Australian Workers Do Not Feel Empowered for the Digital Age: Microsoft Study

66% consider themselves mobile workers today yet only 45% feel empowered by their organisation to embrace the demands of the digital workplace

Sydney, Australia, 18 April 2017 – Microsoft today unveiled findings from its Asia Workplace 2020 Study[1], where it found employees in Australia do not feel empowered to embrace the demands of the digital workplace.

While 66% of Australian respondents consider themselves to be mobile workers and spend at least 20% of their time working outside of their office, only 45% feel empowered by their organisation’s culture and management to be able to work together productively and collaboratively. In addition, only 32% of respondents agree their organisation is committed at a leadership level to ensure every employee is included in closing the digital skills gaps within the workforce.

The study, which involved close to 4,200 working professionals from 14 markets in Asia, sought to understand shifting employee behaviours and gaps in the workplace when it came to productivity, collaboration and flexi-work practices.

“As Australia primes itself to become the most connected market with more than half of all mobile connections originating from the region by 2021[2], organisations need to rethink how they empower their workforce with the right culture, policy, infrastructure and tools to maximise their potential. This means enabling collaboration from anywhere, on any device. However, it is also critical for business leaders to evaluate and implement changes to counter cultural and management challenges that are hindering employees to work seamlessly from wherever they are, which will in turn, hinder an organisation’s growth and progress in the digital age,” said Sharon Schoenborn, Director, Office Business Group, Microsoft Australia

 A Digitally Savvy Workforce is Key to Digital Transformation

An earlier version of the study conducted in 2015 found that 39 out of 100 respondents in Australia were ready for the New World of Work, whereby organisations had the right People, Place and Technology principles in place to enable a productive, collaborative and innovative workforce. This year, 48 out of 100 respondents felt so, indicating organisations in the market are slightly more equipped, although more can be done to move the needle.

But beyond People, Place and Technology factors, the rise of the 4th industrial revolution has also accelerated the pace of transformation. A recent Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study[3] conducted in late 2016 found that ‘Empowering Employees’ is the number two digital transformation priority among Australia’s business leaders. On the other hand, having a digital skilled workforce was one of the number two barriers in their digital transformation journey.

The digital transformation pillar, ‘Empower employees’ emphasises organisations to use technology to help employees be connected and work from anywhere, as well as collaborate and share knowledge digitally

New Work Styles and Organisational Conflicts Need to Be Addressed

It is evident that mobile professionals in the market are embracing flexi-work today, and organisations should look at new workplace practices, especially with the impeding influx of digital natives (born after 2000) entering the workforce for the first time.

More than half of the respondents (72%) value work-life integration today, where the boundaries of work and life have blurred, but have enabled mobile professionals to be able to collaborate and work virtually.

The study also found organisations need to address several structural challenges within the workplace to ready themselves for the digital age, as well as flexi-work practices:

  1. Organisation’s Leaders are a key enabler to drive flexi-work practices in the workplace: Only 32% agree their organisation’s leadership is committed in bridging the digital skills gap in the workplace
  2. Organisational culture is important: Only 31% agree their organisation has invested in culture development through training and development led by HR
  3. Access to newer, data-centric technologies to enhance collaboration and productivity: Only 30% feel their organisation has invested in analytics and data tools to help them make informed and timely decisions; only 37% agree their organisation has given them tools to simplify workflows

New World of Teams Requires New Approaches

Workplace shifts have undeniably resulted in new ways of work, where technologies have enabled increased collaboration between individuals and teams across geographies and groups. However, the study found there were certain gaps today that hindered collaborative and productive outcomes from teams.

The top challenges included:

  1. Too many face-to-face meetings taking up productive time (24%)
  2. Teams are too rigid and not open to new ways of work (23%)
  3. Company-wide meetings are too impersonal in communicating organisational goals (20%)
  4. Teams are taking too long to respond to internal issues (20%)
  5. Team members are not accommodating with flexi-work schedules (16%)

However, respondents feel that support from managers (41%), strong leadership and vision (38%) and diverse team members (31%) can help build more collaborative teams.

Access to Newer, Collaborative Technologies will Enhance Productivity

The study also found that respondents are seeking better devices to help them become more productive at work. Beyond hardware requirements, 27% hope to have access to information and data on their mobile devices and 25% hope to have access to cloud-based productivity tools.

When asked about emerging technologies that will help build better work environments by 2020:

  • 26% look forward to real-time intelligence that will help them make informed decisions at work
  • 25% think Artificial Intelligence will be able to help perform tasks independently
  • 24% would like virtual workspaces that support Instant Messaging and document sharing

Sharon Schoenborn said, “As the nature of work changes, how employees collaborate and work together will be impacted as well. It is critical for business and HR leaders to seek ways to better empower individuals and remove barriers to collaborate for the digital age, especially when the Study clearly identifies gaps that can be minimised with technology. However, it is also important for businesses to also bridge the leadership and employee gap with more focus on people and culture,”

[1] The Microsoft Asia Workplace 2020 Study was conducted between February and March 2017 involving 4.175 respondents in 14 Asia markets. The 14 markets include Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. All respondents were pre-qualified as at least spending 30 hours per week in a full time role, or spending at least 20 hours per week in a part time role.

[2]eMarketer, Most of the World’s Mobile Connections Are in Asia Pacific, https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Most-of-Worlds-Mobile-Connections-Asia-Pacific/1014256

[3] The Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study was conducted between October to November 2016 involving 1,494 business leaders in 13 Asia Pacific markets. The 13 markets include Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. All respondents were pre-qualified as being involved in shaping their organisations’ digital strategy, and are working in firms with more than 250 employees.