One third very confident of financial growth this year.
With Australia’s economy now shifting strongly from recovery to expansion as a result of a recovery in housing construction in early 2021 the construction sector is poised to expand significantly and investment in communications technology will be a critical enabler of this growth, according to research released today by Optus Business.
The Construction Industry Pulse report compiles insights from 400 respondents in the Australian construction industry and demonstrates how investments in technology will be critical for helping businesses achieve their goals for 2021 and beyond.
The report found that despite the economic and resource challenges of 2020, confidence amongst construction business owners was rated ‘high’ with larger organisations – employing between 200 and 300 staff – the most optimistic about their prospects for the next 12 months, with 32 per cent being ‘very confident’ in their financial growth.
The top three nominated areas for investment and growth in the next financial year were staff training, salary increases, and business technology. These investments would be made in support of strategy, personalised solutions, and the ongoing use of interactive documents.
New employment expected
The growth of the construction sector will also translate to new hiring. Businesses with 5-19 employees were most bullish about employing new staff, with 22 per cent reporting they would like to increase employee numbers.
Across all businesses, additional priorities included employment of new and relevant skill sets (29 per cent), investment in dependable networks (23 per cent), training in new technology (23 per cent), and the ability to work from home (19 per cent). Examining their interest in new technology further revealed that 50 per cent would invest more in mobile phones, 47 per cent in laptops, 14 per cent in mobile broadband solutions, and 27 per cent in tablets.
Respondents’ interest in dependable networks came from their need to manage large data volumes securely and affordably. These investments would also be supported by applications and business solutions training for employees.
“These results clearly show the important role communications technology plays in underpinning Australia’s construction sector and its ability to rebound in 2021 and beyond,” said Libby Roy managing director of Optus Business.
“It’s fantastic to see the emphasis on bringing in new skills and training workers in technology. As the market for digitally skilled workers tightens, it is vital that construction companies build training programs that can deliver the pipeline of skills needed to ensure they can get the most out of their technology investments.”
Roy said Australian Government initiatives such as the A$12.7 million expansion of the Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Service program (announced in the latest Federal Budget) would go a long way in helping the sector implement training programs.
This program and others like it are especially important for smaller construction businesses, which were more likely to rely on a ‘bare minimum’ technology approach (81 per cent), while 70 per cent of larger companies harnessed technology to improve their operations and updated it more often (71 per cent).
Cyber Security measures lacking
However the report also showed that larger organisations are more aware of the potential threat from cyber-attacks, with 47 per cent expressing concern about the impact of viruses and attacks on company data. However, only 47 per cent of all organisations reported having defensive measures in place. This was despite 30 per cent of larger businesses (200-300 staff) reporting having already been attacked, along with 7 per cent of small businesses (1-4 staff).
“Being exposed to cyber-attacks creates another level of company risk with legislative or regulatory consequences, as there are severe implications relating to breaches of cyber security – especially when linked to critical infrastructure, and privacy breaches,” said Roy.
“For any business, this makes it important to protect personal, business and financial information. At Optus Business, we’ve been listening to our customers and have extensive programs in place to help business customers build their awareness of cyber threats and defensive strategies, as well as helping them to train staff to avoid taking actions that can weaken defensive barriers. For us it is about connecting customers to technology that improves their lives and business.”
And as with most industries, the report found the construction sector had to contend with a substantial proportion of workers (30 per cent) working from home, although the nature of the industry meant a considerable proportion remained onsite (20 per cent).
Larger organisations were more likely to report they had implemented comprehensive support offerings for at-home workers, including offering information and support services and allowing employees to take hardware and equipment such as monitors home. But despite these investments, workers in larger businesses were least likely to feel they were well-prepared and supported to work at home (31 per cent), and more workers in smaller companies felt well supported (45 per cent).