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The Future of Work: Are We Prepared?

The Future of Work: Are We Prepared?
Today we find the world of work in a period of rapid transition: the fourth industrial revolution – an age of automation, connectivity, artificial intelligence and robotics. We’re seeing entire industries vanishing, as new industries and careers emerge. This is driving changes to the way we engage with the world of work – how we work and the type of work we undertake.

In our recently released whitepaper, “Preparing for the Future of Work”, we surveyed almost 600 people across 16 different industries, to investigate the skills people were looking for in their workforce, their strategies to overcome current skill shortages and the projected changes they were looking to implement around recruitment and talent acquisition.

As a result, here are a few of the key findings from the whitepaper.

Spotlight on Automation

One of the questions we asked around automation was whether or not more jobs would be created through automation and digitisation by 2025. It came as a bit of a surprise that the answers were split. Employers leaned towards the more optimistic side, whilst employees sided slightly in the other direction.

Whilst this is certainly interesting, when broken down it isn’t particularly surprising that employees have a less favourable view than employers. After all, they’ll naturally have more fear about automation, with some jobs certain to be replaced at some point.

The extent of that, and the impact of AI and automation is still up in the air. History is on the side of jobs being created, with technological breakthroughs almost always leading to more jobs. However, large scale AI and automation provide their own challenges, targeting both blue and white-collar roles, as well as the fact that their ability to disrupt will increase as technology continues to develop.

Strengthening the Future Workforce

The pace of change is at an all-time high and by all accounts, it’s only going to continue. With that in mind, organisations are going to need to be mindful around the talent that they employ. Engaging those with the right skills and attributes not just for now, but also for the future, is critical. From the survey, we uncovered a few key things that employers expect to do more of over the next five years to strengthen their future workforce. These include:

  • Hire those with transferable skills
  • Hire for potential rather than proven knowledge and experience
  • Hire more part-time or fixed term employees
  • Outsource non-core functions or utilise contractors
  • Hire more women in leadership roles

Overall, we’re seeing employers responding to skills shortages. April’s NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion showed that 49% of businesses are having trouble finding skilled labour. By embracing diversity and more flexible working options, employers are widening their talent pools. Likewise, employers targeting high-potential individuals is also not surprising. Hard skills can always be taught on the job, and many organisations are happy to provide this training to someone who can grow and develop in new ways.

Key Skills for Future Success

Respondents were asked to list the skills they saw as most important (both for the present and in the future). Both audiences identified very similar skills as the key to staying relevant and employable. On the technical side of things, computer literacy and project management were seen as most important to maintain employability in the next five years. As more and more facets of working life become digitised, it’s clear that computer literacy becomes less of a choice, essentially continuing the trend of the last two decades.

However, while technical skills have always been important, it now appears interpersonal and cognitive skills have come to the forefront. Social capital skills were seen as the most important interpersonal skills for the future, alongside written and verbal communication skills. This shows the emphasis that organisations are placing on hiring people who can help improve communication in the workplace. Similarly, complex problem solving and critical thinking emerged as key cognitive skills needed for future employment, with learning agility not far behind.

With these skills emerging as key priorities for organisations, all of the above will be important in identifying people who are going to continue contributing to businesses throughout an ongoing period of change.

Education and Development

We explored the opinions of people based upon the level of attained education with those who completed post-graduate qualifications making up the majority of respondents. What is interesting about this, is that an employee’s level of education had no effect on whether they considered themselves ready for the future of work. When asked if they felt prepared for tomorrow’s employment opportunities, around 70% of employees indicated that they were extremely well prepared and highly employable. Employers also noted the importance of developing people. Providing training and development opportunities was the thing that employers were doing most to retain experienced staff, with almost 90% stating that they had put more of an emphasis on this.

With such a demand for effective learning programmes, it was somewhat surprising that strategic partnerships with education providers were not seen as any more important than they were five years ago. In fact, when ranking their importance, responses were skewed towards the lower end of the scale. On top of that, almost a third of employers were not working with education providers at all to create development pathways for employees

Closing Thoughts

The workplace changes we’re experiencing today are driven by new digital technologies, globalisation, environmental pressures, changing workforce demographics and new forms of social interaction and organisation. What is clear is that these forces will have a growing impact on the structure of employment and the nature of work.

Workplaces will be forced to reconsider old practices used to manage and motivate employees. Despite the improvements that technology can deliver, employers, managers and workers alike will need to adapt to new methods to help connect, learn, grow and socialise with their work and colleagues. No amount of technological advancement will ever replace these human fundamentals.

If you are wanting to learn more about the future of work in New Zealand, get in touch to receive a copy of our latest whitepaper.

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