The C-suite is worried about upskilling for AI. Here’s why

More CEOs are acknowledging that AI could automate much of their organisation’s work, and they are racing to learn how to use it.
By: | September 22, 2023

A recent survey uncovered that executives are open to a significant amount of support from artificial intelligence in their own roles. But they are worried about developing their own AI skills—and those of their workforce—fast enough.

According to the report from global online learning provider edX, Navigating the Workplace in the Age of AI, an eye-opening 49% of CEOs surveyed believe that “most” or “all” of their job could be automated in some ways by AI. However, only 20% of workers felt the same about their own roles.

Together with research firm Workplace Intelligence, edX surveyed 800 knowledge workers and 800 C-suite executives, including CHROs and more than 500 CEOs, from across the U.S., seeking insight into how professionals are preparing for the age of AI.

“We’re seeing that executives are increasingly thinking about their own skills, as well as the skills of their employees,” said Andy Morgan, Head of edX for Business. “We’ve also seen a shift in how CEOs are approaching and preparing for AI.”

Although most C-suite executives recognise that AI can benefit their business, said Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, savvy leaders know that AI can support them in their own roles as well.

“Executives who take steps to become proficient with AI will be better-equipped to make decisions that will position their companies for success in today’s ever-evolving business landscape,” he said.

Executives are concerned about falling behind with AI, report says

According to the report, while executives are embracing AI, many are still concerned about falling behind: 79% fear that if they do not learn how to use AI, they will be unprepared for the future of work.

Execs are looking for the same skills in their workforce, yet are struggling; 87% of the C-suite say they’re challenged to find talent with AI skills. Executives estimate that nearly half (49%) of the skills that exist in their workforce today won’t be relevant in 2025, and they believe that 47% of their workforce is unprepared for the future of work.

However, most executives believe workers who are skilled at using AI should be paid more (82%) and promoted more often (74%).

How do they intend to get their workforces ready?

Nearly three-quarters of the C-suite believe their company should increase its investment in learning and development (L&D) programmes focused on AI over the next two years. That would likely be welcome news to workers: According to the survey, just 24% are using their company’s L&D programmes to learn AI skills, and more than one-third say it is likely they will quit for a job that offers better L&D opportunities within the next year.

Morgan explained that his firm partners with executives every day who are focused on upskilling their entire workforce—from entry-level employees to top management—to ensure the long-term relevance of their business and their people.

READ MORE: Adapt and reskill for the future of AI, or risk losing out

“Today, it’s crucial for leaders to rapidly enhance their workforce’s proficiency in key managerial and functional areas to remain competitive—that includes AI, but also areas such as leadership, supply-chain management and sustainability,” Morgan said. “In the age of AI, it’s more important than ever for leaders to develop learning and development programs that support business capabilities, drive innovation and facilitate individual career growth.”

About the author: Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. The article was first published on Human Resource Executive.