October 31, 2019

Five tech-driven trends transforming the Australian workforce

Nathan Reynolds, Managing Director of Ceridian ANZ, outlines key technology trends driving the changing world of work in Australia, and considerations for employers planning for the future.

It’s a complex time for the Australian workforce. While the country has seen economic growth, the future of work poses key challenges for employers. From addressing the skills shortage to adopting new and advanced technologies, business leaders are rethinking how they approach their talent strategies.

This thinking came through loud and clear at our recent HCM Executive Summits in Sydney and Melbourne, where senior HR executives came together to candidly discuss the future of work, and how technology can help to create value, empower people, and propel businesses towards the future.

Central to these discussions was the notion that technology investment spurs organisational transformation, from elevating company culture to positively impacting the business bottom line. Here are some key areas of focus for leaders looking to drive greater value in their organisations.

Trend #1: Work is what you do, not where you go

One of the most obvious ways technology has changed the world of work is that it now happens everywhere. The rise of the tech-enabled worker means employees across many sectors can work from anywhere.

And it’s not just the “digital nomads” writing code from a beach in Bali who desire flexibility. Working from home part-time gives even regular office workers a welcome reprieve from their stressful daily commutes. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of Australian workers want a job offering flexible work options.

Action: In a competitive labour market, offering employees flexibility in when and where they work can help you attract and retain talent. Offering a negotiable or remote location for applicable roles also widens the available pool of candidates beyond the boundaries of your local area, so you can attract the best talent, not just the closest.

Trend #2: Employees are the new customers

Technology is driving a trend toward a more “consumerised” employee experience. In this age of instant gratification, HR teams will be expected to provide employees with an experience at work that is comparable to their experience as consumers. Big data and predictive technology have changed customer expectations in most industries, and the new standard for customer experience has begun to bleed over into other areas of people’s lives – including work. In fact, 56% of employees feel their employer should understand them as well as they’re expected to understand their customers.

Greater focus on the employee experience also aligns with HR’s changing role of becoming a more strategic business partner. What’s more, research shows that companies that place an emphasis on employee experience have more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue than companies that don’t.

Action: Best-in-class companies will attract – and keep – their top talent based in part on how well they differentiate themselves with employee-centric experiences, invest in self-service technology tools and learning platforms that offer an experience that’s personal, tailored to employees’ needs, and seamlessly connected.

Related: Six ways to craft an unforgettable experience for your employees at work

Trend #3: Data drives everything

For the better part of the last decade, data has been king when it comes to making business decisions. The next phase is for organisations to apply advanced technologies like big data and predictive analytics to their workforce. Forward-thinking companies across industries are starting to use data to drive decision-making and operational efficiency in many areas of people management.

For instance, companies can make fairer compensation decisions – critical for gender pay equity – based on data-driven insights, including performance and compensation history, tenure, and salary range. Data will soon underpin every aspect of human capital management, from recruiting to workforce management to learning and development.

Action: Data is powerful, but organisations need to use it in an integrated way across the organisation. Investing in technology that easily combines data from a variety of sources will enable new and more powerful uses of people analytics programs.

Trend #4: Disengaged employees impact the business bottom line

Australian businesses have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to employee engagement. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that only 14% employees in Australia and New Zealand are engaged at work.

Engagement matters because it has a significant effect on business results: Organisations with great EX outperform the S&P 500 by 122%, according to Accenture. This is a huge impact, and employers need to rethink the approach to managing employees. The old ways of doing things are no longer working.

Adding to the complexity of engagement is the gap between what employees want from a workplace and what is usually offered. According to Ceridian’s 2018-2019 Pulse of Talent report, they want good benefits (of course) – but they also want training, and to find purpose in their work. Engagement works both ways.

Action: It’s critical to invest in employee engagement. This extends far beyond one-off and short-term perks. Personalising the employee experience by offering progressive initiatives and programs, and measuring the success of engagement tactics, are two keys to long-term success and delivering value.  

Trend #5: Tech enables the rise of teams

The way many businesses operate today is very different from how they operated even five years ago. Many companies increasingly feel the need to support and enable team dynamics and collaboration. Technology is a critical piece of this puzzle.

According to leading HCM industry analyst Josh Bersin, the team is now the fundamental organisational design principle of a company, replacing traditional hierarchical structures. Additionally, Accenture reports that 79% of executives agree that the future of work will be based more on specific projects than roles. HR leaders will play a key role in enabling and improving team collaboration, by redesigning their structures to be built around teams.

Action: Organisations should consider investing in technology to support quick and easy onboarding of permanent and contingent workers onto new project teams. Tech can also assist with managing new learning requirements and quick team assembly and disbanding.

Related: How a team-based model can help build the organisation of the future

The path forward

As technology continues to evolve the world of work, organisations need to understand these trends and continually adapt their people strategy. Underscoring the trends discussed above are some key considerations for leadership as they plan for the future.

Leaders must view technology as transformational, not disruptive: It’s clear that in the rapidly changing world of work, leaders can’t continue with the same practices they’re using today. While technology developments are set to change the very nature of work, there’s also evidence that technology will augment human efforts and contribute to new job creation.

Your people strategy should be integrated, and map back to business objectives: Successfully managing your greatest asset – your people – is core to your business. Technology investments that impact the workforce are no longer the responsibility of just one stakeholder (or just the IT department) – they must involve the functional and strategic areas involved in driving the bottom line.

Organisations must keep employee experience front of mind in order to attract and retain the very best people, and keep them engaged in the business. Investing in the people, technology, and processes that support this is essential to deliver value and future-proof your workforce. Imagine how successful your business could be with an engaged, productive workforce.

Nathan Reynolds

Nathan is the Managing Director for Ceridian Australia. 

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