When the numbers stack up against you

Artificial Intelligence
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You might be working in the wrong place at the wrong time, says Niall Kitson

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31 May 2019 | 0

All things being equal, I should be in Australia. If you are a professional educated to masters or PhD level looking for a new job then you should consider it, too.

However, if you’re an entrepreneur with grand plans, I suggest you make haste for Canada. If you’re a student, however, Switzerland is where it’s at.

Those are the findings of the OECD’s new tool to gauge the ‘talent attractiveness’ of its 20 member nations. The results are based on data based on 24 variables grouped into the seven dimensions of taxation, promotional prospects, quality of opportunity, family environment, skills environment, inclusiveness and overall quality of life.

Ireland didn’t fare terribly in the overall rankings, rating sixth for skilled workers and 10th for entrepreneurs but far down the table for attractiveness to students.

The background to all this from a policy perspective is to create a guide for policy makers to better understand the value of migration – in particular how to create and maintain a climate desirable to high-value individuals.

Based on the numbers Ireland – the country of a thousand welcomes – has a problem sourcing and keeping the people needed to close the digital skills gap and create a more cosmopolitan society. There is strength in diversity, yet Ireland is apparently still pale and stale.

This flies in the face of what we have come to learn about the tech sector. Ireland boasts a network of the most recognised brands in the world, we have colleges delivering cutting edge research with commercial impact, and a start-up scene propelled by youthful energy. We’ve got a society moving more towards liberal secular values, English as a first language and EU membership. We’ve got a lot going for us, so why so far down the pecking order?

I guess the lesson is that the tech sector is cool but it’s not the commercial behemoth we think it to be. Ireland is still a nation of SMEs (99.8% of companies according to the CSO) contributing a lot more to the country’s fiscal health than Apple, Starbucks or other previous beneficiaries of the ‘double Irish’. Holding up the tech sector as an example of Brand Ireland is fine, so long as you recognise the world beyond your laptop.

For the craic I recommend finding out where you should be by taking the test at https://www.oecd.org/migration/talent-attractiveness/.

Sit down and shut up

In other news, workers across the nation are warming to the idea of a four-day working week. According to new research from Ricoh, 57% of surveyed office workers believe new technology will make four-day weeks the norm.

The survey also found that better pay was still the driving motivation behind finding a new job (54%) followed by learning opportunities (38%) and work/life balance (37%).

On a gloomier note, 43% of employees polled expect their entire job could be automated within the next five years.

“There is no doubt that the concept of the traditional workplace has changed significantly in recent years,” commented Chas Moloney, director, Ricoh Ireland & UK. “Interest in and appetite for a four-day work week is growing – people want to work less hours but be more effective and productive with the time they spend working… After all, a happier workforce often equates to increased employee productivity, business performance and company growth.

“If Irish business leaders are to succeed and make the concept of the four-day work week a reality, they need to enable individual workstyles with the right technologies and agile approaches. Otherwise, they could find themselves struggling to attract, keep and empower people.”

If only I could agree with this sentiment. Everyone would like to devote more time to the more rewarding aspects of their jobs but dangle the prospect of working the same for less in front of an employer and you can bet that four day week will represent a cost saving more than an opportunity to invest in their workforce. To repeat my point above, Ireland is a nation of SMEs with limited resources. Multinational values simply won’t translate to the shop floor of a business with a headcount of 20 or less. Of course, maybe that means there won’t be a trickle down effect from automation at all if the hard costs of equipment, software and training are greater than simply paying a wage for a human-powered five-day week.

Perhaps the survey should have included another motivation for changing jobs or embracing a four-day week: fear.

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