Australia faces shortage of 'human' work skills and an exhausted workforce
By David Sparkes on AM
Australian workplaces face some big challenges in the future, including how to curb looming skills shortages as our economy transforms, and re-energising an increasingly disenchanted workforce.
Get it right, and we could go a long way to boosting productivity, which is something Australia has struggled with in recent years.
In an age of automation, experts say we're not doing enough to skill-up our workforce for the vital roles that only humans can do and that's where most of the jobs will be.
David Rumbens, Deloitte Access Economics
Aaron McEwan, Gartner
KIM LANDERS: If you're worried about robots or automation stealing your job, your fears may be misplaced.
In fact, the biggest threats to our employment market could be a lack of workers with the right skills and a workforce that's also feeling burnt out.
David Sparkes reports.
DAVID SPARKES: Two new reports point to big problems, but also real opportunities in the Australian workforce.
Deloitte Access Economics says despite fears that artificial intelligence will render us obsolete, the future of work is in fact human.
DAVID RUMBENS: There's a shift underway in the workforce and it's a shift towards skill sets which are different in the knowledge economy than we've needed in the past and specifically, we need a lot more interpersonal, creative, human-type skills than we've needed in the past.
DAVID SPARKES: David Rumbens is lead author of the Deloitte report, which finds Australia could benefit from a $36 billion economic boost, if it addresses the looming skills shortage.
DAVID RUMBENS: Skill sets like customer service and skill sets like leadership, sales, design are all becoming more required across a range of jobs. So, it's not that there's a new set of jobs which just require these sorts of skills - these skills are becoming important.
DAVID SPARKES: And if you're thinking about blaming that robot for threatening your future job prospects, think again.
DAVID RUMBENS: We're not seeing wholesale job replacement but what we're seeing is that a lot of the functions that are more routine are getting replaced.
DAVID SPARKES: Another report, by global research company Gartner, surveys workers worldwide every three months and for the first quarter this year, it's come up with some worrying results.
The survey asks questions to gauge workers' willingness to go above and beyond in their jobs, an indicator it calls "discretionary effort levels".
After a period of stability, that indicator fell sharply last quarter showing 15 per cent of workers reported they'd put in extra effort at work, down from 23 per cent two years ago.
Gartner advisory leader, Aaron McEwan, says it shows Australian workers are burnt out and morale is plummeting
AARON MCEWAN: What we think it's starting to indicate is a workforce that has been kind of operating at full capacity for quite a long time and has probably reached a point where there is not much more left to give.
We've been driving higher productivity from our employees for the last 10 years, asking them to do more with less and I think what we're starting to see now is the first signs where people are willing to leave their jobs over issues like work-life balance and respect.
DAVID SPARKES: Both reports point to a connection between the challenges they've identified and the quest for greater productivity.
But Deloitte's David Rumbens says there's reason to be optimistic.
He says if employers provide more flexibility for potential workers, take action to reduce stress in the workplace, and increase the skill set of the Australian worker, productivity will improve and the economy will benefit.
KIM LANDERS: David Sparkes reporting.