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Aussie resistance to change leading to tech lag

In order to stay globally competitive, businesses need to invest in their staff, building future-ready and technology-focused skills.

However, independent research by specialised recruiter Robert Half shows that Australian employers find it significantly more challenging to train and hire staff to implement new technologies compared to their global peers.

  • 87% of Australian business leaders say it will be challenging to train staff on new technology – above the global average (78%).
  • The three main barriers are: resistance to change (33%), insufficient training for employees (33%) and the effort or cost being greater than the benefits (32%).
  • 78% find it difficult to recruit talent with appropriate IT skills – above the global average of 71%.
  • To assist, 38% will hire contract/interim staff who are subject matter experts (vs 31% globally).

Barriers to adapting to new technology

While business leaders understand the importance of training to assist with adapting and implementing new technologies within their organisations, many think their efforts could be hampered by organisational challenges. Almost nine in 10 (87%) Australian managers anticipate challenges in upskilling staff to adapt to new technology, well above the global average of 78%.

On a national level, the research shows that the three biggest barriers Australian leaders face with their employees are resistance to change (33%), insufficient training for employees (33%) and the effort or cost to implement new technologies being greater than the benefits (32%).

“While technology is the driver behind business transformation, it is human capital that will determine its success. Particularly in our market, where 40% of the workforce faces a high probability of being replaced by computers in the coming 15 years, it’s an economic imperative for employees and business alike to be agile and responsive to new technologies in order to remain viable, competitive, and profitable,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia.

“Our research suggests that Australia’s adoption of new technologies, more so than many of its global peers, will be most challenged by the cultural and behavioural obstacles its own human capital presents in the form of an unwillingness to accept and adapt to the future of work, as opposed to functional considerations like the implementation of IT infrastructure.”

Businesses turn to peers to help staff adopt new technologies

In order to counter employee resistance to technological change, more Australian organisations have turned to peer-to-peer knowledge transfer initiatives than their global counterparts. This includes working with a mentor (39% compared to global average of 33%) and knowledge transfer from contractors or other subject matter experts to staff (40% compared to global average of 36%). Other initiatives include in-person training through seminars and courses (40%) and online study (39%).

The right talent key in a digitised workplace

Australian business leaders are also looking to augment their existing workforce with fresh talent in order to build more agile workforces that are responsive to the benefits of new technology. However, in a skills-short market, this is not without challenges – 78% of Australian business leaders believe it is challenging to source professionals skilled in the new technologies their company will be implementing, above the global average of 71%.

In response to this, leaders are embracing a flexible staffing model. In order to provide support and have access to specialised skills on an as-needed basis, Australian businesses are significantly more likely than their global peers to hire additional contract or interim staff who are subject matter experts (38% vs global average 31%) or hire new temporary staff with the requisite skills (34% vs. global average of 31%).

Australian CFOs experience the most resistance to change, mentoring a key remedy

Among the Australian business leaders surveyed, CFOs are finding adapting their existing staff to new technologies considerably more challenging than their peers. More than four in ten (41%) CFOs identify insufficient training for employees as a barrier to technological change, while 40% of CFOs say resistance to change is impeding adoption, compared to only 33% of Australian respondents respectively.

In a skills-short market, eight in 10 CFOs are turning to an integrated staffing model to manage critical projects and share their skills with existing employees than their peers (compared to 73% of Australian respondents). In particular, 47% of CFOs are bringing in consultants who are subject matter experts (compared to 38% of Australian respondents) and 43% of CFOs will hire new temporary staff with the requisite skills (compared to 34% of Australian respondents).

By bringing in external talent who are skilled in the new technologies, CFOs are also creating a peer-to-peer knowledge transfer for existing staff’s professional development. 53% of CFOs offer mentoring to help staff learn about new technologies, compared to 39% of Australian respondents.

“Driving digital transformation through an integrated staffing model is a strong strategy -as highly skilled temporary professionals can add value quickly and be a valuable source of knowledge for existing employees. Their varied experience also exposes existing teams to a host of new skills and capabilities that can aide the businesses adaption to new technology.”

“However, companies need to go beyond bringing in external assistance by making professional development of existing staff a business priority. Upskilling existing employees and prioritising training initiatives, simultaneously, will help to both overcome the resistance to change and create a technically proficient workforce,” concludes Andrew Morris.

 About the research

The annual study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted in January 2019 by an independent research firm, surveying 6,075 business leaders in 13 countries worldwide: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. This survey is part of an international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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