Are Canadian CEOs doing enough with AI?

AI: missing in action

Although Canadian CEOs recognize its potential impact, most have barely dipped their toes into the waters of AI. While 4 out of 10 say AI is present in their organization to at least some extent, most of that group describe using the technology only for limited applications. CEOs are often dealing with the idea of AI rather than embarking on tangible, holistic implementations of it.

AI will continue to change the way we do business, but Canadian CEOs need to gain a better understanding of how it can be applied across their business. Strategic decisions are still often based largely on instinct, but AI can turn data into intelligence and give informed recommendations for better decision making. For example, in the area of customer experience, AI is being used to anticipate demand and predict behaviour.

of Canadian CEOs agree AI will significantly change their business within the next five years.


Harnessing the power of AI

AI, robotics and smart automation could hold the key to growth by helping companies enhance the customer experience and analyze data at a scale and speed that will drive cost efficiencies. But Canadian CEOs also anticipate AI will disrupt the job market along with their business. In fact, the availability of key skills is the single-biggest concern in this year’s survey, and 47% agree AI will displace more jobs than it creates in the long run. Closing this gap is critical to properly tackling AI.

Not only is closing the skills gap so important to harnessing the power of AI, but more than half of Canadian CEOs say not having access to the right talent is preventing them from stimulating innovation, delivering new value and impacting quality standards and customer experience.

Transforming the way we work

Canadian CEOs suggest strong pipelines from educational institutions are the best way of closing a potential skills gap. But globally, CEOs take a different view. They tend to see significant retraining and internal upskilling as the priorities. What’s more, two-thirds of Canadian CEOs are open to the government’s help in retraining workers whose jobs are displaced by AI. But organizations can’t just wait for government and education to close the gap. Thousands of jobs are susceptible if companies don’t begin to retool their workforces.

The skills gap is one factor stalling progress with AI, but it’s not only a matter of hiring more specialists and data scientists. Digital proficiency has to rise across the organization—and CEOs need to create an environment to drive this change. Digital workforce transformation requires new knowledge, different skills and an entirely fresh mindset, so it’s time to empower everyone to transform the way they work.

of Canadian CEOs say they're concerned about the availability of important skills in their industry, up from 51% in 2018.


Key actions

  1. Align AI with strategic goals: Avoid using AI in a scattered series of initiatives that operate in isolation. Take a fundamental look at how AI and other Essential Eight technologies could support the business strategy and help shape a view of where the business needs to go and what capabilities are required.

  2. Know what customers want before they do: Customer expectations are constantly shifting, and the combination of human input and AI can take personalization to a new level. Build trust by gathering the right insights to create unique customer experiences.

  3. Adapt your workforce strategy: Organizations can’t protect jobs, but they can help people to develop the skills needed for the future. Automation and AI are changing the skills organizations need, and recruitment and upskilling are just two pieces of the puzzle. Determine how AI is changing job roles and required skills. It’s also important to take the time to explore which existing skills are being enhanced versus the new capabilities your organization requires. You can do this through an assessment on our Digital Fitness app.

Key question for CEOs to think about:

Does a skills gap exist within your organization, and how can you rethink the workforce you have today?

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Read more from the Canadian CEO Survey
Mind the information gap

Canadian CEOs consider data and analytics to be important to their success. But despite billions of dollars of investment, many find their current efforts don’t measure up.

The transformation imperative

Canadian CEOs are less optimistic about the global economy and their growth prospects than last year. When CEOs lose confidence, it’s time to move ahead carefully and evolve business models and ways of working that no longer serve their organizations.

PwC’s 22nd CEO Survey — Canadian insights

Entering 2019, Canadian CEOs are experiencing an economic reality check. As concerns around geopolitical uncertainty and trade loom, they’re increasingly looking inward for organic growth and efficiencies.

Evolve or dissolve: A reality check for Canadian CEOs

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Contact us

Nicolas Marcoux

Nicolas Marcoux

Chief Executive Officer, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5302

Matthew Wetmore

Matthew Wetmore

National Managing Partner Industry & Regions, Strategy&, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 403 509 7483

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