Peak Human Potential: Preparing Australia’s workforce for the digital future

Peak Human Potential: Preparing Australia’s workforce for the digital future


Digital disruption of the workplace will compel a radical reinvention of how we educate and train workers for the future of work, according to a new report published by Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is fundamentally changing the Australian economy, driven by the increasing sophistication and reach of digital technologies. Across industries and job roles, automation and AI are making their presence felt – robots are becoming more adept at routine and predictable manual human labour; AI is performing basic cognitive tasks that were previously performed by humans.

The growing hyperconnectivity of technologies, especially through the Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems, is changing work itself. Agile ways of structuring work in firms, new ways of organising work through digital platforms, and the increasing divisibility of work are some of the ways the transformation is emerging.

To succeed in the future of work, organisations must empower their workers. A World Economic Forum paper makes the point: ‘While it is tempting to point to technology as the key differentiator for organisations, people comprise the most important source of competitive strength.’ Future of work strategist Heather McGowan concurs, saying, ‘No matter how sophisticated the technology, it is still a tool and tools need humans.’

Yet many employers continue to think about the future of work from a technology perspective, focusing on how digital technologies – such as the Internet of Things, AI, big data, mobility and cloud computing – can lead to competitive advantage. Less attention is being paid to the impact of these technologies on people and how to help them prepare.

For Australia’s economy to flourish into the future, it is imperative that we think not just of the digital technologies that will enhance work, but of the people who need to do work to pay the bills. How can we support workers to reach their peak potential while using these impressive technologies? If AI and robots are replacing human labour for efficiency and productivity gains, what will happen to our human workforce?

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