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Five ways to future-proof Australian workplaces

Future

There’s no going back. From big data to big decisions, artificial intelligence and automation, to explosions in technology and in choice, Australian businesses have a decision to make – disrupt or be disrupted.

While the term ‘disruption’ has become commonplace in workplaces across the country, we can’t ignore the fact that where we were yesterday won’t be where we are tomorrow. The very fabric of the way we live, work, do business, connect and innovate is constantly evolving and accelerating at a rate never before seen in human history. In today’s digitised world, couldn’t we all agree that using yesterday’s thinking to solve tomorrow’s problems is not going to cut it? How can we awaken the genius in Australian workplaces so that our workplaces thrive?

The answer is simple but challenging: we need to future-proof.

It’s not a stretch to say that every industry will feel the effects of disruption, if they are not experiencing them already. Deloitte, for example, has identified 13 industries comprising 65 per cent of the Australian economy that are facing significant disruption by 2017.

To stay competitive and forward-moving businesses need to be self-disruptive.

How do we self-disrupt in order to future-proof? We need to say yes more often. We need to embrace the shock of the new. We need to make a start and not fret the ‘how’. Ultimately, what’s required is a paradigm shift in our thinking and decision making.

My observation is that there is a lack of acceptance in the business community that we need to think differently. As leaders, decision makers and ‘Chief Future Officers’, one thing I hope we can agree on is that growth is no longer linear. We cannot look to the past to inform future decisions. Relying on big data and information will offer valuable insights, but what really matters is the strategic choices we make.

Making a paradigm shift…

At the leadership table we’re driving behavioural change, change in our business, and empowering teams to step-up and make a difference. We’re tasked to do more with less and in constant budget constraints. What this calls for is deep involvement within the business, two levels down, at the bare surface.

We can’t expect our teams to change through direction alone. It is our role to demonstrate that change and support it.

Here are five things we need to consider to make the shift and future-proof:

Human connections: We need to get better at relationship building. If this isn’t one of your strengths, I suggest you get good at it. Relationships are part of the life-blood of your business and good relationships play a big role in determining its overall health. With good team coaching you can take your team to the next level. It’s a valuable activity, and it’s an essential management and leadership tool.

Self-disruption: In an age of digital disruption, most companies, talk about the need for innovation, however very few have established successful innovation strategies. In a recent Accenture survey, 93 per cent of enterprise-level executives said they think innovation is critical to their business, but only 34 per cent said they believe they have a well-defined innovation strategy in place. This is fast becoming non-negotiable and companies with strong digital innovation strategies are in a strong position to grow market share and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Escape the financial handcuffs: Office rent is now one of the largest expenses on P&I. In the digitised economy, co-working facilities are emerging as a popular alternative to office leases – used not just by start-ups but also established businesses looking to lower overhead costs. In 2012, the number of co-working spaces in Australia increased by 156 per cent according to CSIRO. This trend is unlikely to slow-down, especially as more and more entrepreneurial ventures take up residence in business hubs that are predominantly technology driven.

Adopt flexible working: Research by Regus reveals 63 per cent of Australian firms offer flexible working. While proving popular in attracting talent, flexible working is fast becoming essential for the growing number of businesses that rely on the skills of freelancers and independent workers. For instance, CSIRO figures show that the number of independent contractors in Australia was one million in 2009, a figure likely to be significantly higher now as labour skills become increasingly specialised and digitised.

Self-development: This is critical. Good leaders understand the need to future-proof themselves. In my experience, conscious self-development has had a huge and positive impact on every area of my life – work, home, family, finances, health, and relationships. For instance, becoming a CEO and driving a business that makes a difference is a major life goal of mine. To achieve this, I set myself five to 10 year goals and review them every six months. This helps ensure I am taking steps that support me in growing into the leader I wish to become. I would encourage every business owner, decision maker and team leader to do the same and consider professional mentoring or business coaching.

The past five years have constantly challenged us to grow as leaders. Restrictive thinking is slowing us down. To lead, build teams and make effective strategic decisions in an unpredictable tomorrow we need to make a paradigm shift. I challenge us to look further ahead and ask, “where is the next disruption?”. This is how we need to constantly think if we are to future-proof our workplaces for tomorrow’s big challenge.


About the author

Paula Kensington is the CFO, Australia and New Zealand at global workplace provider, Regus.