Date posted: 23/02/2016 6 min read

Collaboration needed for businesses to remain competitive

Policies that facilitate ongoing education, diversity and global mobility in the workplace are key to ensuring Australian businesses remain competitive.

Our latest thought leadership has called for a review of the way business and government contribute to the funding and enabling of the ongoing education of the workforce.

Among other key considerations to emerge from the paper, titled The future of work: How can we adapt to survive and thrive?, is the review of policy settings relating to immigration, workforce diversity and participation, and labour practices.

These come as policymakers and businesses are being urged to work together to facilitate policies that will ensure Australian businesses remain globally competitive.

“Policymakers, businesses and individuals need to lift their eyes to the horizon and think about the best way to ensure continued prosperity while our society continues to evolve."
Lee White Chief Executive Officer Chartered Accountants ANZ

"For our economy to thrive, and to ensure Australian businesses remain globally competitive, we need a framework that will support a skilled, adaptable, diverse and agile workforce with the right tools and knowhow,” said our Chief Executive Officer, Lee White.

The paper, produced with the support of Deloitte Access Economics, focuses on four main forces that will shape the policy, social and economic environment in coming decades and have a significant impact on the future of work, namely: globalisation, digital disruption, an ageing population and changing consumer demand.

Deloitte Access Economics partner Ric Simes said the ability of Australians to embrace new types of jobs, career paths and ways of working were fundamental to the country’s continuing economic prosperity.

“With the Building the Lucky Country series, Deloitte has been exploring a number of ‘big picture’ themes, including future workforce needs, for a number of years now – issues that should be considered if Australia is to remain a successful and productive nation,” he said.

“We have now worked with Chartered Accountants ANZ to really hone in on individual perceptions of what the future of work will look like, and compare this with what we know today. It’s a complex and challenging picture governments, businesses and individuals, who are generally positive about the future, need to seriously consider.

“Businesses are being challenged as they face increased competition from lean digital businesses and international suppliers, while consumer preferences are also changing. This means that businesses have to adapt their business models while similarly workers need to become more agile. The government needs to take the lead in helping shape workplace policies so businesses do not to fall behind,” Mr White said.

Building an agile, diverse and innovative workforce

While acknowledging the costs of an ageing population, the paper also explores the potential benefits to the economy. Using older employees and taking advantage of their experience could in fact support future growth. However, government regulation and legislation may be age discriminatory and could be holding back some of these potential economic benefits.

“More experienced workers can contribute valuable skills and assets to the economy. Indeed, as our economy continues to shift its focus to be more knowledge-driven, their experience could prove more valuable than ever,” Mr White suggested.

A survey, commissioned by Chartered Accountants ANZ of 1,400 Australian workers relating to their employment history, career aspirations and plans for the future, shows that one third of those who are likely to pursue further education to advance their careers were willing to contribute towards the cost. However, three in five still want some form of financial support, whether that is from government (17%) or an employer (12%).

“While there is a greater recognition among workers that they need to take responsibility for their own careers, it will be important for businesses and government to facilitate and possibly part-fund the training and development opportunities needed to upskill or reskill workers, particularly those in roles and industries which will fundamentally change in the future.”

The research also showed that employees are not just looking for new employers when they move. Of those who will pursue a new job in the next ten years, three in five are looking to change to a different industry, a different role, or both. In fact, employees nowadays are generally twice as likely to move jobs for voluntary reasons as compared with involuntary reasons such as being retrenched. In this regard, job mobility is no longer indicative of disloyalty or an inability to settle down.

“Nowadays, agility and diversity in an employee’s work history is often seen as an ability on the part of the worker to embrace change and operate in different work environments, thereby broadening their experiences and skillset. Furthermore, increased access to technology will improve job seekers’ opportunities to search for new employment, making it easier for them to find new jobs. This will inevitably result in greater job mobility and decreased tenure,” Mr White said.

Mr White argues that while businesses may have historically sought to reduce employee turnover because it is expensive, given the value of agility and diversity to a business, he said trying to do this now may be counterproductive.

“The new reality is that high levels of employee turnover are here to stay. Therefore, the emphasis should shift from reducing turnover to decreasing its costs. Developing a more flexible workforce with more adaptable systems and labour policies could be one way of achieving this,” continued Mr White.

“Our publication makes clear that our current perceptions about the future of work are being challenged and policymakers, business owners and individuals will need to work together to ensure Australia continues to thrive in a truly global market,” Mr White concluded.

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