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Working culture in Australia has been undergoing significant shifts in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the move towards remote work arrangements for many employees, technology and AI are reshaping jobs and there has been strong competition for talent.

Employees have re-evaluated their priorities and there is a greater expectation on employers to deliver attractive and flexible work arrangements. These are seven workplace trends we’ll see in Australia for 2024.

1. Competition for Talent

There is still a tight labour market. Research from Jobs and Skills Australia released last year indicated that “36% of occupations assessed are in shortage. Technicians and Trade Workers, and Professional occupations (health, engineering, information communication technology (ICT) and science roles) have the highest shortages, particularly in regional and remote areas.”

There are also large numbers of Baby Boomers retiring and the eldest in Generation Z are entering the workforce. However many Gen Zers aren’t pursuing the traditional full-time work model. As highlighted in this article “more than any other generation before, Gen Z workers value work-life balance and they aren’t willing to sacrifice their personal lives just to get ahead at work.” We will continue to see this generation push for changes to traditional employment models.

2. Remote work will continue 

There was a push back in 2023 with many employers insisting staff return to the office. This KPMG report from late last year found two-thirds of 1,300 CEOs surveyed expect employees back full-time within three years. Whereas most employees want to keep working remotely for two to three days per week. There have been conflicting reports around whether flexible work arrangements are more of less productive for companies. However, at least while we’re experiencing low unemployment, workers can simply leave if their employer is not willing to offer flexible work when so many other companies are. 

3. Rapidly increasing need for Tech skills

Technology is driving changes to the workforce faster than ever before but this sector is one of the hardest hit by the skills shortage. As this AFR article highlights, “the numbers tell the story. Australia’s technology workforce reached a record 870,300 last year and is expected to exceed 1 million next year and to swell to 1.2 million by 2027. Yet only about 7000 students are graduating each year with IT degrees. The biggest shortage of skills is centred around software knowledge.”

Many Australian companies have taken to overseas outsourcing much of their IT needs, in particular cyber security and AI. Other organisations are presenting staff with re-skilling initiates giving workers the opportunity to acquire valuable skills in the high-demand technology sector.

4. AI transforming the workplace

The afore mentioned skills shortage we’re currently experiencing in the tech sector is likely to get worse before it gets better. Technology is causing a rapid transformation of the job landscape across various sectors. As reported in this IT Brief article, “according to the research, retail is predicted to be the most affected industry, with nearly a quarter of current retail jobs (24.9%) likely to be automated. Finance and insurance, manufacturing, transport, and hospitality are also set to see a substantial portion of their roles evolve.”

Companies will push ahead with automation wherever possible because of substantial productivity gains. While many current jobs will be displaced there will be unprecedented opportunities within the technology industry for those willing to reskill or upskill.

5. Four Day work week (for some)

Last year, the results of the largest ever 4-day work week trial came in with productivity remaining stable while employee satisfaction markedly increased. Run by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with the think tank Autonomy and others,
61 companies in the UK took part in the 6 month trial. Around 92 per cent of them continued with the four-day week after the pilot ended, with eighteen of those declaring the policy a permanent change. More and more Australian companies will be trying out 4-day work weeks with a number of unions keen to make the transition also.

6. Closing the Gender Pay Gap 

As of May last year the full-time adult average weekly ordinary time earnings across all industries and occupations was $1938.30 for men and $1,686.00 for women. For every dollar on average men earned, women earned 87 cents. That’s $252.30 less than men each week. Over the course of one year, that adds up to $13,119.60.

This year we will hopefully see the gender pay gap lessen. Parliament passed the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill last year with key changes such as:
– Employers with 500 or more staff must have a policy or strategy for each of the six gender equality indicators
– Reporting on sexual harassment, harassment on the ground of sex or discrimination will be mandatory
– Employers must share their WGEA Executive Summary and Industry Benchmark Report with their Board

7. Attraction and Retention Strategies will Level Up

Attracting and retaining talent is more important than ever for business success. There are companies leading the charge with hiring incentives not offered by most businesses, these include:
– paying candidates for the time they spend on cognitive testing in the interview process
– Sign-on bonus payment
– Equity or stock options
– Tuition reimbursement

Competitive retention strategies might include:
– Flexible work
– Performance bonuses
– Career flexibility. For example, more innovative companies are offering staff opportunities such as; shifting positions internally, upskilling and reskilling.
– Leave flexibility. Where additional annual leave can be negotiated.