Skills shortages: 5 tips to help your business now

02 May 2023

Roxanne Calder

Roxanne Calder, author of ‘Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future’ - is the founder and managing director of recruitment agency, EST10.

The global skills shortage has been well touted. The quick upturn in market conditions and businesses eager to gain traction has created an unprecedented demand for skills. Roxanne Calder shares five tips to help your business now.

As a managing director of a recruitment firm, I am only too aware of the skills shortages in the market, including financial planners. Anyone not across the severity of the situation at the beginning of last year is now. We also learnt it’s not purely pandemic related. As a cursory assumption, if you struggled to source talent in 2019, you may have attributed that to bad luck. With hindsight, we know better.

The ageing population rapidly exiting the workforce and birth rates not close to replacement levels, puts us somewhat in this position. But there is more to it. The quick upturn in market conditions and businesses eager to gain traction created an unprecedented demand for skills. For context, job vacancies in May 2022 were 111.1 per cent higher than in February 2020, and with Australia’s unemployment rate at the lowest in 48 years, competition for talent has been brutal.

Still, there are methods to assist. Here are five tips to help your business now:

1. Hire during holiday periods

Most companies don’t hire during traditional holiday periods, like Christmas, Easter and school holidays, and that provides the first advantage. Additionally, this year’s opportunity is more seismic than most. Job advertisements are falling, at the same time, job applications rose 10.3 per cent, the highest level since April 2020, presenting a unique window for increased candidate availability. Such conditions also predicate and welcome the motivated jobseeker, rather than the opportunistic one.

2. Instead of seeking skills, seek talent

Change the view on your prism to rose. Not to side-wash negative perspectives, but now is the time to see the upside and potential of people. What of your existing employees? Do you know what hobbies and interests they are into? What about their education, previous experience, and even their career dreams? Don’t take your team for granted or view them only in their current role.

When recruiting externally, look for transferable skills and attributes, ones that lean in to take responsibility, learning, growth, and the acceleration that accompanies the journey. To do so requires investment on the employer’s part, not just in training but also in your patience, time, and compromise. The payoff will be worth it!

3. Retention

Retaining employees has always been key, but never more so than now. For many businesses, the leaky bucket scenario has been the modus operandi in recent years, with the majority of vacancies due to replacements/resignations. This was on top of significant job mobility statistics.

Instead of exit interviews, I recommend ‘stay interviews’. Spend time understanding why your employees are with your business. At the same time, you will tap into improvement areas and provide your team with a voice and an opportunity to be heard. Don’t underestimate the impact of provoking positive thoughts and attitudes, and the power of articulating it out loud.

4. Use temporaries

As trained and skilled workers, temporaries alleviate immediate business burdens. If suffering from a prolonged empty seat, consider not just the inevitable cost to your client base but also your existing team members. Burnout, stress, and pressure are just some of the by-products. Temporary workers coming from different industries – for example, to help out with administration or back-office work –  can also provide external perspectives for improvement and alternative thinking.

5. And what of the mature workforce?

If you are concerned about performance, don’t be. Scientific evidence shows, ‘for most people, raw mental horsepower declines after the age of 30, but knowledge and expertise keep increasing beyond the age of 80’.

If like the Australian Bureau of Statistics, you consider older workers to be those 45- 64 years of age, you may want a rethink. It is my assertion that people aged 55 and above are our new mid-career candidates. For a start, life expectancy shifted to 83.79 versus 71.21 in 1970 and almost a quarter of workers don’t intend to retire until the age of 70. Additionally, the share of workers over the age of 55 has doubled from 9 per cent in 1991 to 19 per cent in 2021, a significant, untapped sourcing pool, rich in expertise, talent and yes, skills!

Fall in love with work

The skills shortage is a hard fact but not a new phenomenon. It is not just attributed to the pandemic, unemployment rate, ageing population, lack of migrants and so forth. It is systemic and far more reaching.

We need to remind ourselves to ‘fall in love’ again with the work we do and everything it entails. Not just the purpose, meaning and flexibility, but the labour of it, too. The noble and the humble, the challenging and uninspiring, the balance and reality of the world we live in.

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