Private companies in Australia and around the world expect to maintain or shed staff numbers in the next 12 months despite being optimistic about their future expansion and revenue growth, a new Deloitte survey has found.
The Deloitte report Global perspectives for private companies to be released on Wednesday surveyed 1882 companies around the world with revenues of between $10 million to $1 billion.
It found that about two thirds of global companies viewed digital disruption as a positive change.
More than half of only 55 Australian companies surveyed did not plan to employ more people despite many planning to expand or increase productivity. Of the 55, seven companies planned to shed staff numbers.
Deloitte Private Chief Strategy Officer Michael Clarke said this suggested that companies would manage growth opportunities through automation and technology "rather than hiring".
"The Australian private market understands that automation doesn't replace jobs, it improves the quality of them," he said.
"Business leaders are taking advantage of automation, cloud and analytics to maximise their resources, but also recognising the importance of holding onto engaged and highly skilled employees to carry out higher value work."
Professor John Buchanan, head of business analytics at the University of Sydney Business School, said the Deloitte survey was based on very small survey samples of about 50 respondents from each country, despite the significantly varied sizes of their populations.
Around two thirds of the private companies surveyed across the world reported that disruption arising from technological change would be positive.
Professor Buchanan said the view of companies did not reflect the view of workers.
"What is perceived to be good by companies is not shared by the entire population," he said.
The Deloitte survey found that roughly two thirds of the executives from each region were optimistic about the success of their company over the next 24 months.
The majority expected their revenues, profits, productivity and capital investments to go up in the year ahead.
Fewer than half (45 per cent) expected to hire more full time employees.
The survey said private companies may be looking at developing more flexible or augmented workforces.
"If increased investments in technology like cloud and analytics are paying off, the outcome of this is companies managing growth by automating processes and augmenting their workforce with technology," the report said.
Deloitte Private partner Tara Hill said Asia was opening up to private companies and many had already expanded into Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
"As confidence and experience increase we are seeing more Australian companies look to other areas of Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia as new growth markets," she said.