POWERING WORKPLACE PERFORMANCE
A workforce with a broad mix of skills is crucial for business success. But do we fully understand the workforce skills necessary for future success?
There are three global forces that are revolutionising the way we work – automation, globalisation and technology
The accelerating pace of technological, demographic and socio-economic disruption is transforming industries and business models and changing the skills that employers need. Job profiles are changing rapidly and according to the World Economic Forum (2016), the most in-demand occupations today did not exist ten or even five years ago.
It prompts the question: what skills are important in the face of change and disruption?
Digital disruption and technology enhancements have meant many business functions – like operating machinery and bookkeeping – are being automated. Yet businesses increasingly rely on critical thinking and problem solving by their people to analyse and understand data provided by the technology to ultimately make more informed decisions. Globalisation is accelerating and offers business access to a much bigger customer base, but it also exposes them to increasing competition. Being able to understand the needs of customers and communicate meaningfully and solve complex problems is key to customer service and maintaining competitive positioning.
Formal qualifications and technical skills are only part of the requirements for today’s workforce. The importance of soft skills is growing. Deloitte Access Economics (2017) forecasts that soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 2000. That’s a significant workforce change.
Soft skills are important to drive business outcomes. Contributing to overall staff productivity, employees with more soft skills could increase business revenue by over $90,000 (Deloitte Access Economics, 2017). 
So, does our workforce have the skills to foster business success now and in the future?
It is a hard question to answer neatly and there is only a patchwork of evidence of skill attainment.
Based on a new analysis of resumes and job listings, there appears to be a significant gap between job market demand and supply with demand for soft skills exceeding supply by 45 per cent (Deloitte Access Economics, 2017). In addition to this, Deloitte Access Economics (2017) reported less than 1 per cent of Australian professionals’ list soft skills on their LinkedIn profile.
Soft skills clearly are important for all occupations and industries, yet there appears to be a shortage of these skills.
Businesses in Australia spend a staggering $11 billion on employee training and staff recruitment annually (Department of Employment, 2016). On the job training – whether it be through workshops and courses, e-learning or traineeships – is seen by businesses as important in teaching both technical and soft skills. Furthermore, the abundance of information, resources and development programs at people’s fingertips, means people can acquire knowledge or skills without formal training. The ability to develop skills will increasingly be on the individual – it has become an economic imperative for individuals to become lifelong learners.
If training, both formal and informal, is important to organisations, why is the gap significant?
It can be difficult for business and individuals to objectively assess skill levels. The lack of formal confirmation of soft skills is playing a role in this gap as people don’t have the confidence to claim skills that they are not able to verify – this is where Deakin’s micro-credentials play a vital role. Measuring and recognising soft skills, with micro-credentials, will enable businesses to identify gaps in their organisation and ultimately, make informed strategic decisions on how to effectively invest in building their workforce capability in the years to come.
Micro-credentials underpin a culture of empowered and motivated learning while at the same time increasing employee engagement through recognition
It is not part of a learning strategy – it is part of a business performance strategy. In the future of work, the most essential factor for an individual and their future potential is the ability to adapt and expand their knowledge and skills. Deakin’s micro-Credentials will be the recognition and transportable symbol of capabilities in action which individuals and businesses will use to navigate the future world of work in the digital age.
Deloitte Access Economics 2017, Soft skills for business success
Department of Employment 2016, Employability skills training: consultation paper
World Economic Forum 2016, The future of jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
 This figure is based on an increase to the average Australian business revenue of $3 million as reported by the Australian Taxation Office for 2013-14 financial year (ATO statistics 2016).