Predictions that AI will have a major, rapid effect on UK jobs appear to have been overhyped. According to the Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report Pulse Survey, which forms part of its larger annual survey of technology leadership Although almost three quarters (74 per cent) of UK tech leaders (CIOs, CTOs etc) have deployed GenAI to at least some extent to employees, almost all (99 per cent) report that it’s not yet replacing jobs. In contrast, over half (51 per cent) are using GenAI as a personal productivity tool to support existing jobs, to make them more effective.

But as GenAI is being rapidly rolled out more widely, the need to appoint a Chief AI Officer (CAIO) is also rising with one in twenty UK based organisations already with one, and a similar proportion planning to appoint one. It is therefore expected that in time, one in ten organisations in the UK will have a CAIO. However, for the majority of organisations, the AI strategy still sits with the tech leader, the CIO or CTO.

The Pulse Report Survey also found that to support employees, and ensure safe use of GenAI in their organisations, UK tech leaders have rapidly rolled out GenAI policies, with the number with a policy in place doubling in just six months. For many this has been a ‘retrofit’ after GenAI has been rolled out or adopted. Despite the rapid roll out of policies, almost four in ten tech leaders in the UK are still concerned about the misuse of GenAI tools.

Tech leaders in the UK can feel the potential of AI, but over half (55 per cent) have yet to find a clear business case beyond a personal productivity tool, and over a quarter (27 per cent) are struggling with budgetary constraints.

“Our Digital Leadership Report Pulse Survey paints a picture of great promise in AI, but also one where most UK tech leaders are still trying to make it work,’ says Bev White, CEO of Nash Squared. “There’s no doubt there have been some incredible advances. One tech leader mentioned how the last year has seen a giant leap in cancer screening through AI – good news for us all. Another talks about how Machine Learning has supported the fundraising revenue for their higher education institution, opening access to a wider student population.

“But although the ’replace jobs’ impact of GenAI is headline grabbing news, in our discussions with tech leaders there is a sense that its impact will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary,’ White continues. “As organisations change and grow AI will be stitched into the operations and structure; its impact happening bit by bit. In fact the Pulse Survey indicates that organisations with company-wide implementations of GenAI are in fact more likely to be increasing tech headcount in the next year than the average.”

Other key findings from the Nash Squared Pulse Survey include:

  • Investment in technology remains strong – In the next 12 months, almost half of UK tech leaders (43 per cent) expect to increase their tech budget, and one third (36 per cent) plan to increase tech headcount. Of those UK based organisations (67 per cent) being held back by the economy, there is an expectation things will bounce back by the start of 2025.
  • Focusing on efficiency – The top priority for UK tech leaders is to improve the efficiency of operations, typically through automation, AI and better use of data. However, three in ten see the revenue generation potential of technology as their top priority. Boards are therefore looking for technology to improve both top line and bottom line.
  • Hybrid working comes of age – In the last six months, almost one in five organisations in the UK (19 per cent) have increased the number of days employees are expected in the office. For those organisations where employees are mandated to be in the office, the typical time expected has moved from 2-3 days to 3 days. And 87 per cent seem happy with the results, four in ten (42 per cent) report it is working ‘extremely well’ (up 20 per cent in six months), and a similar number (45 per cent) reporting it’s working ‘quite well’. But more days in the office does have consequences, especially on diverse hiring.
  • Most report sustainability and diversity are not moving forward –Compared to this time last year, the majority of UK tech leaders (66 per cent) report that progress on sustainability has either stayed the same or declined, and a similar proportion (68 per cent) report the same with diversity initiatives. The Nash Squared report notes that there is still more work to do in both of these areas, as standing still is moving back.

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