Why are Australians slow to adopt tech?

By Jonathan Jackson. Published at Oct 17, 2019, in Ctrl Alt Del

“While technology is the driver behind business transformation, it is human capital that will determine its success. Particularly in our market, where 40% of the workforce faces a high probability of being replaced by computers in the coming 15 years. It’s an economic imperative for employees and business alike to be agile and responsive to new technologies in order to remain viable, competitive, and profitable,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia.

However, it seems Australian employers find it significantly more challenging to train and hire staff to implement new technologies compared to their global peers.

Come on Aussies, take it from a relatively tech illiterate person like me, it's not good enough.

Research by specialised recruiter Robert Half has found that almost nine in 10 (87%) Australian managers anticipate challenges in upskilling staff to adapt to new technology, well above the global average of 78%.

That's way too high, especially if this country is to stay globally competitive; we need to be future-ready and technology-focused.

That means upskilling.

Barriers to adapting to new technology

“Our research suggests that Australia’s adoption of new technologies, more so than many of its global peers, will be most challenged by the cultural and behavioural obstacles its own human capital presents in the form of an unwillingness to accept and adapt to the future of work, as opposed to functional considerations like the implementation of IT infrastructure,” Morris says.

However, he suggests that while business leaders understand the importance of training to assist with adapting and implementing new technologies within their organisations, many think their efforts could be hampered by organisational challenges.

Nationally, the three biggest barriers to change are resistance to change (33%), insufficient training for employees (33%) and the effort or cost to implement new technologies being greater than the benefits (32%).

Can peers help?

Australian organisations have turned to peer-to-peer knowledge transfer initiatives to help fix this issue. This includes working with a mentor (39% compared to global average of 33%) and knowledge transfer from contractors or other subject matter experts to staff (40% compared to global average of 36%). Other initiatives include in-person training through seminars and courses (40%) and online study (39%).

Bringing in fresh talent

Organisations don't want to lose existing talent, but they may need to augment that talent with digitally savvy employees who can help lead them into the future.

Creating a more agile workforce that is responsive to the benefits of new technology is key to survival in these digitised times.

Yet, according to Robert Half, in a skills-short market, this is not without challenges with 78% of Australian business leaders feeling it is challenging to source professionals skilled in the new technologies their company will be implementing, above the global average of 71%.

This has led to the implementation of a flexible staffing model.

In order to provide support and have access to specialised skills on an as-needed basis, Australian businesses are significantly more likely than their global peers to hire additional contract or interim staff who are subject matter experts (38% vs global average 31%) or hire new temporary staff with the requisite skills (34% vs. global average of 31%).

The CFO experience: move to mentoring

CFOs tend to experience the most resistance to change when adapting staff to new technologies.

The research has determined that more than four in ten (41%) CFOs identify insufficient training for employees as a barrier to technological change, while 40% of CFOs say resistance to change is impeding adoption, compared to only 33% of Australian respondents respectively.

In a skills-short market, eight in 10 CFOs are turning to an integrated staffing model to manage critical projects and share their skills with existing employees than their peers (compared to 73% of Australian respondents). In particular, 47% of CFOs are bringing in consultants who are subject matter experts (compared to 38% of Australian respondents) and 43% of CFOs will hire new temporary staff with the requisite skills (compared to 34% of Australian respondents).

By bringing in external talent who are skilled in the new technologies, CFOs are also creating a peer-to-peer knowledge transfer for existing staff’s professional development.53% of CFOs offer mentoring to help staff learn about new technologies, compared to 39% of Australian respondents.

“Driving digital transformation through an integrated staffing model is a strong strategy - as highly skilled temporary professionals can add value quickly and be a valuable source of knowledge for existing employees. Their varied experience also exposes existing teams to a host of new skills and capabilities that can aide the businesses adaption to new technology.”

“However, companies need to go beyond bringing in external assistance by making professional development of existing staff a business priority. Upskilling existing employees and prioritising training initiatives, simultaneously, will help to both overcome the resistance to change and create a technically proficient workforce,” Morris says.

So come on Aussies, come on. Drop the fear, take up the challenge and embrace the tech.

About the research

The annual study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted in January 2019 by an independent research firm, surveying 6,075 business leaders in 13 countries worldwide: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. This survey is part of an international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.

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