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Australian workers apprehensive about digital transformation

Nearly four in 10 workers in Australia are worried that they do not have the right skills to compete in the digital economy, survey finds

More than seven out of 10 Australian employees are apprehensive about digital transformation, and 39% of them fear their job is at risk due to the digital economy, a new study has revealed.

A further 37% are also worried that they do not have the right skills to compete in the digital economy, according to IDC’s Asia-Pacific employee sentiment survey 2018, which was commissioned by Workday.

Almost half (49%) of the Australian employees surveyed believe their employer or manager has not actively helped them to acquire new skillsets to future-proof their careers. Consequently, one-third of them expect to change their employer within a year.

Tom Shields, vice-president for Workday Asia-Pacific, said an escalating war for digital talent is driving this phenomenon.

“The changing nature of jobs enabled by digital technologies is unsettling the workplace landscape,” he said. “Looking back over the research we conducted two years ago, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of employees saying they would leave if the right opportunity came along.

“It is an alarming volume that is creating the potential for a tsunami of workplace musical chairs and it applies to businesses, large and small, across a wide range of sectors. Australian employers that fail to understand and react to its impact do so at their peril.”

Describing the study results as a wake-up call for employers, Shields called for organisations to focus on developing effective talent management strategies that are supported by data-driven insights.

“Our feedback tells us that Workday customers have more than halved the potential risk of employee disengagement through properly mapping out strategic skill requirements and aligning these with employees’ training needs and challenges,” he said.

“These customers have left behind the days of solely relying on employee satisfaction metrics and are concentrating on delivering a commitment to improving their employees’ capability to handle the fast pace of change demanded by the digital economy.”

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Although Australia’s workforce is generally contented – 82% of workers are happy and engaged – as long as positive relationships with co-workers are maintained, but Shields said there is no room for complacency. 

“The survey highlights a dichotomy in the talent market,” he said. “Retention and reskilling are intertwined. Australian employees appreciate the opportunities offered by the digital economy and they are motivated to move if they are denied the chance to participate.”

Australian business leaders, at least in the technology sector, generally agree with the need to build up digital skills in Australian workers.

“As a nation, we need to be investing in skills for the long term,” said Paul Migliorini, managing director of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Australia and New Zealand.

He added that at the recent AWS Summit in Sydney, 500 students from local high schools were invited to take part in hands-on workshops that gave them a glimpse of what a career in technology could look like.

According to a report by the Australian Computer Society, the country’s digital economy could be worth A$139bn (US$104bn) by 2020, accounting for 7% of GDP.

Read more on IT education and training

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