Aug 2016

Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce

By: Odyssey Publication
Tags: Automation, knowledge economy, Offshoring, Outsourcing

Earlier this year the CSIRO released a report on “Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce”.

Whilst this report is quite a read at 122 pages, this contains significant nuggets of information that give important offerings for accountants, and accounting firm owners. The move to the knowledge economy, offshoring and automation, and the new entrepreneurial freelancer models.

As to why this report has been released now, the CSIRO notes: Australia’s workforce is continually changing the current period in history is characterised by a combination of forces likely to be associated with greater, faster and different transitions than previously experienced.

There are several factors creating unique conditions – a ‘perfect storm’ – at this point in history:

  • The full impact of exponential and/or steep growth in computing power, device connectivity, data volumes and artificial intelligence is yet to be felt within Australia’s labour market. We will reach the steeper sections of the exponential growth curves some time beyond 2020. Many existing jobs are likely to be automated and many new jobs to be created.
  • The recent ascendancy of the peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace (Upwork, Freelancer, Kaggle, Task Rabbit etc.) and the rise of platform economics in a globalised labour market characterised by entrepreneurial activity is likely to change traditional employment models. Many P2P models and employment platforms are in the early phases of development and showing signs of rapid growth.
  • The ageing population, cultural diversification, retirement pressures and health and wellbeing drivers are set to change the demographic structure of Australia’s workforce. In the next decade Australia’s workforce will be older and more culturally diversified.
  • Australia is entering the post-mining boom era of its economic development and is positioned for diversification into services, knowledge and innovation exports. This is being fueled by a changing world economy, as Australia’s trading partners in Asia transition from the industrialisation-phase of development into advanced-service sector economies.

Six Megatrends were identified in the report:

  • Automation and connectivity: The explosion in device connectivity, data volumes and computing speed, combined with rapid advances in automated systems and artificial intelligence means that robotic devices can perform many tasks more quickly, safely and efficiently than humans.
  • Porous boundaries (Outsourcing and Offshoring): Digital technology and the new world of ‘platform economics’ is changing employment markets and organisational structures. Jobs of the future are likely to be more flexible, agile, networked and connected.
  • The era of the entrepreneur: The ideal job within a large organisation may not be awaiting an increasing number of future job seekers. This means individuals will need to create their own job. This will require entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes.
  • Divergent demographics: Along with many other advanced and emerging economies, Australia’s population is ageing with growing life expectancies. Retirement ages are likely to push back further and an organisation’s employee profile is likely to contain more diverse age groups and more diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • The rising bar: Increased use of automated systems is raising the complexity of tasks and requiring higher skill levels for entry-level positions. Income growth in Asia is associated with increased educational and skills levels, as well as growing competition for Australia’s labour force. Many low skilled jobs are being offshored or automated. The consequence is the likelihood of a raised skills and education bar for entry into many professions and occupations.
  • Tangible intangibles: Employment growth in the service industries, in particular education and healthcare, has driven job creation in recent times. This is likely to continue into the future as we move to a knowledge economy. Service sector jobs requiring social interaction skills and emotional intelligence will become increasingly important.

 And new skills and mindsets will be needed for the future:

  • Education and training is becoming ever more important
  • New capabilities are needed for new jobs of the future
  • Digital literacy is needed alongside numeracy and literacy
  • Aptitudes and mindsets to handle a dynamic labour market
  • Challenging perceptions and norms about job types
  • Improving workforce participation in vulnerable demographics
  • Towards tapered retirement models
  • New models to forecast job transition requirements
  • Improved understanding of the peer-to-peer (and freelancer) economy
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