Australia is running out of talent. Here is what HR & TA can do about it...

Australia is running out of talent. Here is what HR & TA can do about it...

As a response to Covid, Human Resources and Talent Acquisition leaders in Australia have single-mindedly been working on solving a set of challenges: The set of challenges associated with a fully in-office workforce going fully remote overnight. This WFH bucket has many intricacies… Like what’s the best way to hire and onboard remotely? How do we transition teams back to the office? How do we best support and enable our talent to do their jobs wherever they are working? Should salaries be adjusted based on location? And so forth.

What we’re now recognising as that the set of challenges associated with remote-work was only a subset of a much greater challenge… The challenge of attracting, retaining and nurturing talent - generally.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news, this will not be new to you. But Australia is seeing a massive talent shortage.  This is as a result of multiple forces culminating at once:

1 - The uncertain and negative market sentiment associated with Covid results in talented professionals being less keen to change jobs (so as to avoid unnecessary risks). This is such a prominent trend that we are seeing thelowest responses to job ads that we’ve seen since 2012.

2 - Thanks to the fortunate position Australia is in, it’s seeing major post-pandemic growth. To fuel this growth, businesses need the right people - so demand is increased.

3 - In the past (pre-Covid), growing businesses would simply “import” talent from other, often developing, countries. Australia is a super attractive destination for many talented professionals who are keen to grow their careers - alleviating the pressures associated with the demand for talent in Aus. With border restrictions the way they are currently, attracting international talent is very tricky.

4 - Talented professionals who are of working age are stepping out of the workforce…. InApril over 60,000 people stepped out of the workforce(these are not people who retired, but rather people who left to pursue other things, like caring for family, taking a break for health reasons or building their own business).

The competition for talent is so rife thatbusinesses in Aus are offering their team higher salaries and packages to incentivise them to stay- as competitors may try to poach them.

What baffles me is the fact that we’ve been flexible in our thinking when it comes to flexible work and WFH, but we’re still going old school in our approach to managing talent. There are obvious ways in which we can build synergistic solutions for candidates, employers and even the Australian economy, but TA and HR are not pushing the envelope - despite now being the time to do so?!

Enter Total Talent Management…. It’s not a new concept. And some of us have been trying to incorporate it. But there is so much more we could be doing to address growing business needs right now:

1 - Big and growing businesses need to boost market sentiment by spreading the news about the strong growth in Australia to help address candidates' anxiety and fear of moving.

2 - We need to expand employer brands to address the new needs talent may have as a result of the global situation. We need to foster even more trust and show even more empathy through our hiring and management processes.

3 - People are leaving the workforce because they - for whatever reason - cannot meet the demands of full-time work. At the same time, most businesses have roles that remain vacant because of a lack of suitable candidates.  It’s not that we don’t have enough talented people.  It’s that we’re not meeting them where they are at.   Why are full-time in-office roles still the most prevalent?  Surely Covid and WFH has proven to us that we can be just as effective and productive (and in many cases even more effective and productive) when we are not working in office?  Surely, we now see that more flexibility can actually help rather than hinder employee engagement?

Instead of waiting ages for the right applicant for a full-time in-office gig, we need to be creating job-sharing opportunities to help attract those 60,000 people who have stepped out of the workforce in April alone, not to mention all the others.  We need to be thinking partially in-office and even fully remote when we create job specs. And build out roles around the preferences of the people who will be working in them.

4 - “Does it matter if your talented team member is not in Aus?”  This is a pivotal question we need to be asking.  Again, it seems like a no-brainer to me… You’re having trouble finding the right candidate in Aus. In the past, you would then start looking for an international candidate you can sponsor.  What’s the difference?  Why can’t you hire that international candidate now, regardless of their location?   (I get that timezone may be important, but there are many countries with lots of overlap. And a-synchronous comms has been a thing for years anyway…).

Now is the time to be forward-thinking. To build for rapid growth. To expand your approach.  Simply being reactive to the problem right in your face is not enough. As strategic leaders in Talent Acquisition and Human Resources, we need to build structures, strategies and the culture for our businesses to thrive post-pandemic.  We can achieve all of this by maximising an approach that is not new, that many of us have implemented in some shape or form in our businesses already - Total Talent Management.  In Australia, we are at the precipice of a higher level of greatness and growth, but we need to be prepared to maximise this. Done correctly, the way in which we address our talent needs can be a total game-changer for our economy and our businesses.