Australian businesses lack ‘Asia capability’

Research by Diversity Council Australia found that the majority of the Australian workforce is ill-equipped to do business in Asia.

Australian businesses lack ‘Asia capability’
ording to new research, one of the biggest hindrances to the success of Australian businesses in Asia is a lack of understanding about Asia capabilities.

This is particularly related to knowing which capabilities are critical to business success, and how prevalent they are in the workforce.

The research – conducted by Diversity Council Australia (DCA) – surveyed over 2,000 Australian workers to generate the first ever National Scorecard of Australia’s Workforce Asia Capability.

‘Asia capability’ was defined by researchers as individuals’ ability to interact effectively in Asian countries and cultures, with people from Asian cultural backgrounds, to achieve work goals.

‘Asia’ was defined broadly to include North East Asia, South East Asia and South Asia India, Pakistan.

Key findings included:
  • Seven of Australia’s top ten export markets are in Asia. The region also constitutes 66% of the total export market.
  • Although one in ten Australian workers have “excellent” Asia capability, one third have none or very little. Almost two-thirds of workers have little or no working knowledge of how to effectively manage in Asian business contexts.
  • Overall, Australia’s workforce scored three out of five for Asia capability.
  • Senior executives and managers were more likely to have a higher Asia capability.
  • Asia capable talent is available – employers are advised to seek out workers who have lived and worked in Asia, or who can read, write or speak and Asian language at basic proficiency level or higher.
  • However, fluency in Asian languages is low, with just 5.1% of Australian workers being fluent in one or more Asian languages.
  • According to DCA, having business interests in Asia does not guarantee Asia capability. Workers in organisations with Asian business interests are less likely to have excellent Asia capability compared with workers in an organisation with an Asian head office.
“There is too much talk and not enough action,” researchers claimed. “While a fifth of workers said their organisations valued the Asia capability of their workforce, fewer said their organisation was likely to effectively use these capabilities.”

DCA advised employers looking to improve their Asia capability to focus on existing Asian-identifying talent, and to recognise and reward workers who have lived and worked in Asia or have Asian language proficiency.

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