CEOs who believe employee adoption of AI will be a challenge






With issues such as technology and geopolitical complexity impacting CEOs like never before, where does it leave people and what should leaders consider when assessing the impact on their teams?

Our research indicates that CEOs worldwide and in Ireland continue to prioritise people as an operational priority in achieving their ambitions. Attracting and retaining talent continues to be at the heart of the CEO agenda - good news for those concerned for example about the potential for AI to trigger job losses.

CEOs are also looking to make their existing people more productive through digital transformation in order to drive growth. In fact, this is cited as the single most important priority in driving the growth agenda both in ROI and NI as well as globally.

Employee skills and new technology

Conor McCarthy, Head of People and Change at KPMG in Ireland notes that “We are seeing a greater focus on talent development, mutually beneficial redeployment opportunities and ultimately more evolved approaches to strategic workforce planning”.

However, our survey also highlights differing perspectives in different jurisdictions.

Worldwide and in ROI, CEOs are prioritising workforce skills and capabilities ahead of buying new technology, whereas in NI the situation is reversed. In this context, we also thought it useful to ask business leaders about the challenges for employees that are inherent in introducing new technology, for example generative AI.

For CEOs worldwide, over a third (36 percent) believe employee adoption of AI will present a challenge. In Ireland, the same percentage (40 percent) of CEOs North and South agree.

Conor McCarthy says that boards are still grappling with the workplace effects such potentially momentous change can bring. “It’s important to make the distinction between the assessment of commercial potential, the technology capability required and the universal nature of many change management principles that apply regardless of individual scenarios.”

Gender equality - mind the gap

Meanwhile, the issues of gender equality and diversity continue to occupy CEOs as they look to strengthen their teams. Over three quarters (77 percent) of CEOs worldwide believe that achieving gender equity on their boards will help achieve growth ambitions. This figure is somewhat lower in ROI at 67 percent, whereas in NI the figure is 83 percent.

For McCarthy one principle holds true regardless of the data – there is always room for improvement. “Diverse teams for a diverse world isn’t just a catchphrase – our work in change management shows that diversity in teams leads to better critical thinking, better solutions and a more balanced approach to risk.”

Continued scrutiny

Reflecting the challenges of effecting change, a strong majority (72 percent globally) of those surveyed say that the most significant barrier to diversity in workplaces is implementing change across senior leadership. This figure drops to 60 percent in ROI and 67 percent in NI.

Regardless of these barriers, seven in ten (71 percent) of business leaders globally also expect the scrutiny of their diversity progress to continue to increase over the next 3 years. Their counterparts in Ireland anticipate a similar approach with 60 percent in ROI and 70 percent in NI expecting the same focus.

Moreover, it’s not just about sentiment. Issues such as Gender Pay Gap Reporting will ensure that regulatory attention will fix its gaze on CEOs and their organisations.

Woman drinking coffee beside the river Liffey in Dublin

The future of work

Four people coming up the stairs

Where and how people work is a key leadership and employee issue at a time of fundamental change. Job postings mentioning new technology are increasing rapidly. For example, the share of English language job listings worldwide mentioning GPT or ChatGPT has increased 21x in the period since November 2022.

CEOs continue to evolve their thinking on what the future of work may look like with many CEOs (70 percent ROI, 67 percent NI and 64 percent worldwide) believing there is still progress to be made on the ‘return to office’ agenda. Meanwhile 78 percent of CEOs in ROI and 75 percent in NI think it is likely that employees who come into the office could benefit through enhanced reward and recognition compared with 87 percent worldwide. 

Considering global sectoral variations across industries, this belief that in office working will return was highest to a greater extent in life sciences, automotive, energy and natural resources and infrastructure. This sentiment ranked lowest across tech and asset management (47 percent and 49 percent respectively).

According to KPMG Managing Partner Seamus Hand; “The future of work continues on its journey of constant evolution. While business leaders are increasingly recognising the office as being critical to collaboration, innovation and building working relationships, this continues to be complemented by the flexibility of hybrid working. Employers are striving to strike the balance between productivity and collaboration, while also attracting and retaining the best talent.”

Questions to consider


Do you have a talent strategy and is it aligned with your strategic objectives?


What is your true leadership position on equality - compliance or opportunity?


Are you driving active participation with your people about the future of work and what they want in their careers?


Do you sufficiently understand technology and its potential to make the right hiring decisions in AI and related areas?

Queries? Get in touch

If you have any questions about upskilling your workforce or the future of work, please contact our team below.

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