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Talent and digital transformation among the key issues facing SMEs in 2022: KPMG

As Australian businesses emerge from the COVID-19-induced pause, KPMG’s annual survey identifies the key challenge facing Australian businesses in 2022. 

The survey includes responses of over 400 Australian CEOs, emerging business leaders, and Non-Executive Directors.

“Overwhelmingly, the top three concerns for Australian leaders next year are about responses to a post COVID world,” said Alison Kitchen, Chairman of KPMG Australia. 

“We see this reflecting what can be characterised as ‘the Great Renewal’ – a time when businesses will be focused on people and the environments in which they operate. 

The survey results strongly indicate that is about both seeking and developing talent as well as staying abreast of the risks and opportunities in a rapidly digitising workplace,” Alison said. 

Talent acquisition and retention

With 69 per cent nominating this issue, talent acquisition, retention, and re/upskilling to meet a more digitised future was seen as the biggest challenge for the year ahead.

Cyber vulnerability 

The risk associated with digital transformation has entered a new phase. Many organisations have been forced to adopt new technologies and ways of working to comply with COVID 19. This has also heightened awareness of cyber vulnerability.

Remote working 

In third place for this year was the challenge (and benefits) of remote working (48 per cent), while digital transformation – optimisation and extracting organisational value from it – came in fourth at 44 per cent.

The survey also found the challenges that organisations in Australia will face in the next three to five years.

The notable trend is in the longevity of the respective top four issues, according to Ms Kitchen said. 

“While digital and talent remain the top two concerns among executives for the next three to five years, it’s interesting that cyber vulnerability fell to 35 per cent and the remote working issue plummeted in the priority list to just 10 per cent in the medium term.”

Other top ten issues for the forward 3 to 5-year period included ESG, purpose, diversity, and agility. Interestingly, none of these was placed in the 2022 top ten list.

Ms Kitchen added, “It is clear that as Australia starts to emerge fully from the lockdowns of the last two years, having enough skilled talent to meet customer needs is the major challenge concerning all businesses – and they don’t see this changing in the next few years. 

“The challenge of digital transformation, which was top in our previous survey two years ago, is still a key issue and will remain so in the next 3 to 5 years. 

“The two issues are inter-connected, given that upskilling to meet a more digitised future was one of the planks of the concern over talent.”

Furthermore, when respondents’ focus shifted from their organisations to their broader perspectives on society’s overall challenges, the skills gap was the second-highest nomination. Australia is facing a shortage of data scientists and technology specialists.

“One of the most intriguing findings is that ‘identifying opportunities for growth’ came in at only 11th place for 2022,” she said. 

“It did, however, rise to third place in 3 to 5 years from now. This suggests that companies – possibly concerned by the skills shortage – are more focused on meeting current demand in 2022, rather than sourcing opportunities they may not be in a position to fulfil in the future.” 

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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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