What Australian businesses really think about the future of work

Friday, January 22, 2016 - 15:02

Seventy per cent of Australian business people believe that new technologies will eliminate jobs currently performed by humans at their company, but interestingly 69.38 per cent of the same participants didn’t believe it will be their job that is at risk.

One of Australia’s leading recruitment and HR service providers, Davidson, conducted a national survey of business people from a cross-section of industries and roles to determine exactly what Australian business people really think about the future of work.

The survey accompanies an academic paper by the QUT Business School, developed in partnership with Davidson, on the future of work and what it means for businesses. As part of the research, focus groups were held with industry representatives of the Queensland business community.

Davidson’s Director of Growth and Founder Rob Davidson has been presenting on the subject for the past three years and said the research paper and the survey results point to one clear message: the future of work and the associated changes is on everyone’s minds, but there is a clear lack of proactive measures being taken to prepare for the changes.

“It’s clear that everyone is aware of new technologies and what impact that will play on future jobs, but what has everyone concerned is how to combat the upcoming disruption and ensure our workforces are prepared for the future,” Mr Davidson said.

“Both research documents clearly show that the awareness is there, but we still have the ‘it won’t affect me’ and ‘we’ll be fine’ mentality.”

In the QUT report, participants were also asked about the extent to which businesses are preparing for changes. QUT Professor Lisa Bradley, who worked on the report, said the findings strongly indicated perceptions that there was a lack of forward-planning by most organisations.

“There was strong acknowledgement that the future is changing, but there was little preparation and activity in relation to adapting to these changes,” Professor Bradley said.

“It was identified by participants that there was a focus on short-term thinking and questions about who future employers will be.

“This short-term thinking was felt to be a problem for the future and was causing anxiety for a number of those in the focus groups as it was felt that this was detrimental to the future of organisations.

“Participants identified that one of the problems associated with a lack of forward-planning was the difficulties associated with workforce planning,” she said.

“It was felt organisations were aware they needed to be doing it, but were struggling with how to do it well in a changing environment, and so were often letting it slide.”

The Davidson survey, which ran across late November, found 58.7 per cent of the participants believed their company wasn’t recruiting the executives they needed to survive and thrive for the future world of work.

Mr Davidson said the clear outcome of both the report and survey is the focus needed on educating and upskilling today’s leaders so they can put the company in the right position for tomorrow.

“It is critical that leaders continue to educate themselves about the potential impacts of disruptive technology in their industry sectors,” Mr Davidson said.

“Furthermore, companies need to recruit against a new competency, curiosity quotient or CQ as it has become known.

“Business needs curious executives who are prepared to seek new trends and businesses models to adapt to a fast changing environment.”

Only 47.51 per cent of participants thought their company’s hiring practices facilitate the selection of employees with the right skills for tomorrow’s work.

Furthermore, less than 50 per cent believed their own set of skills prepared them for the world of work.

Education and training featured heavily in both the QUT report and the Davidson survey with 71 per cent listing reading and subscribing to blogs and articles as their preferred method of keeping informed about new technologies and their role.

Upskilling and preparing a digitally savvy workforce was also a hot topic, with a high percentage of participants listing this as their core focus.

An overwhelming number of participants listed webinars, networking, engaging with thought leaders, training, further studies, building digital and technology skills as their chosen path for up-skilling themselves for the future world of work.

As one of Australia and New Zealand’s leading providers of recruitment and human resource services, Davidson has offices across Australia and New Zealand within multiple disciplines, including Corporate, Executive, Projects and Operations and Technology.

To view the QUT report visit Davidson’s website.