Optimism for businesses is low nearing 2023, Grant Thornton finds

Grant Thornton International‘s recent International Business Report (IBR) research has revealed that there is a downturn in overall general business confidence countrywide among Australians as we enter the new year of 2023 – dropping 17 per cent (17%) from the first half of 2022.

What were the results of the IBR research?

The results are in correlation with the ABS reporting the highest inflation rates Australia has seen in years creating a range of pressures for businesses including increased operating costs with rising wages and electricity prices, and weather conditions impacting supply chain.

Despite low optimism, Australian businesses are looking to implement automation tools to improve efficiency to curb the impacts of inflation, with businesses looking to implement them within their accounting, operations, and IT departments. Nearly 50 per cent of those business units revealed they will use automation tools and incentivise employees to work more efficiently in 2023, with investment in technology up 7 per cent from the first half of 2022.

While we still battle a war on talent with increasing uncertainty of available skilled workers since early 2020, Australian businesses are considering implementing a 4-day working week as part of improving efficiency to slow the impacts of inflation. Australia’s IBR results show 30 per cent of Australian businesses have already implemented the 4-day week to incentivise staff, with another 24 per cent of surveyed respondents wanting to implement it as soon as they can.

Despite Australia being slow to adopt this new way of working compared to its international counterparts, there is momentum for a shortened working 4-day week locally. Grant Thornton International expects digitization and automation in technology and the 9-Day fortnight will improve client experience, staff efficiency, and boost the quality of work of businesses.

What were the executive remarks on the research?

Fraser McNaughton, Grant Thornton CMO & Industry lead said: “In response to rising interest rates and economic downturn, businesses operating in industries which aren’t as ‘recession-proof’ such as retail, food and beverage, and leisure may be feeling the most pressure.”

For these ‘recession-proof’ businesses, digitization and automation is key for navigating uncertain economic times – it should lead to efficiencies, allowing value to be added in other parts of the business when revenue and profit might not be at its highest at a particular time.

“It’s also great to see the IBR results have reinforced our firm’s decision to roll out a 9-day fortnight as it shows finding efficiencies is an important goal for Aussie businesses. Businesses who trust their employees to work smarter and not harder over a shortened working week will succeed in attracting and retaining the best talent in a very challenging job market.”

“As a result of the IBR research findings and in response to a potential recession, it is critical Australian businesses look for ways to find efficiencies in their business throughout 2023 – whether that be through automation of current manual processes, fully utilising existing software, or incentivising staff,” continued Fraser McNaughton, CMO & Industry lead.


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