The research was undertaken by Korn Ferry, who carried out 800 interviews with business leaders from multi-million or multi-billion dollar organisations regarding the value of personnel and the future of the workplace.
Among the significant findings was that 63 per cent of CEOs believed that in five years, technology would be their business's greatest strength in terms of gaining a competitive advantage. In addition, 67 per cent believed that in the future technology would represent greater value than people to a business, while 44 per cent said that the growing use of robots, automation and artificial intelligence would make people "largely irrelevant" in the workplace of the future.
The survey also asked the CEOs to rank what they anticipate their organisation's top five assets will be in five years, with employees not figuring at all on the overall list. The top five assets as named by CEOs were: technology; research, development and innovation; product or service; brand and real estate.
Jean-Marc Laouchez, Global Managing Director, Solutions with Korn Ferry, put the fact CEOs are valuing technology over people down to uncertainty about how the future of work will look.
"Leaders may be facing what experts call a 'tangibility bias'," said Laouchez. "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. Putting an exact value on people is much more difficult, even though people directly influence the value of technology, innovation and products."
Alan Guarino, Vice Chairman, CEO and Board Services with Korn Ferry, suggested that the importance of people in the workplace is unlikely to change any time soon.
"While the critical role and pervasive nature of technology in tomorrow’s workforce is clear, no one is saying people are going away altogether," he said. "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 maximise their value through their people."
The business leaders that participated in Korn Ferry's study were based in the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, France, Australia, India and South Africa
A major global study has made the startling discovery that the majority of CEOs place more value on their organisation's technology and tangible assets than on their workforce.