five assets named by the CEOs (in order) are: Technology (product, customer channels); R&D / Innovation; Product / Service; Brand; and Real Estate (offices, factories, land).

Leaders who took part in the study say that tech is becoming so central to their thinking and execution that it occupies 40 percent to 60 percent of their priorities on strategic focus, financial investment and C-suite time. The research also finds a possible source of CEOs tech obsession: 40 percent of respondents say they have experienced shareholder pressure to direct investment toward tangible assets like technology. “Leaders may be facing what experts call a tangibility bias,” said Matt Crosby, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry Hay Group. “Facing uncertainty, they are putting priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible – what they can see, touch and measure, such as technology investments. Putting an exact value on people is much more difficult, even though people directly influence the value of technology, innovation and products.

“National economic priorities also influence the importance businesses place on their employees. In the UK, CEOs place a high emphasis on people factors (including workforce, top team and culture). This reflects the big footprint of established, high value services industries, including the financial services sector. In Australia and China, technology impacts decision making to a far greater extent. The critical role and pervasive nature of technology in tomorrow’s workforce is clearly here to stay,” said Matt Crosby, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry Hay Group. “But soft skills, such as the ability to lead and manage culture, will become critical if businesses are to maximise their value through their people.”

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