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Media Release

Half of Australia’s workforce reports businesses are under-utilising their skills

Businesses 'under-utilising' workforce skills

Report finds 93 per cent of organisations are currently investing in training and development programs but only 44 per cent of employees consider their training and development to be effective.

Almost half of the Australian workforce believes their skills are under-utilised and the training they are offered could be far more effective, according to new research from Commonwealth Bank (CBA).

CBA’s FY19 Business Insights Report examines how Australian companies are responding to a range of opportunities and threats that are impacting the way they operate, with customers, people and technology rated as the greatest catalysts for organisational change.

The report found businesses are upskilling their workforce, prioritising soft skills such as adaptability and flexibility (46 per cent), and communications (43 per cent) which are in highest demand – outranking technology skills (41 per cent).

However, there is an opportunity for organisations to mobilise existing skills within their workforce, satisfy their demand for skills and better engage staff. The vast majority of employees are confident they already have the soft skills their employers need, but only half believe their company makes full use of these capabilities.

Adam Bennett, Group Executive, Business and Private Banking, Commonwealth Bank, said: “While there has been a focus among policy makers on improving Australia’s education system to boost innovation and competitiveness, businesses are also playing a crucial role in developing a skilled Australian workforce that can withstand a changing operational environment.”

“It’s critical businesses ensure their workforce is equipped with the skills they need to capitalise on commercial opportunities and there is a clear opportunity to tap into and nurture latent capabilities within their existing workforce,” Mr Bennett said.

Realigning training and development programs

More than 80 per cent of companies believe the responsibility to develop employee capabilities sits with the organisation. Almost all Australian companies (93 per cent) are currently investing in training and development programs and more than a quarter (27 per cent) are planning to extend these budgets in the year ahead.

However, only 44 per cent of employees consider their training and development to be effective.

“Businesses are taking up the mantle of developing expertise that can benefit both their organisation and employee capability, but it’s clear not all training programs are benefitting employees. Employees who feel their company provides effective training are more engaged and loyal. This is crucial to support business retention strategies and drive future growth,” Mr Bennett said.

The research shows employees and employers are aligned in terms of access and benefit of on-the-job informal training and industry events. While widely available, employees view eLearning among the least beneficial and view external and internal mentorships as highly likely to aid their development, but offered by only a fraction of employers.

Rise in innovation-active businesses

This edition of the report also found, for the first time, that more than half (58 per cent) of companies are now considered innovation-active, up from 47 per cent in FY18. Over 80 per cent of innovation-active businesses are already investing in new or emerging technologies – ranked as one of the top opportunities or threats that companies are currently facing. 

This increasing adoption of emerging technologies among organisations is also influencing the future skills that companies need. This continues to weigh on the minds of employees, with 45 per cent concerned that their skills will be rendered obsolete.

However, rather than simply replace staff, many businesses have identified the opportunity to leverage technology to refocus staff capabilities into higher value areas of their organisation. While almost one in five businesses are targeting efficiencies that may reduce the need for staff, far more predict that technology will enable staff to focus on customer service (45 per cent), revenue generation (33 per cent) and leadership (28 per cent).

“Technology is being widely adopted and while automation and machine learning can impact current roles, many companies are looking at how to best use their most valuable resource – people. According to businesses, employees are more than twice as likely to become a more valuable asset to their organisation than they are to lose their job over the next five years,” Mr Bennett said.

The findings in the third annual edition of the Commonwealth Bank Business Insights Report are based on a wide-ranging quantitative survey of 2,747 business owners, decision-makers and managers. Participants were drawn from businesses throughout metropolitan and regional Australia with an annual turnover of more than $500,000 and at least two employees. This year’s survey also included 2,422 employees from organisations across Australia with at least two employees. Data is weighted back to nationally representative proportions by industry, business location and size The survey was designed to explore the forces driving change within Australian businesses and examine current and planned trends in skill training and development. The results represented throughout the report also seek to compare the perspectives of business owners, decision-makers and managers with that of employees across the Australian business landscape.