Australian businesses are not preparing workers for digital age

Elizabeth Barry 18 April 2017

small business owner

A Microsoft study has found the majority of workers don't feel empowered by their organisation to embrace the demands of a digital workplace.

Microsoft has today released the findings of its Asia Workplace 2020 Study, which found Australian organisations are failing to meet the demands of the collaborative and digital economy. The study looked at productivity, collaboration and flexi-work practices across 14 markets in Asia and surveyed almost 4,200 working professionals.

Two-thirds of Australian respondents (66%) consider themselves to be mobile workers, but only 45% feel empowered by their organisation's culture and management to be able to work productively and collaboratively. Only one-third of respondents agreed that their organisation is committed at a leadership level to ensure every employee is included in closing the digital skills gap.

Sharon Schoenborn, director of the office business group at Microsoft Australia says that organisations need to rethink how they empower their workforce.

"Organisations need to rethink how they empower their workforce with the right culture, policy, infrastructure and tools to maximise their potential. This means enabling collaboration from anywhere, on any device," she said.

"However, it is also critical for business leaders to evaluate and implement changes to counter cultural and management challenges that are hindering employees to work seamlessly from wherever they are, which will in turn, hinder an organisation’s growth and progress in the digital age."

This survey from Microsoft is in line with research from insurtech company Trōv which released a report on the "Uberisation of the workforce" in November 2016. The report found that one-third (31%) consider their home to be their primary place of work, followed by a private office (29%), a co-working space (17%) and a cafe (8%).

According to Microsoft, access to newer, collaborative technologies will enhance productivity at work – wherever that may be.

Over one-quarter (26%) of workers surveyed said that access to real-time intelligence will help them make more informed decisions at work, while 25% think artificial intelligence will help them perform tasks independently. Nearly the same percentage (24%) would like virtual workspaces that support instant messaging and document sharing.

Schoenborn says that employee collaboration will change as the nature of work changes.

"It is critical for business and HR leaders to seek ways to better empower individuals and remove barriers to collaborate for the digital age, especially when the study clearly identifies gaps that can be minimised with technology. However, it is also important for businesses to also bridge the leadership and employee gap with more focus on people and culture."

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