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Aussie businesses prioritise US & UK expansion despite challenges

Australian businesses are exploring new working practices, expanding globally and leveraging technology to drive productivity and stay competitive, according to new research from workforce management platform, Rippling.

The report, based on a Censuswide survey of 500 Australian business leaders, looks into how companies are planning to address workplace productivity challenges in FY25. 

As we enter the new financial year Australian businesses are prioritising revenue growth (38%), increased productivity (36%) and employee satisfaction (34%). For finance leaders, who play a key role in company direction and value creation, increasing productivity (46%) proved to be their top priority. The 2023-2024 financial year presented numerous challenges for Australian businesses, ranging from funding freezes and talent shortages to layoffs. Moving into FY25, high operational costs (40%), intense market competition (36%), and ongoing regulatory changes (33%) will be the primary hurdles businesses expect to face. 

“The spectre of stagnant business productivity continues to cast a long shadow over the Australian economy, but improving efficiency and output will be key to overcoming businesses’ economic and market pressures in FY25,” said Matt Loop, VP and Head of Asia, Rippling. “Technology will play a key role in facilitating this change, whether that be making it easier for companies to consider global expansion or improving efficiency and eliminating the time burden of administrative tasks. But we’re now seeing working practices become central to the conversation. Companies are beginning to understand that greater flexibility in work is not about employees wanting to work less – it’s about them wanting to work differently. Leaders that remain open to the options and adopt a learning mindset will be better positioned to navigate these changes effectively, ensuring both productivity and employee satisfaction while fostering a culture of trust and respect.” 

New workforce practices offer hope

The past few years have seen a huge evolution in how we work, with remote and hybrid models commonplace. Now, as pressure builds for businesses to push workplace flexibility even further, embracing new working practices may actually be a solution to Australian businesses productivity woes. A significant majority of respondents believe that innovative work practices can improve business productivity, agreeing that a four day working week (66%), right to disconnect (65%) and work anywhere (67%) would have a beneficial impact. Interestingly, HR leaders show the lowest advocacy for the four day working week, with only 44% agreeing it can boost productivity, suggesting concerns about the practicalities of its implementation. 

However, while there’s optimism about new practices’ ability to drive productivity, adoption is slow and an implementation gap is emerging. Only 25% of companies are considering or already implementing the four day working week in the next financial year, and more worryingly, only 20% are introducing the right to disconnect, despite it becoming law on 26th August. Equally, the tried and tested methods are still preferred by most businesses, with most agreeing that training / upskilling (76%), employee reward schemes (75%) and overtime pay (74%) will unlock greater productivity. Workers shouldn’t expect any of these policies to become commonplace anytime soon, but support for more flexible and employee-friendly work environments suggests increased exploration and experimentation in the future.

Australian companies looking to compete on global stage

In an increasingly interconnected world, Australian businesses are setting their sights on international expansion to drive growth and enhance their competitive edge – with almost two-thirds 65% looking to expand to global markets in the next financial year.

The US and UK have emerged as the top destinations for expansion, surpassing neighbouring countries such as New Zealand and Asia. Of companies looking at establishing a presence in international markets:

  • In the US, a quarter (26%) are in exploratory stages and 19% are activating their landing team. 
  • In the UK, 21% are in exploratory stages and 22% are activating their landing team. 
  • In New Zealand, 17% are in exploratory stages and 15% are activating their landing team.

These findings also reveal the strategic foresight required to overcome the inherent complexities and challenges of international expansion. Australian companies listed cost of expansion (35%), managing teams across different time zones (32%), ability to hire the right talent (29%) and learning the complexities of local laws and regulations (29%) as their top concerns. Additionally, one-in-five (19%) would be worried about the negative perceptions on Australian business productivity. 

Tapping into a global talent pool

As Australian companies look to expand into global markets, they are also realising the benefits of a global workforce to bring specific market expertise and knowledge. Over two-thirds (69%) of Australian businesses are looking to hire globally in the next 12 months. Contrary to popular belief, accessing lower labour costs (36%) was not the primary driver for this wave of global hiring. Instead, Australian businesses are predominantly hiring internationally to support their presence or expansion in global markets (44%) and increase productivity (43%). 

The growing complexity and demands of recent industrial relations reforms, such as the Right to Disconnect, are also beginning to take their toll on Australian businesses and influence local hiring decisions, with 37% citing them as a key driver behind their decision to hire globally. This was of particular concern to finance leaders, with almost half (49%) identifying it as a motivator to their choice to pursue global hiring. 

Tech to drive productivity 

The findings show that as AI and automation continue to dominate mainstream discourse, Australian businesses are increasingly turning to technology as a critical enabler in the quest to increase business productivity. Three-quarters (74%) of respondents agree that investing in technology improves a business’s productivity and 36% consider it to be the top business objective of their technological investments, followed closely by improving security (35%), increasing operational efficiency (34%) and reducing costs (34%). 

This permeates further than just supplementing technical roles. Technology will be used to unlock greater efficiencies in all job functions, empowering data-led decision making and liberating employees from spending excessive time on mundane administrative tasks. IT (41%) will be the highest priority for technology investments in FY24-25, with HR (28%), Finance (27%) and Marketing (26%) also receiving considerable focus. This indicates a growing recognition of the value of digital transformation in workforce management and enabling people to dedicate more hours to more strategic work. Rippling’s comprehensive platform is uniquely positioned to meet these business priorities. By streamlining HR, IT, and Finance operations, Rippling empowers companies to manage their workforce efficiently, ensuring compliance and enhancing productivity across the board. The platform supports global hiring and management, taking the heavy lifting out of onboarding, paying, and managing employees worldwide, which is essential for Australian companies looking to tap into the global talent pool and maintain compliance with international regulations.

To read the full report visit here.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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