Launching its Future of Skills 2019 report, LinkedIn suggested that businesses risk being left behind if these gaps are not addressed.
The professional networking platform surveyed 4,136 employees and 844 learning and development (L&D) professionals across Australia, India, Japan and Singapore. Of those, roughly one-quarter (1,033 employees and 217 development professionals) were Australian.
Among its findings, the research found that:
- Some 80 per cent of business CEOs are worried about the availability of key skill sets, but almost a third (29 per cent) of workers have left a company because of a lack of development opportunities.
- Almost half (46 per cent) of Australian workers actively want to upskill, but a similar proportion (39 per cent) of employers believe their organisation’s greatest skills challenge is engaging their staff to learn at all.
- More than half (52 per cent) of workers feel that soft skills, such as adaptability and flexibility, are more important than industry-specific knowledge. That is despite employers reporting three times more demand for “rising” or emerging skills than other types of professional skills.
LinkedIn also found that, across the four APAC countries, the 10 most desirable emerging skill sets that employers want to embed into their workforces are:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Workflow automation
- Social media marketing
- Robotic process automation
- Front-end web development
- Gesture recognition technology
- Continuous integration
- Human-centred design
Jason Laufer, LinkedIn’s senior director of learning solutions for APAC, said the findings display a clear mismatch between the workforce and those who employ them.
“We can see a misalignment between what motivates many employees to learn compared to what most employers are pursuing. Australian employees are more typically driven to learn for personal and professional fulfillment; however, employers are focusing on career progression,” Mr Laufer said.
“Our research shows that offering L&D opportunities can provide significant return on investment by increasing productivity and staff retention.”
He continued: “Over a quarter of Australian employers (27 per cent) also said offering L&D increases overall revenue. With such clear business benefits, it is important that employers adopt a more holistic, ‘always-on’ approach to learning and development.”
Who should be responsible for development?
A key finding of the report was that many employees are feeling stifled by a lack of development opportunities.
“Our research found that nearly one in three Australian employees (29 per cent) have quit a job due to insufficient access to learning and development opportunities. This proves there is strong demand for businesses to provide upskilling opportunities for their employees,” Mr Laufer told My Business.
“There are also positive business outcomes of doing so, with over a quarter of L&D professionals (27 per cent) saying that offering L&D increases overall revenue.”
The findings echo previous polls, such as research released in March by Commonwealth Bank, which found that while virtually all Australian employers have some form of development options in place, almost half of workers feel this is not enough to meet the needs of their changing job requirements.
However, My Business readers have previously hit back at these assertions, stating that workers must take more responsibility over their own training and development.
LinkedIn’s Mr Laufer agreed that both parties — not just employers — need to play an active role if businesses, and the wider economy, are to keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace.
“The onus is not just on the employer though, and all Australian professionals should adopt an ‘always-on’ approach to learning and development to set themselves up for success,” he said.
Mr Laufer added: “As the rise of automation and technology continues to transform the skills required of the Australian workforce, the pressure for individuals and organisations to adapt has never been greater.
“It is important that professionals are seeking out learning and development opportunities to help them keep pace with the changing landscape of work.”
How does Australia compare?
Speaking on the results, Mr Laufer said that technological change is of less concern to Australia’s workforce than those in other countries.
“Our research found that, overall, APAC professionals (55 per cent) feel daunted by the pace of change in their industries. However, Australian employees are less daunted (39 per cent) than Indian (62 per cent), Singaporean (65 per cent) and Japanese (55 per cent) employees,” he told My Business.
“[The] report also found that two in three APAC employees (64 per cent) feel the skills needed to succeed in their industry are rapidly changing. This jumps to 82 per cent for Indian and 76 per cent for Singaporean employees, but Australian professionals appear to be less wary of the changes (53 per cent).”
Mr Laufer also said that Australians are somewhat more confident in their existing skill sets than those elsewhere in Asia.
“Half of Australian employees (49 per cent, compared to the APAC average [of] 55 per cent) said they are only somewhat confident they have the required skills to succeed in their job,” he said.
Meanwhile, Australians — both employers and workers — place less emphasis on soft skills than those in other countries.
Only 50 per cent of L&D leaders and 52 per cent of employees in Australia ranked soft skills as more important for career progression than other knowledge and skills, well below those in the other three countries polled:
- India – 61 per cent of L&D leaders and 60 per cent of employees
- Japan – 64 per cent of L&D leaders and 63 per cent of employees
- Singapore – 54 per cent of L&D leaders and 62 per cent of employees
Last year, the head of the Australian Institute of Management, Ben Foote, said that a chronic shortage of soft skills is emerging because of a distinct lack of training in these areas.
“Australia just isn’t ready, with soft skill demand far outpacing supply,” he said at the time.
Despite this, LinkedIn’s Mr Laufer said that Australian businesses still recognise the value of, and need for, soft skills.
“What we also found is that, while traditionally more onus has been placed on technical skills, Australian businesses now place the same value on soft skills,” he said.
Adaptability and flexibility are the most in-demand soft skills in Australia, the report found, closely followed by critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. These ranked ahead of industry-specific knowledge, communication and leadership/people management skills.
“As tech continues to break out of its silos, soft skills such as creativity, problem-solving, adaptability and critical thinking are in high demand to expand the application of new technology,” Mr Laufer concluded.