Australia’s Skilled Talent Shortage Persists Despite Economy
The events of the past 6 months have been devastating for countless businesses across Australia. As we face the prospect of returning lockdowns, business owners will again be forced to evaluate their positions and the viability of retaining staff.
Here in Canberra, we’ve been very fortunate that our economy has remained relatively stable despite what’s unfolding in neighbouring states. We feel deeply for the situation Victorians are in right now, and hold no illusions that we won’t face a similar situation in the ACT in coming months.
However, from a recruitment perspective, neither the pandemic nor the resulting economic downturn has slowed the requirement for skilled people in Canberra and across the country. While there is an immediate instance of higher unemployment in other states, the increase in supply is generally limited to non-technical positions.
The high demand for experienced people in skilled roles endures – including finance, procurement, HR, IT, digital technologies, and cyber security. This is also true of skilled workers in government roles as the administration responds to the pandemic and seeks to stimulate the economy.
Retaining skilled staff is a key strategic move
In a rapidly changing environment, it’s easy to lose sight of strategic objectives for talent attraction and retention. But now is not the time for complacency.
It has always been crucial for leaders to adapt, make quick decisions in situations of uncertainty, and steer through rapid change – and this is even more important as the pandemic thrusts our economy into uncharted waters.
With our borders closed, we’re not seeing the incoming migration of skilled workers that Australia commonly relies on to fill our highly skilled talent gaps. No one knows when they will re-open either; a concern that is intensified by internal travel restrictions that make it difficult for our workforce to relocate where they’re needed.
Australia has experienced a severe worsening of skills shortages for some years now. First coined by McKinsey in 1997, the ‘war for talent’ has only been worsened by our ageing population, rapidly changing technologies and increasingly competitive landscape.
Interestingly, the increasing alignment between younger generations’ demands for flexible work and the expedition of remote work due to COVID-19 may help ease this strain. Particularly because employers will be able to seek out skilled staff even if they live on the other side of the country or in regional areas.
Staying focused on the future
The way organisations respond to the current challenges, and particularly their talent attraction and retention is more important than ever.
Even though there may be higher-than-usual unemployment overall, there is a misconception that skilled people who have been difficult to recruit in recent years should now be readily available…and at a decreased cost!
This has even led some organisations to attempt to low ball top talent with under market value salary packages that they believe skilled workers have no option but to accept. And even though this approach could potentially work in the short term in our hardest hit regions, organisations should be mindful of the damage this can do to their employer brand and longer term talent attraction prospects.
Skilled talent generally know what they’re worth, and will quickly leave an employer if they don’t feel valued. They may also share this experience with colleagues and their vast networks, and it doesn’t take long to damage your brand when highly competent people are sprouting negative reviews.
7 tips to help you compete for top talent in the current environment
Hiring activity remains strong in Canberra, and organisations that have relaxed their priority on talent attraction are being out-competed by those that have maintained focus.
Here are 7 key strategies to help you stay competitive, attract top talent, and build on your employer brand in the current environment:
- Refine your employer brand and invest in taking it to your target market all year round – not just in time for hiring
- Work with genuine talent attraction partners that have deep networks in the areas where your skills shortages are most prevalent
- Make work more meaningful and seek to eliminate repetitive, low value add tasks through smart automation
- Invest in your team culture. Teams that play together stay together!
- Provide career development opportunities. Research shows that workers who are actively developed feel more engaged with their workplace and stay longer
- Revise your incentives regularly. Organisations are offering more than ever before when it comes to flexibility, maternity packages, leave etc. Of course, you can only offer what you can afford, but make it the best you can
- Keep up with technology. You would be surprised how many candidates state poor systems as a key reason for moving to a different employer where they feel more empowered to do a great job