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2019 Workplace trends for Australia

Balancing automation with human workers, the impact of chatbots on an employment brand and a widening talent mismatch are among the trends that will shape the recruitment market in 2019, according to Hays.

“Organisations in Australia want to position for growth in 2019,” said Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand. “With demand and supply issues intensifying, they’ll need to up the talent ante to achieve growth while striking the right balance between technological integration and human skills.”

According to Hays, the ten top talent trends for 2019 are:

1. The integration of the ‘human’ factor within successful automation deployment
‘Could a robot do my job?’ This was a common question asked in 2018 but with employers now focused on the optimal balance between human workers and robotic automation the question for 2019 becomes, ‘How will automation be integrated into my role?’ As Elon Musk admitted in 2018 on Twitter in response to delays in manufacturing Tesla’s Model 3 sedan, “Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake… Humans are underrated.” Organisations are learning from such mistakes and, in 2019, will look for the most effective, ethical and value-adding amalgamation of automation and staff beyond simply the most productive.

2. Taking employees on the AI change management journey
Once the decision is made to introduce robotic automation or artificial intelligence to drive operational efficiency, organisations will need to engage their employees within a robust and considered change management plan to mitigate risk of implication on morale. It’s important that this is done in a way that alleviates the perceived threat that many workers see such technology posing to their livelihood. Part of this involves talking about the rationale behind it, and explaining how it can help individuals perform their job and potentially develop their career through learning new skills.

3. The retention benefit of digital upskilling to be realised
With major brands such as Walmart already investing in the digital upskilling of their staff, expect constant learning to become mainstream in 2019. While upskilling existing staff provides an organisation with a pipeline of employees who can fill current skill gaps, an arguably greater benefit comes in the form of an employee benefit that staff actually want to receive and will stay for. According to our 2018-19 Hays Salary Guide, 59% of Australian workers want a job offering ongoing learning & development opportunities. This is behind only flexible work practices and career progression.

4. Big data gets bigger
Big data is no longer the exclusive domain of big business, with technological barriers falling away as more and more off-the-shelf data management tools close the gap with enterprise level organisations. Organisations of all sizes will be able to rely on big data for business insights. In 2019 the focus will be on recruiting talent who can capture more information from an increasing number of data points, such as the Internet of Things (a market that will double by 2021) and previously unused dark data, but crucially also derive actionable insights from that data. We also expect to see greater regulation surrounding data protection and privacy, which will impact the skills employers require.

5. The lure of chatbots, the potential impact on an employer brand
The use of conversational artificial intelligence within the recruitment process will rise in 2019, but organisations will need to assess and address the potential impact on an employer brand. The technology now exists for an organisation to use advanced chatbots to offer personalised responses to initial candidate telephone enquiries and common queries based on set rules and algorithms. While the automation of such conversations can free hiring managers to focus on non-routine job tasks, organisations will need to consider its impact on their employer brand – and if the caller should be informed that they’re not talking to a person.

6. Diversifying diversity
The business benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce and workplace are becoming more widely understood, but various surveys show that in 2019 organisations will want to accelerate the pace of change to achieve genuine results in this area. The focus will also shift to diversifying diversity, or in other words, to widening terms of reference to cover more demographics, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people living with disclosed disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ+ and mature-age.

7. Failure to offer flexibility creates an attraction and retention drawback
Few professionals work 9-5 anymore, but the concept of set hours every day was heavily under the spotlight in 2018. An Irish study of 1,000 workers found 32 per cent would accept a longer workday for a shorter working week. Meanwhile, a New Zealand financial firm, Perpetual Guardian, allowed workers to work a four-day week following a trial that found it improved productivity and reduced stress. With more employees considering flexibility – of hours or place – the norm, any organisation that doesn’t review their flexible working policies will face an attraction and retention shortcoming in 2019.

8. Beware the talent mismatch
Australia’s talent mismatch between the skills jobseekers possess and those employers want will expand even further, after growing for the past five years. Despite an existing pool of labour, in 2019 employers will find it harder to hire people with the expertise they need, particularly in high-skill industries and for roles that require highly-skilled professionals, such as IT, engineering, financial services and professional services. This will lead to employers exploring a wider range of talent attraction and retention strategies in 2019.

9. Focus on specialisation and strategic thinking
Employers will focus on expanding their teams with deep expertise and wide perspectives. Given increased technological change and the fast-paced nature of today’s world of work, employers look for candidates who can think strategically to leverage new technologies, trends and opportunities to add greater value and benefit the organisation.

10. A need for stakeholder engagement skills
Technological disruption will increase the requirement for all departments to possess staff with strong stakeholder engagement and management skills. Organisations will look for staff who, in addition to possessing the necessary technical skills a role requires, can also understand and improve engagement with internal and external stakeholders.