“Daunted”: Aussie workers concerned as core workplace skills shift

future of work

Businesses are being urged to be proactive about helping their employees navigate “unprecedented” changes in how Australians work, as new data reveals many are worried about their professional futures.

In its 2019 Future of Skills report on Wednesday, social media giant LinkedIn said technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and gesture recognition underpin emerging in-demand skills.

The survey of over 4,100 professionals across Asia Pacific found more than half (53%) of Australian workers believe the skills they need to succeed are changing rapidly, while a significant 39% say they “feel daunted” by the pace of change.

Its easy to see why. LinkedIn says up to 42% of the core skills required for jobs today could change by the end of next year, predicting Australia could face a “talent crunch” where skills fail to keep pace with increasingly automated workplaces.

Meanwhile, separate data put together by the World Economic Forum earlier this year found bookkeeping and payroll will be “redundant roles” by 2022.

The future of work

The balance between education and technology has been a talking point among academics and economists for years, but as Australia stands at the precipice of “unprecedented” changes in the nature of work, SMEs are being encouraged to get ahead of the curve.

Sean Gallagher, director of the centre for new workforce at Swinburne University in Melbourne, has himself been tracking how workers are responding to the skills shakeup.

He tells SmartCompany the majority of Australian workers are worried about their job security as the economy becomes more digital.

“The majority of Australians expect their job is going to change in five years’ time, that pace of change is unprecedented, certainly in recent times,” Gallagher says.

Research released by the centre for new workforce recently found 56% of workers expect their jobs will require skills they currently lack.

The issue is particularly pertinent for older workers, who Gallagher says list digital literacy as their biggest concern.

“Increasingly, work based on skills that are routine and have predictable tasks behind them are going to be disrupted,” he says.

“That’s not just low level jobs … Google’s AI is much better at diagnosing lung cancer than specialists.”

Workers are ready to make changes though. Three quarters of workers surveyed by Swinburne said they’re attracted to roles where there’s an opportunity to learn.

Empowering the workforce

As employers of 4.8 million Australians, SMEs will be crucial in assisting the labour market in re-skilling itself for the future, Gallagher says.

Swinburne’s research split the private labour market into the knowledge sector, services sector and assets sector.

Businesses in the knowledge sector, including professional services, finance, media and telecommunications, will be first disrupted, the research suggests.

“If you’re in the knowledge sector, you really need to be empowering your employees to become a lot more self-directed in their learning,” Gallagher says.

“The jobs are changing much faster. Empowering employees to be able to learn what they need to know is increasingly important.”

While older workers are concerned about their ability to understand the digital world, the younger generations are focusing on social skills like empathy and collaboration, Gallagher says.

“The more disrupted the industry, the more workers in that industry value social competencies.

“The role for human workers is to move towards higher levels of cognitive work, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making.

“Increasingly, we’re focusing on social competencies like empathy, social skills and collaboration.

“But also the entrepreneurial side of things, like leadership and curiosity … those are uniquely human skills less vulnerable to being disrupted,” Gallagher says.

Employers and workers after different things?

However, there appears to be a disconnect between workers and employers in relation to the future of work.

LinkedIn found three in five Australian workers say time is the most significant barrier to learning and development at work, but 39% of businesses surveyed said they struggle to engage employees to learn in the first place.

“We can see a misalignment between what motivates many employees to learn compared to what most employers are pursuing,” LinkedIn’s Jason Laufer said of the findings.

“Australian employees are more typically driven to learn for personal and professional fulfillment, however employers are focusing on career progression.”

The 10 top rising skills in Australian workplaces, according to LinkedIn:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Workflow automation
  • Compliance
  • Social media marketing
  • Robotic process automation
  • Front end web development
  • Blockchain
  • Gesture recognition technology
  • Continous integration
  • Human centered design

NOW READ: Future of Work: Bookkeepers, payroll clerks labelled “redundant roles”: The jobs that will rise and fall over the next four years

READ NOW: Future of Work: Four trends tipped to change the workplace

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