In Summary

  • A national survey of 1,000 working Australians reveals more than half worry about how digital technology will affect their jobs
  • Uniquely human skills will be the point of difference for workers in the digital future
  • Preparing for the future of work is the responsibility of both employers and employees

More than half of Australian workers are worried that technology will threaten their jobs, says Director of Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce, Dr Sean Gallagher.

In a survey of more than 1,000 working Australians, the complete findings of which will be released later this month, Dr Gallagher found that emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence and automation, were perceived as a bigger threat to job security than an economic downturn.

“It is definitely on the radar of many Australians,” says Dr Gallagher. “And one of the things that is quite clear from the survey is that working Australians feel they are not ready for the changes they expect over the next five years.”

More than half of surveyed workers believe their current skillset will not last five years, as digital technology is already changing or affecting many jobs.

Skills for the future world of work  

Uniquely human skills will be the point of difference for workers in the future, says Dr Gallagher.

“People connecting and working with people will drive the value add from workers in the digital economy. Workers should focus on improving social competencies and qualities such as emotional intelligence, empathy, entrepreneurial skills, leadership, risk-taking ability, creativity, ideation, collaboration and resilience.”

“Traditional expertise is still fundamentally important, but instead of it being your main point of difference, it will be a foundation.”

Executive Director of Swinburne Professional, Rob Chetwynd, says training in soft skills and business skills is in high demand.

“It's these non-traditional skills that are becoming increasingly important to retain and engage staff, and understand what makes them tick to get the most out of them.”

“The workforce of the future is more generalist, so we all need a greater range of skills. It’s about giving people the right skills to do their jobs, not become an expert in a specific field forever.”

It is everyone’s responsibility

Dr Gallagher says that companies and organisations often focus on the technology requirements for the digital economy than on their people.

“Employers need to empower workers to be decision-makers and risk-takers, starting with fostering a culture of curiosity and continuous learning. Workers who are resilient in ambiguous and dynamic environments, and can work across knowledge boundaries, will develop the agency they need to succeed.

“Employers need to create learning workplaces and allow workers to self-direct their learning based on their motivational purpose.”

Dr Gallagher says that workers need the right mindset for the future of work.

“Recognise that it’s your innately human skills that will become increasingly important. Don’t be afraid to take yourself out of your comfort zone and never stop learning.”

The Centre for the New Workforce

The Centre for the New Workforce officially launched in December 2018. The centre is a research and thought leadership initiative designed to support Australian businesses, organisations and their employees by developing new approaches to learning that empower people to thrive in the future of work. 

Swinburne Professional

A division of Swinburne, Swinburne Professional is a leading professional education provider, creating a flexible, practical and agile way for professionals to learn.