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Global workplace conference in Australia identifies key issues facing businesses

By Matt Walsh

MELBOURNE, April 30 (Xinhua) -- New technology, rapidly changing business models and an aging workforce, where four generations of the same family could soon be working alongside each other, are some of the major issues facing today's businesses, an international workplace conference has heard.

The conference, entitled Future of Work, was held in Melbourne on Wednesday and Thursday, and received input from creative minds from all over the world.

The think-tank for workplace leaders, which discussed ideas of how to "future-proof" employment, identified the major threats to both employers and employees over the next decade.

Director of Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, Professor Peter Gahan said the Future of Work event, held in Melbourne, uncovered concepts on how to fight issues in a rapidly- changing workplace scene.

"The Future of Work is an event focused on looking how technology, issues of design, and what motivates people, is changing the way that workplaces are functioning," he told Xinhua on Thursday.

Gahan said it was important to get global perspective on how business was changing.

"This conversation is a global one, and we've had people from other countries speaking at our conference," he said.

He detailed that technology was becoming a massive factor, as it had begun to disrupt work, but he said it wasn't one's mobile phone that was the problem.

"'Robotization' has been associated with displacement of employees, and many jobs in smart technology have been slowly been becoming less available.

"We talked about a dairy farm in Queensland where its cows are milked completely by robots. We looked at 'dark factories' that have popped up in China, Japan and Europe, which are fully automated factories.

"We've been looking at the issue of augmented reality and the way that that's beginning to find its way into industry.

"All of these things are changing the way that jobs work and it 's happening across many different sectors," Gahan said

He also indicated that differing workplace attitudes were having an impact, as, for the first time in history, people were working long enough that a grandchild and a grandparent could potentially be working together at the same time.

But that wasn't necessarily a good thing for businesses.

"For the first time we have up to four generations that are working side-by-side," he said.

"They bring different attitudes, mind sets and approaches to work tasks, and it's not always true that you get on with your grandmother and we're seeing this at work."

He said that "flexibility" was the key for both workers and employers looking to future-proof jobs in any sector.

"For organizations that operate with a controlled approach to its employees, these are challenging times.

"You can't control people while their working. There's got to be a greater focus on setting goals and outcomes as opposed to the processes," he said.

He said that every person was different in how they would tackle an issue, and by employers giving flexibility as to how the outcome is reached, they'll find that employees responding much more positively.

"Organizations are looking to promote and reward creativity and innovation in the way people work," he said.

"Rather than punishing mistakes, they're developing models that reward innovation."

However different companies would naturally have different approaches.

"There's no one best way to do it," Gahan said.

"Companies have to find ways to engage with their own staff identify the market that they are working with."

Gahan said that by hosting an event which brings together creative thinkers, businesses around the world can begin to implement their strategies to mitigate modern workplace problems.

"We're beginning to create a network of thinkers and researchers that are exploring these issues."

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