Study: Global CEOs value technology over people

Chief executives of large companies value technology over people, suggests a study by Korn Ferry.

Interviews with 800 business leaders in multimillion and multibillion-dollar companies in eight countries found “a startling lack of top-leader focus on or confidence in the value of people in their organizations,” the search firm said in a press release. They instead are "putting a higher value on technology and tangible assets."

Of participants in the study:

• Sixty-three percent said that in 5 years technology will be their companies’ greatest source of competitive advantage.

• Sixty-seven percent said technology will create greater value in the future than people will.

• Forty-four percent said the prevalence of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence will make people “largely irrelevant” in future work.

When asked to rank what they expect their top five “assets” to be 5 years from now, CEOs responded (in order): technology (product, customer channels); research, development, and innovation; product-service; brand; and real estate (offices, factories, and land).

Participants in the study said technology occupies 40-60% of their priorities on strategic focus, financial investment, and C-suite time.

And 40% of respondents said they have experienced shareholder pressure to direct investment toward tangible assets like technology.

Jean-Marc Laouchez, Korn Ferry global managing director, solutions, said “tangibility bias” might be influencing corporate leaders.

“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,” Laouchez said. “Putting an exact value on people is much more difficult, even though people directly influence the value of technology, innovation, and products.”

Alan Guarino, Korn Ferry vice-chairman, CEO and board services, said no one suggests technology will displace people.

“Soft skills such as the ability to lead and manage culture will become critical factors of success for companies in the future of work as they seek to maximize their value through their people.”

Participants in the study are in the UK, China, the US, Brazil, France, Australia, India, and South Africa.

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