Tech, volatile markets, change management, and talent gaps are the big concerns moving into 2020, write David Jones, senior managing director at Robert Half.
Overcoming challenges is a crucial part of any leadership role but these challenges can often seem like shifting goalposts at times of economic uncertainty, and technological and cultural change. Looking to the year ahead, independent research by specialised recruiter Robert Half shows that Australian business leaders will be facing a broad spectrum of concerns in their role framed by global macro-economic tensions, evolving challenges attached to digital transformation, and a deepening talent-shortage.
Geopolitical and economic challenges framing business confidence
Global economic volatility, lowering interest rates, and uncertain trade policies underpinned by the US-China trade war and the impact of Brexit have seen Australian business leaders take a cautious and wary view of their global growth outlook as major international trading partners navigate their own tightening economic outlook for 2020. These concerns are exacerbated by uncertain domestic forecasts, with GDP growth stagnating alongside falling consumer confidence and expenditure.
Indeed, 38 per cent of Australian business leaders consider economic uncertainty to be one of the top three biggest challenges that they will face in their role until 2020 followed by 37 per cent who point to the growth of emerging markets, thereby increasing competition. And almost one in three (31 per cent) highlight geopolitical changes as part of their top three external concerns.
David Jones, Senior Managing Director at Robert Half Asia Pacific says: “As the US-China trade war and other geopolitical tensions place uncertainty over growth opportunities, it’s not surprising that the global growth and stability of our trade partners is currently a top concern among business leaders in Australia – a country with close economic ties to China. These geopolitical and economic challenges in turn can place a heavy burden on innovation, entrepreneurialism and creative thinking within companies at a time when many companies are being disrupted.”
“While the specific disruptive forces can vary by industry, companies are exposed to macro-economic volatility and in uncertain times, this can lead to a more hesitant approach to future growth plans which in turn can shape their retention policies and hiring intent over the coming 12 months”.
Technology continues to dominate
More than four in ten (43%) Australian business leaders highlight technological changes as one of their primary external concerns, highlighting the continued dominance of technology on the business agenda. While the business advantages of digital transformation are well-known, business leaders are faced with many hurdles in order to leverage the potential of tech opportunities for stronger business results including sourcing technically-skilled talent in a skill-short market and adapting existing workforces to change while upskilling them to meet future business needs. A failure to do so will not only see businesses miss out on internal benefits, but also fall behind competitors and lose a long-term competitive edge.
Managing change while optimising growth
As business leaders focus on leveraging tech advances, there is increasing pressure on management to find ways to drive long-term change at fast-speed and manage the risks and regulations that evolve in parallel to these changes, while also delivering upon their short-term financial goals.
Of business leaders surveyed, this is reflected in a shared concern over the external threats of technological and regulatory changes (43 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively). Business leaders in different fields are faced with unique internal concerns specific to their role, with CIOs most concerned over cyber-security threats (51per cent), and AI and machine learning (46 per cent) while CFOs are concerned primarily over managing and delivering growth (46%), and internal/external audit costs (40 per cent).
Talent gap impedes organisational productivity
When it comes to talent management, talent retention and managing staff turnover remain one of the top three biggest talent management concerns for almost one-third (32 per cent) of Australian managers. Improving productivity is cited as a primary concern by 29 per cent of Australian managers, followed by 28 per cent who refer to finding the right training for staff and managing workloads respectively. More than one quarter (27 per cent) identify staff attraction as part of their top three talent management concerns.