Australian business is backing automation to boost employment growth

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  • Automation in the workforce could lead to large job losses in the years ahead, according to some reports.
  • However, new research from ManpowerGroup has found that rather than reducing employment, automation could boost see headcounts increase over the next two years.
  • It found that workers with communication and problem solving skills, along with client-facing and IT staff, are currently the hardest to find for employers.

The robots are coming for your jobs.

That’s been heard a lot recently, including in Australia, sparked by an increase in automation across a wide variety of industries, especially in lower-skilled professions.

By eliminating inefficiencies and improving productivity, it makes sense for many employers to go down this path, especially with an eye on boosting profitability.

As this progresses, many believe it will result in a wave of large-scale job losses, creating all sorts of challenges to retrain displaced workers with the necessary skills to allow them to remain in the workforce.

Indeed, a recent report from labour market experts Adzuna estimated that one in three Australian jobs are at risk of being automated by the year 2030, with the most acute threats facing workers in lower-skilled or manual labour roles, and in regional areas.

However, while that challenge lies ahead, employers, including in Australia, believe that automation will add to staffing levels, rather than see them decline, in the near-term.

That’s the view of a report from ManpowerGroup that suggests most Australian firms plan to add or leave staffing levels unchanged over the next two years as stronger demand for IT and front-line workers offsets declines in other areas.

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“In response to the impact of automation, 21% of Australian employers expect to grow their workforce while 62% plan to maintain current headcount over the next two years,” the group said.

“This signals that digitisation will be a net gain for employment across Australia in the near-term, so long as job seekers have the right blend of skills required in today’s digital age.”

In particular, the report found that customer-facing roles, as well as IT functions, were likely to see strong demand with anticipated headcount increases of 26% and 17% expected respectively as companies begin investing in the strategic combination of both human and digital skills.

However, as a byproduct of the shift towards automation, the report also found that headcounts for administrative and office workers, along with those currently employed in manufacturing and production functions, would likely decline over the next couple of years.

Richard Fischer, ManpowerGroup Australia Managing Director, said the findings demonstrate the positive impact automation can have on Australia’s labour market.

“Automation doesn’t have to be bad news,” he said.

“Employment remains at one of the strongest levels in more than six years, making now a critical time for Australian employers to embrace digital change in order to identify the right mix of skills and talent to augment, rather than compete with, technology.”

For employers, Fischer says that rather than cutting headcounts in favour of automation, they should be focusing on training their existing workforce with an eye towards the future.

“As employers, we can no longer rely on a spot market for talent,” he says.

“In today’s tech-driven working world with skills needs changing rapidly, Australian employers need to start thinking outside the box to help their employee’s upskill and remain employable.

“We need to create clear career paths and faster reskilling programs in order for companies and their talent to digitise at market speed.”

As for workers concerned that they may lose out to automation, Fischer says your chances will be enhanced by possessing communication and problem solving skills.

Source: ManpowerGroup

“The rise in consumerism and the value companies now place on customer service is increasingly evident and human strengths are more valued than ever before,” he says.

“In fact, more than half of Australian companies surveyed say communication skills, both written and verbal, are the hardest-to-find and the skills they now value most, followed by problem-solving and collaboration.”

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