Image: Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

For the third year running, AI is the top priority for CEOs, according to a survey of CEOs and senior executives released by Gartner on Wednesday.

The survey “2022 CEO Survey — The Year Perspectives Changed” gauged the opinions of CEOs and top executives on a range of issues from the workforce to the environment and digitalization. The findings also revealed that the metaverse, which has received a lot of hype in the last year, especially since the rebranding of Facebook to Meta, is not as relevant to business leaders – 63% say that they do not see the metaverse as a key technology for their organization.

It’s not a big surprise that AI continues to be on the mind of top business leaders. As TechRepublic reported in June 2021, 97% of senior executives planned to invest heavily in AI. Jobs in AI, which are often high-pay, are also in demand, according to the jobs board

The metaverse, on the other hand, is not seen as a priority for CEOs. While innovative technology is often embraced by CEOs, “in the case of the metaverse, it’s doubtful the respondents who think it very likely to be a key technology for their business are as confident as they appear to be,” said Mark Raskino, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Gartner advises CEOs to stay focused

Gartner’s recommendations to CEOs, in the report, include to “mostly ignore metaverse hype.” Rather than planning ahead based on concepts that may be “many years from offering substantive value to your enterprise at scale,” Gartner advises business leaders to put their focus on smaller-scale research that can offer “specific business ideas for your industry.”

“‘New’ is in the eye of the beholder,” cautions Raskino. “Neither digitalization nor e-commerce, in second and fourth place respectively, is very new on a relative basis. Yet these are technologies that many business leaders still perceive as novel and disruptive in their situations.”

SEE: Mixed reality in business report: Despite potential uses, enterprise implementation lags (TechRepublic Premium)

Six additional trends from Gartner’s survey

In addition to staying focused on the ways that AI can serve businesses, the survey identified six additional trends that CEOs think are affecting businesses.

1. Workforce issues remain prevalent

Talent retention, hiring and DEI have jumped up to third place, following a recent trend. Likely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which there has been a “great resignation” as well as problems with many women dropping out of the workforce, business leaders are increasing focus in this area.

2. The environment is a priority

CEOs marked environmental sustainability in their top 10 strategic business priorities for the first time ever. Raskino suggests that this may be a response to “pressure from key stakeholders to do more on environmental sustainability” as well as a way to attract investors toward their companies. Sustainability is a “competitive differentiator for CEOs in 2022 and 2023,” according to the survey, on par with brand trust.

3. Social issues have moved to the forefront

Raskino believes the survey reflects how the pandemic brought a “desire to change the way we work,” while confirming that “CEOs’ digital business ambition continues to rise, unabated by the pandemic and related crises.”

4. Hybrid work should incorporate data science

As companies shift to hybrid workforces, many business leaders are still grappling with managing remote workers. As COVID-19 has revealed a great need for more flexible work environments – which the lack thereof, in some cases, has led to problems with retention – CEOs are being called upon to “help define, approve and fund major workforce policy changes,” the report states. However, harnessing the power of data science to help understand the right strategy could be a useful approach.

5. Technology roles are a “test bed for the future of work and talent development”

According to the report, since IT staff and business technologists are “some of the hardest employees to recruit and retain,” CEOs would do well to develop managing ideas based on this group.

6. Inflation will remain

62% of CEOs consider inflation a “persistent or long-term issue,” with the primary response being to increase prices (for 51% of CEOs), rather than to focus on becoming more efficient (22% of CEOs).

The survey, which was completed by more than 400 CEOs and top business executives across the globe, was conducted between July 2021 and December 2021.

Subscribe to the Executive Briefing Newsletter

Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays

Subscribe to the Executive Briefing Newsletter

Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays