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Microsoft: Aussie workers not ready for the Digital Age, report says

24 Apr 2017

Australian’s are not feeling empowered.

That is, Australian employees don’t feel empowered by their organisation's culture and management to be able to work together productively amongst the demands of a digital workplace.

This is according to new findings from Microsoft’s Asia Workplace 2020 Study that included close to 4,200 professionals from 14 markets in Asia.

The study looks at the shift in employee behaviours and gaps in the workplace regarding productivity, collaboration and flexi-work practices.

While 66% of Australian respondents consider themselves to be mobile workers and spend at least 20% of their time working outside of their office, only 45% feel empowered by their organisation to be able to work productively and collaboratively.

32% of respondents agree their organisation is committed at a leadership level to ensure every employee is included in closing the digital skills gaps within the workforce.

Sharon Schoenborn, director, Office Business Group, Microsoft Australia, says as Australia is priming itself to become the most connected market with more than half of all mobile connections originating from the region by 2021.

Schoenborn says that 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.”

An earlier version of the study conducted in 2015 found that 39 of 100 Australian participants describe themselves as ready for the ‘New World of Work.’ The idea of the ‘New World of Work’ is made up of three main principles: people, place and technology.

Moreover, organisations that had the right ‘People, Place and Technology’ principles in place enable a collaborative and innovative workplace.

This year that number has increased to 48 out of 100, indicating that organisations today are slightly more equipped.

However, the study suggests more can be done.

Beyond People, Place and Technology factors, the rise of the 4th industrial revolution has also fuelled the transformation.

A 2016 Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study found that ‘Empowering Employees’ is the second digital transformation priority for Australia’s business leaders.

On the other hand, having a digital skilled workforce was one of the number two barriers in their digital transformation journey.

Microsoft says that it’s evident that mobile professionals are embracing flexi-work today.

According to the company, organisations should look at new workplace practices, especially with the influx of digital natives (born after 2000) entering the workforce for the first time.

The study found that more than half of the respondents (72%) value work-life integration today, where the boundaries of work and life have blurred, but have enabled mobile professionals to be able to collaborate and work virtually.

The study also found that organisations wanting to prepare for the digital age and flexi-work practices must address several structural challenges within their workplace.

In the organisation, leaders are a key enabler to drive flexi-work practices as only 32% agree their organisation’s leadership is committed in bridging the digital skills gap in the workplace

Only 31% agree their organisation has invested interest in culture development through training and development led by HR, highlighting the importance of an organisation’s culture.

Finally, only 30% feel their organisation has invested in analytics and data tools to help them make informed and timely decisions. Only 37% agree their organisation has given them tools to simplify workflows.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in today’s digital world, workplace shifts have resulted in new ways of work; technology increases collaboration between groups and across geographies.

However, the study found that with the increase of fluidity in communication, there are certain gaps that hinder productive outcomes for organisations.

These include too many face-to-face meetings that take up productive time (24%) and company-wide meetings that are too impersonal in communicating organisational goals (20%).

Other factors include teams being too rigid and not open to new ways of work (23%) and teams taking too long to respond to internal issues (20%).

However, respondents feel that support from managers (41%), strong leadership and vision (38%) and diverse team members (31%) can help build more collaborative teams.

The study also found that respondents are seeking better devices to help them become more productive at work.

When asked about emerging technologies that will help build better work environments by 2020, real-time intelligence, Artificial Intelligence and virtual workspaces were put forward.

26% look forward to real-time intelligence that will help them make informed decisions at work. 25% think Artificial Intelligence will enable them to perform tasks independently.

24% would like virtual workspaces that support Instant Messaging and document sharing.

To conclude, Schoenborn says, “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 bridge the leadership and employee gap with more focus on people and culture,”

It was last week that Microsoft unveiled the findings of this report, Asia Workplace 2020 Study, that found Australian workers do not feel ready for the digital age. 

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