Lack of learning and collaboration impeding business growth

A new survey suggests that Australian businesses and workers are at high risk of getting left behind unless employers make significant changes to their workplaces in a post-COVID-19 world.

According to the Swinburne University of Technology research, more than half of Australian workers do practically no learning at work. In addition, only just over a third of working Australians said their workplace encouraged learning from colleagues, and only one in five Australian workers were engaged in the most collaboratively diverse project work.

“Disruption is eroding our skills quicker and quicker, especially as digital transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic,” Dr Sean Gallagher, director of the Centre for the New Workforce at Swinburne University of Technology and author of the report, said

“This same disruption is continuously changing customers’ expectations and behaviours, creating a risk of rapid erosion of businesses’ value if they don’t get on the front foot and innovate.

“We have an opportunity post-COVID to reimagine our workplaces, both physically and culturally, to encourage the kind of learning and collaboration that our survey found can uplift skills and boost innovation and value creation,” Dr Gallagher added. “Unlike most tech solutions, learning and collaboration are value drivers at the immediate disposal of most organisations. Businesses can start creating the future-ready workplace today.”

Bronwyn Evans, Chief Executive Officer of Engineers Australia, who helped prepare the report, said that it reinforced the importance of continuous learning to the success of both individuals and organisations.

“Learning and collaboration in the workplace have always been important to supporting productive work, but this new research by Swinburne demonstrates that we need to recognise their importance in driving the creativity needed to solve the increasingly complex problems we face,” Evans said. “All workers have a role to play, and I support the finding that work needs to be reimagined as a pathway to innovation.”

The report also reiterated the surveys which repeatedly showed most workers don’t want to return in person full time as working from home helped improve their productivity.

“We need workers to return to offices in urban hubs around the country for at least a few days each week,” Martine Letts, CEO of the Committee for Melbourne said. “By redefining the office for collaborative work focused on creativity and creating value, not only will this provide a compelling reason for workers to come together but it will help create smart cities. I strongly support a key recommendation of this report that organisations transform their physical workplace as a place for innovation.”