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Nearing the end of 2021, industries across the US witnessed what can only be described as a mass exodus of working professionals. Big companies suddenly found themselves sorely short-staffed, and many were forced to keep their doors closed even after the Christmas period, just to gather their bearings.
Since January 2022, the impact of the Great Resignation has well and truly rippled out far from its epicentre in the US, with UK., Canadian, and even Australian economies currently experiencing the aftermath of our own Great Resignation. But what exactly has the Great Resignation brought to Australian industries?
Whilst the phenomenon has held a varying impact on different sectors, one notable observation made by economists is that there are more fresh startups dotting the fabric of Australian industry, with the technology sector in particular welcoming an influx of budding technological entrepreneurs and their agile teams.
The technology sector was one of the only branches within the wider Australian economy to actually thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic, with businesses from all industries seeking tech services from the first lockdowns of 2020.
Established app developers like DreamWalk saw a slew of professionals entering their headquarters in Melbourne, all of whom had developed their own app ideas and were aiming to create their very own app prototypes.
"We had new entrepreneurs coming to us in unprecedented numbers," says DreamWalk Managing Director Karl Graf. "For so many, the lockdowns of the past two years were a catalyst for change and an excuse to finally turn that app idea they'd been sitting on into reality."
Entrepreneurs born during months and months of lockdowns weren't all necessarily from a professional background either. In fact, there are countless origin stories of tech startups who have been headed by students, fresh graduates, and even retail or hospitality workers or homemakers.
In essence, the COVID-19 pandemic allowed individuals with visions all the time and space that they needed in order to fully flesh out their business ideas, allowing for fresh minds and new voices to take the helm with regards to innovations in Australian tech, as well as other sectors.
The main question that is shared by both young entrepreneurs and established CEOs alike in the midst of the Great Resignation, is how can companies address their staff shortage?
There are actually two major answers to this question, the first of which provides young graduates with access to professional opportunities that may not have been available for graduates from previous generations.
More companies are investing in employee training and professional development programmes, alongside offering internships for students seeking professional placement opportunities. In other words, the fresh energy that can be observed across Australia's startup culture is more or less also being felt in larger companies, as their workforce grows younger.
If larger corporations are able to cultivate a workplace culture that encourages learning and innovation, there's a strong chance that these established businesses will be able to compete with the monumental developments that are being spearheaded by startups across Australia.
The second answer to this conundrum surrounding staff shortages is automation! Whilst automation was considered to be a taboo subject in economics in the past, particularly out of the fear that the widespread utilisation of automation tools would kill millions of jobs across the country, there is very much a need for automation in digitising industries.
In truth, automation is a genuine asset to the companies of today, simply because implementing automated processes will allow employees to focus their attention less on grunt work and more on areas for development, improvement, and perhaps even industry-wide innovation.
As startups are building their own enterprises from the ground up, they can utilise the automation tools available to businesses today as foundational components of their business model. This means that startups won't have to adjust to the introduction of automation. Instead, they can evolve right alongside their automation tools.
The same can't be said for established corporations, however, as these larger companies will naturally need to allocate resources towards restructuring their organisation and bringing on new staff before they can focus on innovating. In this regard, it's safe to say that startups are currently at a major advantage, an advantage that has only been made possible by the Great Resignation itself.
Although some may argue that the Great Resignation has the potential to hold a detrimental effect on Australia's economy, as our most prolific and renowned national corporations see a hit to their profit margins, there are some major benefits to possessing a vibrant population of startups. In fact, we've actually already experienced some of these benefits, in the form of globally recognised brands like AfterPay and Canva.
Aussie tech startups have developed quite a reputation for making a global impact, with our homegrown innovations in the evolving field of tech bringing great promise to the Australian tech industry as a whole.
The rise of Australian tech startups also provides Aussie investors with greater investment opportunities by expanding on the offerings of the ASX. For instance, the acquisition of AfterPay by Block, Inc. (formerly known as Square, Inc.) allowed the global tech conglomerate to start trading on the ASX. And economists assert that the ASX will continue to provide investors with a myriad of tech investment options as the sector continues to grow.
Alongside boosting our GDP and becoming one of our most profitable export sectors, the tech companies and other forward-thinking startups point to a reorganisation of industry as we know it. Businesses from all corners of the global industrial landscape are digitising and becoming more agile and future-oriented.
There has been a growing focus on sustainable industrial development, with millions of companies maintaining flexible or hybrid work options for their remaining employees, and identifying opportunities for automation to fill the gaps triggered by the Great Resignation.
In this regard, the Great Resignation is by no means a negative occurrence, nor is it the Great Depression of our own '20s. In truth, the Great Resignation is more a Great Reset than a recession. The face of global industry is changing, and the way we organise our working lives is likely to experience some major evolutions itself, as can already be seen in the 4-day working week trial that's being conducted by companies in Australia and New Zealand.
It's likely to assume that the future of work is going to involve a lot more passion and purpose over simply profits alone, a work model that startups emulate effortlessly, and one that large corporations will need to adopt in order to weather the societal and economic changes that are still yet to come throughout what is essentially the world's first digital renaissance.