There are three articles that have come out in the last fortnight, written by our friends at the Australian Financial Review. Whilst there are always numerous articles on various markets, employment law discrepancies and the like, these three articles all focus quite heavily on the changing nature of work not just in Australia, but around the world. More and more we are seeing transitions from labour intensity to automation; hardware to software; cubicles to flexible workspaces.
Jacob Greber’s article Phocas’s move to Orange: ‘tree change’ for staff takes a case study approach to look at the idea of decentralising business operations away from central business districts, and how this can have upscaling effects on a business. The article looks at the journey of Phocas, an IT services company founded by current CEO Phil Dodds. Greber also talks about the effects of rapid technological innovation on the growing company and the enhanced capability that it has given small and medium sized organisations in the last few years.
Companies like Uber are changing the workforce is an unattrributed article featured in the AFR and The Economist, that talks about the trend of digital services companies to outsource labour and services to local individuals. This ability for workers to have more self-determination in their careers and automation around the more administrative aspects of business means a more flexible and more mobile workforce. Indeed, this article notes that this social and policy trend could have ‘…profound implications for everything from the organisation of work to the nature of the social contract in a capitalist society…’ It uses Uber as an example, discussing the difficulties these sorts of businesses face in changing social and legal habits of countries in which they operate.
The third article is also by Jacob Greber (he sure can churn out good work!) and is entitled Employment fears in the face of increasing automation. This piece looks more closely at the impacts of automation on our economy and labour force; from the anecdote about the first knitting machine in 1598 to the rise of technological innovation, Greber paints a detailed picture about software development and how the integration of new technology into the older Australian social and corporate landscape is significantly changing the way we do business around the globe. He uses the example of 99Designs, a graphic arts and design firm in Melbourne to illustrate that these are factors that are well and truly disrupting the market for many fearful organisations, yet it is those that are paving the way that are assuring those left behind that they are not destroying jobs, merely ‘…creating jobs…in a space that no one’s inhabited before…’. Greber also discusses how this change might affect our fantastic living standards, and the need for our economy to adapt in order to stay relevant and competitive in the future.
All three of these articles point to a change in the wind. We have been noticing distruptive technology changing the nature and speed of business significantly in the last decade, however the next decade will surely give way to sweeping changes to our Australian labour force. As Brazil, India, Russia and China (among others) grow and develop their own environmentally friendly and sustainable economies, Australia will encounter more and more competition for infrastructure, manufacturing and other skilled labour. This will, in time diminish employment demand on our own soil, so it is important that Australian companies continue to innovate and push the boundaries, allowing new types of businesses to flourish and contribute to our economy.