Will Safety Professionals be Needed in 2050?
Updated: Dec 13, 2018
I had the pleasure of debating with several OHS/WHS industry colleagues on Friday afternoon at the Safety Institute of Australia’s ‘The Future of Health and Safety – An Agenda for Change conference – and what a debate it WAS!
So I thought I would share my opinion and the reasons as to why I spoke about this with the audience on Friday, which somewhat follows on from a previous blog I wrote last year on casual, contingent and contract employment.
Thanks @MarcusCattani for the short notice!
I look forward to your comments.
The future of work is constantly evolving. From a nationally-awarded Mining Recruitment Agency point of view...30 year’s ago, the employment landscape in Australia looked very different from today. Safety, wasn’t a huge cause for concern especially for SME’s and often a costly exercise only instigated when and if needed, and roles within OHS/WHS and the introduction of safety professionals to businesses and organisations, in particular, were often a ‘nice to have’ and possibly an afterthought to a negative situation occurring.
In recent years with the mining and resources sector’s massive downturn, once again safety, although an integral discipline in organisations and businesses as we had come a long way, was ‘put on the back burner’. More and more OHS professionals were and continue to find themselves being made redundant or losing contracts, in the past few years in WA in particular, and then have the arduous task of having to climb their way into a ‘new norm’ of employment – often contract, consulting, contingent, labour hire or freelance/gig opportunities.
As a careers, mining recruitment and behaviours strategist who consistently reviews and researches trends in workforce planning and recruitment, and someone who has worked in the mining and resources industry in particular for the past 24, my day-to-day role includes speaking with numerous candidates and clients about this very topic. During these conversations, I have, as mentioned above, seen a massive shift in the number of OHS professionals required in companies/organisations, and there are several reasons as to why.
The introduction of AI (Artificial Intelligence), streamlining of systems with cloud-based versions, individuals having complete access to apps and the likes from our smartphones, and our overarching personal need to be fed constant information through various channels and easy mediums, I believe has also accounted for the change in dynamics of positions within this niche.
Only last week at a Recruitment meetup event where we were discussing all things Talent Acquisition, was a similar question posed. In the USA right now, 40% of those employed work in a contract/consultant/gig economy/freelance role. These can include long term, short term, as and when required, project-based opportunities and are generally seen to be driven by employers, although there has been, in Australia in particular, a shift towards individuals choosing this as a preferred option of employment. There’s is also the case in the past few years where candidates had no other means than to work this type of employment, as full-time or fixed-term contracts, were few and far between. In Australia right now, speaking of similar employment types, our current numbers are sitting at between 15-25%, so we certainly have a way to catch up to the USA, but there are more and more individuals looking for complete flexibility on their terms.
In 2050, the employment landscape, as I see it, will be more and more like this – individuals taking up this form of employment, over stable, full-time ‘with all the benefits’ opportunities. And the safety profession will be amongst this, as many other professions including HR/Recruitment, Accounting, even GP’s are said to be seeing a shift to this form of employment.
As processes become systemised, companies become more reliant on diverse skills sets of individuals and not dedicated employees who are only able to work across one or a few areas of the business. This, therefore, leads to individuals who will need to constantly evolve, be further trained and developed in order to showcase their diverse skills and people will need to personally stay up to date across many areas of business in order to remain employed, in any capacity.
OHS and several other functions within businesses and organisations will move to an Agile Team model – companies who are reorganising or restructuring their organisation. Team structures that are flexible, high quality and can adapt to ever-changing conditions. Those companies who don’t just fix the product but fix the process as well. Who instils a workforce that is completely scalable, but an organisation which understands the need to continue to engage SME – Subject Matter Experts, usually for a timeframe and not for a permanent role.
The workforce now, and into the future will be global, and fluid – individuals choosing contracts based on their expertise and companies vying for great talent in order to fulfil projects/contract agreements and areas within the business sometimes on an ‘as needs’ basis from anywhere. This Agile type model will be made up of Subject Matter Expert’s aligned with the existing workforce, that workforce who will predominately be made up of Tribes, chapters, squads and scrums and who will manage the WHS function collectively, and not necessarily by few in the company, and where the function will be being overseen by leaders – but capably being managed in conjunction with all those made up in their scrum. Companies who have and are about to adopt this method of workforce engagement include South 32 and in the near months Bankwest.
So WHS does hold an integral component of any organisation no matter how large or small, however with technology and workforce planning trends changing, I am certain you will agree that professionals in this space will be ‘few and far between’ and that the function will be integrated, as it has been in recent years amongst further diverse skills required for individuals to perform their duties and responsibilities, and additional components of their day to day work task.
So my advice to you, adapt to change, learn new skills, and enjoy the ‘new norm’ of employment opportunities in this sector.