With Australia’s curve showing positive signs of flattening, many of us are now thinking what will the ‘new norm’1 look like.

Will we simply restart and maintain where we left off or will there be significant changes to the way we work, live and play?

The general consensus is that the Australian Government (Federal, State and Local) has, for the most part, performed well in containing the virus, communicating well to their constituents, quick in response and providing a much needed financial lifeline to business and the Australian public.

No doubt, the never before seen approach, of closing the country’s borders and providing $213 billion in stimulus funding to hibernate the country’s economy has ensured a level of compliance to the ‘stay at home’ order that has been so instrumental in flattening the curve.

So, while we are all now debating when the restrictions can be lifted, one question many of us are asking is, “what will be the new normal look like?”

Australia will emerge from the crisis with record debt, estimated at over $500 billion, and a potential under-employment rate as high as 15%.

The Government’s immediate focus will be on rebuilding the economy and supporting job creation.

Unfortunately, even with the significant stimulus packages many businesses will not survive, and while many new job opportunities may be created, as a nation, we will face a serious skills shortages and/or skills mismatch.

This will be especially evident in the science, technology and engineering fields.

Over the past six weeks, with international borders closing across the globe as other countries move to lock-down, we have seen a number of companies, which opted to offshore much of their customer service and back-office processing, struggle to meet continuous and expected service.

These companies along with their clients are having to re-visit their business continuation plans, re-provisioning call centre operations, back-office processing and/or technology operations, support and development centres back to Australia.

Companies have raced to re-instate domestic operations, and find and train staff to man these centres.

Whether these centres remain once the crisis is over is questionable, but I expect to see are companies re-revalidating and readjusting their near-shore/off-shore support models.

With the borders closed and the government under pressure to find jobs for Australians, I believe we can expect an initial reduction in the number of short-term work visas (the 400’s) being issued.

To address this expected technology skills shortage, governments may opt to provide subsidised re-training programs and more flexible and cost-effective employment options.

Recently we became comfortable working, shopping and playing in a virtual world.

We communicated, built relationships and stayed connected in the cloud.

Over the past six weeks, COVID-19 has been successful in achieving more in end-user adoption of office mobilisation and workforce flexibility, than the technology and communication companies have been able to achieve over several years.

We have all now become quite accepting of working remotely, attending Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings, managing flexible work hours and generally becoming more technology savvy.

For many of us, this flexible working environment, or a blended in-office/ remote office work environment, will become a new norm.

In doing so, we will see more opportunities for remote technology, video streaming and 5G products, support, and education as more employers permanently adopt work-from-home programs and employees opt for a lifestyle change.

COVID-19 will succeed in driving greater digital transformation than many CEOs or CIOs have been able to achieve.

Many traditional jobs may never return.

The way we shop, study and do business will change significantly and perhaps permanently.

Many bricks and mortar retail stores may never re-open, opting to move to an on-line only business model, or at best, a scaled down “bricks and clicks” operation.

More schools will provide enhanced on-line learning options and more professional and government services will be provided digitally.

The “new norm” will be one of significant change.

For companies to survive they will need to understand and expedite their digital transformation.

For the Australian workforce, we will also need to be ready for and accept the change that we face.

We need to be open to participating in learning and retraining programs so as to adapt to new technology and to enhance our personal skillsets.

We will also need to be open to accepting further changes in existing employment engagement and remuneration models as government, business and individuals/unions develop new, and globally competitive, employment models.

As a technologist and career coach, I am often what I see as the most important technologies to learn in 2020.

To this point, here are some of the most sort after technologies I see our clients requesting:

1. Mobile app development

2. Cloud certification

3. Project management and agile

4. DevOps

5. Artificial intelligence / machine learning

6. Edge computing

7. Augmented / virtual reality

8. RPA

9. Blockchain

10. Cyber security

11. Responsive web application design and development

However, in order to be truly successful in the ‘new normal’, I reiterate the need to be seen not only as a technologist but as a business partner.

As such, I also re-iterate the importance of gaining the relevant business knowledge, critical thinking, communication and relevant soft skills.

Richard Jones is the co-founder and co-CEO of over-50s recruiter, PrimeL.