9 Australian executives share their future of work predictions for 2018

Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesPhoto: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

2018 will be the year of the personal economy, according to Australian business leaders.

Among the top predictions on what the future of work will look like this year is a rise of entrepreneurial intentions, and an increase in employee side-hustles along with more focus around personal brand and identity.

The continued rise of female empowerment will also help lead a significant shift in employee relationships as well as consumer products and services.

Here are the key future of work trends nine Australian business executives see this year.

1. Entrepreneurs and technologists will become the new doctors and lawyers

The robot at work. Image: QUT

With startups leading most of the new jobs growth within Australia and overseas, creating or working for a startup is much more likely to get the thumbs up from the career counsellor and Mum and Dad in 2018. With a high demand for tech skills, the smartest graduates at the end of 2018 will join tech companies not investment banks and consulting firms.

Startups have the potential to contribute as much as $170 billion to Australia’s economy by 2020 according to the StartupAUS Crossroads report. Last year saw a record of $1.32 billion raised in Venture Capital in Australia, providing a much clearer path for budding entrepreneurs to get their startup idea funded.

This year we are also likely to see more Australian boards start to value younger, more entrepreneurial thinking. This will seed a change in culture in corporate Australia, where the markets will start to value the creation of new revenue streams rather than operationalising existing revenue streams.

This in turn will place higher value on the people who have learned how to identify customer problems and build new products and services, most often via new technologies.

— Dean McEvoy, CoFounder & CEO of TechSydney

2. The rise of the independent worker and freedom of identity for professionals


2018 is the year everyday workers will step out from the shadows and reclaim their personal brand. Job and income security is a thing of the past, with disruption, job losses to AI and other tech innovations, and the rise of the independent worker, meaning individuals can no longer rely on or hide behind a corporate brand when it comes to their professional identity.

Other than the drive to survive, the other trends emerging include: the next generation of millennial workers are less likely to sacrifice their personal identity to the employer brand; also, our digital identity now defines us and our business credibility now depends on a solid online footprint. Potential customers and employers now search our digital identity long before they meet us, unqualified competitors can out-rank us online, and the growing global marketplace is compelling professionals to become a “go-to” person, with a very specific field of expertise. The explosion in social media use for brands is also blurring the boundaries between personal and business identity – with many companies now requiring their staff and contractors to have and use their social networks and identities to help promote the company.

— Fleur Brown, Founder of Launch Group, co-founder of TEDxSydney

3. Everyday Australians will monetise their personal profiles and personal data

Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Today’s consumer is increasingly savvy about their data and its worth to brands, and many are understanding the monetisation potential of their data. This is called the Personal Information Economy, where the consumer is responding against personal data collection from companies. In Europe, this is already an advanced market reality which we expect to see mature in the APAC market in the next few years. Helping consumers to take back control of their personal profiles is a way that brands can create trust and improve their CX by understanding what the customer wants from them.

Whilst technology will continue to drive this trend in data monetisation, it also sits within the redefinition of “work” for individuals and corporations resulting from technology disruption.

— Kelvin Kirk, Managing Director of Pureprofile

4. The gig economy will expand and create new opportunities for the underemployed

Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

2018 will see the proliferation of the trend towards sharing economy gigs creating jobs for the underemployed, part-time workers or those with a side-hustle.

If you thought about the sharing economy as mainly Uber & Airbnb, think again – it’s diversifying at pace and creating a multitude of new jobs for both professionals and part-time workers. Recent statistics from RateSetter show an overwhelming two thirds (68%) of Australians are said to now spend and earn money through the sharing economy.

Looking at the ride-sharing sector, drivers are finding new ways of using their vehicles to make money and offering a range of sharing economy services such as courier and delivery services and even stretching as far as home care solutions. This is an example of how share economy giants can be a “feeder” for the broader economy.

— Chris King, founder of Splend

5. Personal skills are the next layer of the sharing economy

Photo: iStock.

The “skills for rent” model is set to explode in 2018 with individuals becoming more aware of their personal expertise and how they can harness it to generate income. This trend taps into the need for professionals to manage their career in a disrupted professional landscape – by tapping into very practical and current skills development from real world teachers, not academics.

The startup Zambesi.com is an example of where this trend is heading as a marketplace for training where highly qualified professionals who are active (or recently active) in the field are encouraged to train other professionals as a side hustle.

— Rebekah Campbell, Co-Founder of Hey You, Founder and CEO Zambesi.com

6. Growth in female business founders

Photo: iStock

There is a growing appetite for entrepreneurship amongst Australians with a recent study identifying almost one third (31%) of adult Australians are either currently self-employed (13%) or considering becoming so in the future (18%). Within this survey, 26.5% of women identified as self-employed or were considering becoming so – this is a big shift in confidence from previous years.

A key driver for this is the current social climate pointing to women needing to be in more positions of authority, and become more financially independent, with research indicating that women are 80 per cent more likely than men to become impoverished. We’re seeing more and more organisations recognise this social issue and build products to suit, such as money management tools aimed specifically at women. 2018 will see more women commit to improving their financial literacy, which is often the key factor keeping business owners from reaching full potential.

— Tanya Titman, Founder of Acceler8

7. Women will increase their skills in traditionally male areas

Tim Graham/Getty Images

The image is shifting in technology – the stigma is no longer that tech careers are purely for men. Women are welcome, women are encouraged and women are succeeding. Digital education providers, like General Assembly, have led a push into increasing the number of women enrolling in their courses as a stepping stone into a technology role. We’re also seeing more role models emerge in the technology space, both locally and internationally, who are demonstrating that women can have valuable leadership roles in the world of gaming and software engineering.

National Australia Bank (NAB) is one of Australia’s largest technology employers, and since 2014 it has increased the number of women in senior technology leadership roles from 18 per cent to over 27 per cent. Globally our success is world class. It’s great to see positive movement in this space, yet with just 14 per cent of executive roles in the Australian technology industry being held by women, we’ve still got a long way to go.

— Sarah Moran, co-founder and CEO, Girl Geek Academy

8. Workplace flexibility will become the norm

Photo: JGalione, iStock.

Today’s employees demand that their work supports their life, not the other way around. By 2025 millennials will represent 42 per cent of the Australian workforce and statistics reveal almost half of them will choose workplace flexibility over pay . This sentiment expands beyond millennials with a recent study revealing 37 per cent of workers would change jobs if they could work from where they want at least part of the time.

The most prominent by-product of the demand for flexible working is the explosion of the global co-working industry. Despite wayward warnings in the 80’s that technological developments would result in entirely home-based working, the emergence of the co-working space has shown how employees desire a blend between the home and the office.

It is estimated that there will be over five million people co-working globally by 2022, with industry starting to lose the “startup only” stigma as the concept is attracting attention from not only small to medium businesses, but also larger corporates.

— Damien Sheehan, Country Head for Australia and New Zealand of Regus

9. Cloud-based HR will create a more dynamic workforce

Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images.

We are starting to see an increased readiness among businesses to embrace digital and take HR into the cloud – and with a more holistic approach. Gone will be clunky legacy systems on-premise or paper-based solutions, which fail to service the evolving needs of a dynamic workforce. Moving to the cloud will ultimately become a necessity rather than an option and this will only become more prevalent in the future.

In today’s digital environment, innovative HR software is fostering a “people” approach, enabling HR to design workplaces of the future that promote a positive culture and value fit for employees. With the continuing demand for workplace flexibility, the nature of flexible workplace arrangements – both time and geographic – necessitate HR software being available 24/7 via smartphones and tablets for employees. Mobile-optimised tech is being fine-tuned to support a digitally-connected mobile workforce, including key functions such as mobile onboarding. Less time wasted on antiquated systems and processes will open up more time for personal interactions and face-to-face engagement, allowing a more genuine understanding of the employee ecosystem and the promotion of diversity.

— Danny Lessem, CEO OF ELMO Software Limited

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