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Earlier this month we proudly launched the seventh report in our signature Building the Lucky Country thought leadership series. The series is especially relevant because each report addresses a topical issue that prompts debate and conversations across business and government on the big issues that affect Australia’s future. In this latest case, we’ve put the future of work under the microscope so we can all better understand its significance, and prepare for it.
I wanted to lend my perspective on why understanding the future of work matters, and why now. What I found most reassuring is that people – and our unique attributes and interpersonal skills – most definitely form part of the equation. Not necessarily our occupations or qualifications, but our individual skills. This is something we shouldn’t forget. It’s our best defence to reassure those who may be worried about their futures.
In fact, to maintain our prosperity as a nation, and to thrive and take bold steps forward in an increasingly complex and competitive world, we need to take care of our people and make sure we support them to be their best selves. I often refer to this as creating the right environment so everyone can shine and make an impact. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our people foster the creativity, innovation and productivity we need in the workplace to navigate the fast-paced world in which we live.
The report – The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human – explores the role of technology and how it’s changing the very nature of work, and therefore the skills required by people to ride the constant and ever increasing waves of technologically-driven transformation.
If you combine this with the fact that we’re all expected to live for significantly longer (I highly recommend you read The 100-Year Life by London Business School professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott), we need to keep learning, be proactive and stay relevant. From my perspective, we’ve certainly got some exciting times ahead! As humans, I think we need to rethink our life patterns – we don’t retire at 60 anymore – and build different skills and capabilities to live a long and purposeful life.
The great news is that we don’t need to be anxious about our jobs. Although tech is driving change in the way we work, and the actual work we do, it’s not going to replace us. Our report shows it will actually make us more productive – and that’s the crux of it! When organisations combine people and technology – or to put it another way, when we combine soft human skills and natural intelligence with automated processes – work is done more efficiently and effectively. And that’s good for people, business and society. For example, it’ll mean we increasingly combine the best of human skills with efficient technology solutions to improve the way hospitals care for patients, or the way schools educate children. It’s life changing, for the better.
I agree with our wonderful Deloitte report authors who argue that future human jobs increasingly need us to use what bots don’t have, and that’s our hearts. But what does that mean? It means we need to use our intuition, emotional intelligence, feelings, empathy, personality – our very different perspectives informed by our unique backgrounds and the environments in which we grew up – and bring this to the table in our daily jobs. All of these skills make us perfect candidates for collaboration, and when you collaborate well you’re able to be more creative, innovative and productive.
When thinking about this in the context of Australia, we know we’re facing a significant skills shortage. Our research shows that the average worker is missing approximately two of the 18 critical skills employers need. By 2030, there will be an estimated 29 million skill shortages! We can either see this as an alarming threat, or as a huge opportunity – and I’m inclined to focus on the latter. And this is where corporates and government need to step in and prepare themselves early: we need to embrace and increase our investment in on-the-job learning and skills enhancement.
At Deloitte, I’m glad to say we’ve already started this journey. Last year we established the Open Talent Network, a community of professional contractors and freelancers to fill specific skill gaps on a short-term basis. So depending on a specific clients’ needs and our own talent pools, we can tap into an instant network of skilled people who can help us build the best team to tackle a unique challenge. We’ve also refreshed our return-to-work programs, designed to support those who have taken a career break and are re-entering the professional world. We want to make it easier for people to come back to work in a meaningful way. In a world where the future is human, programs like these are instrumental to supporting our people to reach their full potential both now and in future.
Another example is how we develop our leaders – here in Australia and overseas – by sponsoring them through our Deloitte University programs. We’ve just piloted how we can extend this internal education and upskilling from our Partners to our managers, who will hopefully one day become future leaders within Deloitte or Australian industry. And next month we’re launching Innovation Month across Deloitte Australia to encourage all of our people to immerse themselves in different innovation sessions hosted across our offices to learn new skills, collaborate with colleagues they wouldn’t normally work with and question the norm. Innovation is intoxicating for our people and vital for helping us work with our clients.
As our latest Building the Lucky Country report states, if we take the right actions now, our national income will be boosted by $36 billion per year by 2030. That’s great for our economy, our society and our children’s futures.
I’d love to hear what you’re doing to invest in the future of work.
Joanne Gorton is the Managing Partner of Audit & Assurance in Australia and a member of the National Executive. Joanne has over 20 years’ of multi-industry experience as an auditor working with high profile ASX100 clients and large public companies. A trusted advisor at Board and C-Level, Joanne’s career has spanned Australia’s two largest professional services firms. In addition to her audit roles, Joanne has also provided advisory services to her clients including internal audit, risk management, compliance and accounting advice on complex transactions and arrangements.