We’ve noticed a significant interest in FoW coming from Australia over the past year or so, and as befits a research consultancy, we were intrigued to know the source of this interest. We asked Kristen Miller, Workplace Transformation Director at Westpac Group to provide us with a perspective and here’s what she had to say…
“Today, Australia’s population of about 23 million is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. As a result, Australian workplaces need to be prepared to deal with the challenges and opportunities this presents.
In recent times, Australian companies have dealt with workplace challenges that have led them to focus on preparing better for the future. For example, the mining boom in 2011 led to skill shortages, the “war for talent”, economic prosperity and wage growth. Coupled with a decade of economic growth and record-low unemployment rates, companies felt challenged in an unknown territory – people. Traditional (and successful) industries found themselves challenged with regard to how, when and what people worked on as the employee/employer power shifted increasingly toward employee choice – many companies were ill-prepared.
Changing where, when and how we work
In terms of working habits, government investment in the National Broadband Network (NBN) is designed to provide access to a minimum level of broadband service across the nation. This initiative has led to an increase in opportunities in education, business, entertainment, health care and sociability giving everyone the potential to be more productive, more creative, more efficient and more connected for decades to come. Importantly, working from home has become a real option for many now that anyone can experience a fast and reliable internet connection in the home.
This connectivity is vital for other reasons. Australia is a high wage-earning country and because of this, many companies within Australia have moved to offshoring and partnering arrangements to initially minimise cost. The changing landscape of on-going globalisation, and Australia’s relative distance from other parts of the world, is making work international, networked, culturally diverse and 24/7. Value creation and productivity for Australia will depend on its ability to build and maintain networks across regional and national boundaries, meaning that Australian companies have to be focussed on the global talent pool when it comes to employing the next generation of workers.
Gearing up for marathon careers
Like many other countries around the world, Australia has an aging population. Combined with high quality health care, this means that a larger proportion of the population is moving towards retirement and living far longer. The impact of this is that current superannuation plans are not expected to sustain people for their retired lifetime resulting in an increased burden on social welfare. As a result there has been increased focus from the Federal Government on raising the pension age, and organisations are now starting to think about ways to engage and support an aging workforce.
Recent years have also seen increased media coverage of the importance of work/life balance, wellbeing in the workplace, activity based working and employers of choice. These stories are often used as ways to highlight what employers should be considering as a way to attract and retain key talent. As a result, a number of organisations are seeking out additional or more progressive ways to differentiate themselves from competitors – raising the bar for everyone in the process.
Australian organisations are keen not only to learn how to deal with the implications of these shifts, but also to prepare for the changes will follow them. Participating in the Future of Work Research Consortium has been a great way for Westpac to gain deeper insights into the forces shaping the world we work in and how we can respond to them.”
Do you work for an Australian-based organisation that’s tackling these issues? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how joining the Future of Work Research Consortium could help.