NOTE: This article is a part two of two contributions regarding The Secrets of Productive Workplaces. The first article, available here, scrutinises what productivity is and how it’s measured. This article builds on this, using these insights and recent research about the effects of technology change on work and jobs to describe key features of productive workplaces – with an eye to the future. 

The major research project in 2015 from the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) pulled together papers from 25 expert authors on Australia’s future workforce. Insights from CEDA’s research can shed light on the secrets of productive workplaces now and in the future.

A central theme across CEDA’s research evidence is that the labour market is being fundamentally reshaped by the scope and breadth of technological change. Simultaneously, technology advances are also impacting on the way business is being done, the way work is conducted and how profit is made. In particular, technological change especially in the form of digital disruption, changes how consumers relate to businesses, how businesses organise the supply of goods and services, and how, when and where work is performed, plus the skills workers need to be employed.

Deloitte Access Economics with the Australian Computer Society has marshalled further evidence of Australia’s digital economy and its effects on the business sector as a whole, on jobs and skills in the workforce, and what this means for future education and training.

The report by Deloitte Access Economics paints the picture of a growing contribution of digital technologies to the Australian economy, with digital and information technology skills becoming more important in other sectors of the broader economy such as professional services, financial services, and health care.

It indicates that digital technologies and skills are likely to make a stronger contribution to Australia’s productivity growth in the future. Further, it reinforces CEDA’s findings that digital disruption is dramatically changing industries and occupations across the country.

The end result is that jobs and workplaces are dramatically different from 20 years ago and will undoubtedly change again 20 years hence. Consequently, traditional sources of competitive advantage for firms, industries and countries are also experiencing a major shift.

In this environment, productive workplaces are those that:

  • Give priority to recruiting and retaining skilled and capable workers, with a mix of technical and professional disciplines, digital skills and an aptitude for creative thinking and problem-solving.
  • Recognise and reward managers for agility, informed risk-taking, high levels of ‘emotional intelligence’, and strong people and talent management, in addition to a solid base of traditional managerial and organisational competencies.
  • Promote diversity in deeds, not just words.
  • Invest in developing and extending the skills, talents and capabilities of their workforce.
  • Allow time for ‘blue sky thinking’ and planning for future scenarios, both expected and unexpected.
  • Build and nurture deliberate relationships and connections outside the business to foster knowledge-sharing, collaboration and innovative ways of working.

In short, productive workplaces master the human elements, and are highly competitive, though not adversarial, in their workplace practices and external relationships.


Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (2015), Australia’s Future Workforce?, June 2015.

Deloitte Access Economics (2015), Australia’s Digital Pulse. Key challenges for our nation—digital skills, jobs and education, report for Australian Computer Society.