Three-in-four CEOs providing staff with AI training and bootcamps

02 May 2024 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

Three-quarters of CEOs have deployed ‘bootcamps’ to re-train ‘novice’ staff in the latest uses of artificial intelligence. But a new study suggests that bosses may actually be less technically competent than their employees, and half of managers currently presenting ChatGPT output as their own work.

In some quarters it is contended that no form of technology is inherrently good or bad – the creative or destructive nature of any tool is determined by its user. Philosopher and political theorist Naom Chomsky once summarised this by comparing technology to a hammer.

“The hammer doesn’t care whether you use it to build a house or whether on torture, using it to crush somebody’s skull, the hammer can do either.”

Three-in-four CEOs pushing AI bootcamps on staff

Source: AND Digital

Arguably there are many ways in which this can be seen amid the current artificial intelligence boom. While the apparently limitless potential of AI could be deployed across the economy to boost productivity while enabling employees to maintain the same wage for a better work-life balance, these implications are being used to menace workers.

Just as was the case with other generational industrial advances, the dominant forces of capital are insistent that AI should be used to place large portions of the workforce into perpetual job uncertainty, in which labour will have to submit to at-best-stagnant pay and conditions – even as profits soar.

This narrative has been reinforced by a growing number of research papers commissioned by private companies, which ultimately suggest workers are in need of “re-training”, if they are to keep up with the times and maintain their jobs. Anyone who does not will fall by the wayside, having been supposedly fairly warned. This line of thought could just as easily apply to a company’s top brass – but because the proverbial hammer is in their hands, it rarely does.

Illustrating this, AND Digital recently commissioned independent research firm Censuswide to survey 600 CEO-level executives in the UK, US and Netherlands. There were 500 British respondents, 50 in the US and 50 in the Netherlands.

AI adoption

A 44% portion of respondents said they felt their staff were “not ready to handle AI adoption amid rapid global developments” – while 76% of CEOs added they had launched AI training bootcamps in 2024, to push staff to stay on top of the latest tech trends.

64 percent of CEOs feel they are an analogue CEO in a digital age

Source: AND Digital

While they are piling pressure on their workforces to re-skill for the AI-age, however, CEOs seem to be taking a more leisurely approach to their own roles. A majority of 64% said they felt they were “an analogue CEO in a digital age” – and rather than putting in the work to catch up, many are actually deploying AI to paper over the cracks.

Of those polled, 45% told the researchers they had been using tools like ChatGPT to write reports or fulfil their other responsibilities – before passing off the output as their own work – even as 34% admitted to having banned such tools from use in their wider business.

In this context, it might not come as a surprise that many CEOs admit their job could probably be done entirely by AI. A 43% chunk of respondents said they believed AI could replace the role of a CEO. However, respondents were also clear that while there was potential for that, this would not be where job cuts would be made to save their companies money.

Globally, 29% of CEOs said they saw opportunities to replace jobs with AI and reduce their workforce in the coming year. While in some cases they felt this could lead to a boost in quality, a quarter of global CEOs placed the emphasis elsewhere, simply saying they would fire staff and replace them with AI tools specifically if it saved them money.

This path risks missing out on a lot of value that AI could help to introduce when deployed in collaboration with human workers, though. Instead, the researchers recommend that business leaders establish a well-designed framework around AI, empowering people with the guidance and resources to innovate safely.

34% of CEOs have banned AI tools from their organisation

Source: AND Digital

Stephen Paterson, chief for technology and people at AND Digital, commented, “CEOs cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to AI. Neither can they allow a culture of fear and distrust surrounding new technologies to gain a foothold, so reskilling people and teams across all departments to the highest standards should be an absolute top priority.”

“Failure to do so will leave them falling behind the competition and falling behind peers who do possess the AI skills to lead the new wave of tech innovation.”