We’ve been teased and taunted with the prospect of what work will look like in the future for the longest time. From robots to the gig economy, the workplace, as we’ve known it, has almost become a mystifying concept. But mystery is not productive, obviously. I mean how are we supposed to plan if we have no idea what our jobs will look like in the future? And if our jobs will even exist in the future?

The good news is, the future of work in Australia is not as ambiguous as it may feel sometimes. There is a good forecast for humans, for business, and for the economy––if we focus on the right areas. According to Deloitte.

Some of the key take outs from Deloitte’s recent issue of “Building the Lucky Country” series––insights into the future of Australian work––have mimicked my own forecasts as a business owner and HR & Recruitment specialist. Namely, that the future is human! Which is great news. And the forecast also leans favourable toward Millennial behaviours. More great news.

Here’s some key points I took from Deloitte’s insights.

Have human skills, please apply.

At the start of this decade, according to data by Deloitte, the typical worker lacked around 1.2 of the “critical skills” asked by employers at the time of recruitment. Today our workers are missing around two of the 18 critical skills being advertised in job role.

And what are the skills they’re looking for? Non-routine, human skills.

While the industrial era saw plenty of jobs created and sustained for human hands, the future of work will see a slightly different model at play. It won’t be in human-powered, hands-on work like the old-timey factory days, but more in human skills generated from the head and heart. (Skills that can’t be automated.)

Human skills like customer service, sales and resolving conflicts. Time management, organisation, verbal communication. Care, education, social work. The figures show the workforce is currently lacking in these “heart” skills.

Average skills shortage according to a chart by Deloitte shows:

Total shortage of skills divided by the total number of skills in each category;

Head  510 000

Heart 1730 000

Adversely, skills of hand are in over-supply.

Deloitte says,

“By 2030, one quarter of Australia’s workforce will be professionals, driven by a continued shift towards non-routine, cognitive-based jobs. Most of these will be in business, health, education or engineering”

As humans we’re being urged to sharpen our skillset in real time. With the insurgence of digital technology, have we overlooked the basic human skills that are and always will be required for work? The insights say maybe.

Desperately seeking literacy.

Another interesting figure, employers in Australia right now (and toward the future) want 3 million workers with literacy skills, and even more desperately require 5.3 million workers with customer service skills. Sad to see they’re lacking, but, with the right training, they are definitely skills in reach for most workers.

And so, to training…

On the job over classrooms.

The future of training is on the job, as opposed to in the classroom. Sure, there will still be a push to learn professional skills through classroom education, but the future is looking toward garnering a lot of skills for work on the actual job. While degrees will always help, on the job training is cheaper, more relevant and more focused than the classroom. Let’s break that down.

  • Cheaper
    The average Australian student costs are $20,000––$5,000 more than they were five years ago. You can see why there is a push toward on the job training for the employee. Duh.
  • More relevant.
    Data from the recent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching Student Experience Surveyby Deloitte says students aren’t satisfied with their work-related knowledge and skills upon leaving the classroom. This reflected in fulltime employment prospects, with fulltime employment on the constant decline. While some sources are saying working part time is a lifestyle choice by current employees, true or not, it’s still going to be more appealing for students to enter fulltime commitments if their skills gaps are promised to be filled upon employment.And Deloitte also highlights some very relevant data to back the “more relevant” argument.
    “A study by Graduate Careers Australia found that approximately 28 percent of recent graduates employed full-time viewed their qualifications as neither a ‘formal requirement’ nor ‘important’ for their current job.”
  • Focused
    On the job training offers more focused skills learning, driven toward requirements of actual roles. Plain and simple.

Robots won’t take our jobs. 

Yes, Artificial Intelligence is coming. There will undoubtedly be robots in our workplaces in the future. And they will be taking the jobs that, once upon a time, were filled by humans. But not to our detriment.  This will mean there will be more productivity, creating more work. And this is not new, we have seen the decline in “routine” jobs already.

Technology is not a substitute for people. Says Deloitte. Just as discussed above, job prospects opening will be in heart and head work––two things robots do not have. (Yet!)

Another point for humans,

“Non-routine jobs are difficult (or impossible) to automate because the actions or processes involved are not repetitive enough to be codified.”

Deloitte points out that “non-routine jobs that require you to use your head have been the largest single source of employment growth over the past twenty years.”

Handsy jobs, or “routine jobs” have grown at the slowest pace.

Demands for care-based work are also on the rise––education, healthcare, social work. Robots cannot do these jobs well.

Who does do them well? According to studies, females. Which brings me to my final insight.

The future is female, and generally diverse.

Women in the workforce has been a slow build over the last century. But finally, we are seeing a more gender diverse workforce and this isn’t going to end anytime soon. Another nugget from Deloitte’s insights,

“Increasing gender diversity in Australian businesses could add $10.8 billion to Australia’s economy.”

But it’s not just women workers the future is thirsty for. It’s a more diverse and inclusive work culture entirely. And it’s about time.

According to Deloitte,

“A diverse workforce is proven to stimulate greater creativity and exploration, which in turn drives innovation and productivity. This provides value not just at the business level, but to the entire economy.”

This is just a small slice of what we can expect for the future of work, but from all accounts we can expect a slightly different, but extremely human-centred future. Inclusive and empathetic leaders and diverse teams will become more important, as will values-based recruitment and upskilling on the job––human to human. Robots will be there, but we will manage them, not the other way around. In short, from a glimpse, the future is looking bright for humans.