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New Zealand technology employment facing challenges
Businesses across every industry now have the opportunity to introduce process automation, artificial intelligence and robotic technology to improve productivity and trade potential, and some of the world’s most innovative advances are coming out of New Zealand.
Technology is the country’s third largest export earning sector, with more than 11 percent employment growth from 2016 to 2017.
With this growth comes challenges. The Future of Work Commission says the ICT sector faces an official skills shortage despite wages being twice the national average, and a study commissioned by Microsoft Asia says only a third of surveyed New Zealand businesses have a strategy to manage digital transformation.
Companies are seeking to implement automation and to understand the impact of technology on how they operate, but broad policy and investment across the business world is essential to make sure New Zealand isn’t left behind.
Digital transformation strategies key to business growth
The Microsoft study, Transforming for Industry, says 36 percent of New Zealand businesses have a strategy in place for digital transformation, while almost a fifth have limited or no strategy in place at all.
Technology is something which touches every single company, and like it or not, the introduction and adoption of digital solutions is an ongoing part of running a business.
Microsoft New Zealand cloud and enterprise lead Dirk Develter says, “To have no strategy in place is a little alarming.”
Develter says in order to address the issue, businesses should appoint a digital lead, and take a long-term, flexible approach to creating their company’s strategy. This is particularly necessary in an area like technology where there are so many moving parts.
Develter says, “You don’t pluck a digital strategy out of thin air.”
“Your vision may change over time and your strategy has to evolve as the pace of change is simply frightening.
“I’m baked into this world and I still have trouble keeping up.”
Understanding AI and automation
Most companies are keen to know how things like artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and automation will affect their businesses in both positive and negative ways.
Whether it’s understanding the productivity of a virtual employee versus an employee, or figuring out which processes can actually be automated and what that looks like for your business, finding practical ways to use technology on a wider scale is key.
At Michael Page, we find people are particularly looking at how to diversify company culture and the impact of technology on existing employees.
Organisations look at the process around how they can employ artificial intelligence as simply as possible, and being able to redistribute workers through a business, not just make people redundant, is important.
Vision lacking for wider technology changes
Companies wanting to implement better technology are still hampered by the lack of a cohesive approach to managing the issue at a governmental level.
The Future of Work Commission says New Zealand has the opportunity to be ‘extraordinarily successful’ in technology innovation. However, the Commission is critical of the current digital economy, saying technology is having an uneven impact on the nature of the country’s work, and that small and medium enterprises are ‘missing the tech wave’.
The Commission’s technology paper goes on to say ‘there is no widely held, compelling vision for how New Zealand’s economy and society…should adapt to massive technology change. Nor is there a roadmap of sound policy choices that will future-proof us and fulfil our potential as a small, smart country.’
Barriers to digital transformation were also noted by participants in the Microsoft study. Twenty-six percent of respondents listed a lack of governmental policies and ICT infrastructure as problematic, and 20 percent cited lack of organisational leadership skills to ideate, plan and execute strategies.
If you look at the rapid transformation businesses must go through in the digital age, it’s clear you need to be able to adapt on a regular basis. Much of the impetus to change comes through investment, policy and the broad, long-term vision of government and industry, so it’s hugely important that New Zealand’s policies support innovation and strategies for technological advancement.
High wages not enough to fill workforce gaps
The nature of automation, altered job roles and the increasing move to flexible working is changing the global face of employment, but technology isn’t actually removing jobs from the economy. In New Zealand, employment growth has been ongoing for easily the last 5 years in this market.
With a reported deficit of around 10,000 jobs, organisational culture needs to adapt and find ways to fill the gaps in the technology workforce.
The current higher than average wages will not be enough to solve the problem, with the Future of Work Commission saying all generations are seeking flexible work conditions, and young workers in particular value flexibility twice as high as any other work factor.
Some industries in New Zealand are looking to attract international candidates when addressing skills shortages, but the technology industry overall is still entrenched in a local employment mindset.
We find people with international experience, and those who’ve worked overseas but are making the move back to New Zealand, are highly regarded, but they generally need to be on the ground already before employers will seriously consider them.
Staff agility and flexibility key
Technology workers will be ahead of the curve if they have a nimble approach and an ability to constantly learn new skills. There is less of a specialist mentality than there was a decade ago, and employers are often more concerned with fast project delivery and the ability to adapt knowledge to different areas of the business.
If you have a mindset that allows you to adopt different technologies, if you can absorb information from different areas of a business and apply them elsewhere, that will see you as a very valued employee.
Diversity is definitely a positive in the current environment. It comes back to the point that you need to be adaptable to the environment that you’re walking into.
Looking for talent in the tech and digital space? Speak to one of our expert consultants today.