Six strategies to help your business survive the skills shortage

23 October, 2006

Retaining good staff is not all about salary. Employers are going to have to get smarter about the total employment package they are offering their staff, if they want to attract and retain the best people.

This is critical in light of the fact that the skills shortage is having a significant impact on all sized businesses, across a number of industries and professions, even though the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s (ABS) August Labour Force Survey, shows employment rates are continuing to rise.

As Christine Khor, Managing Director of Market Partners, advises employers, the shortage is in skills, not in numbers – in talent, not enthusiasm.

“It is the skills shortage that continues to challenge candidate attraction and retention strategies for a great many of Australian businesses. As the number of available jobs increase, the competition for quality people heats up,” Khor said.

‘’Smart’ organisations will need to review their total employment offering, not just salary to attract and retain their best people,” Khor said.

“The impact of poor hiring practices is more costly than most people think. In addition to their obvious financial impact, organisations also need to consider the impact on staff morale and business continuity and productivity.”

A recent Harvard study confirmed the replacement cost of a $100,000 executive is an actual cost of $173,000 to the company. Therefore, any decrease in staff turnover will have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line – both in productivity and the direct cost of recruitment.

In particular smaller business will need to be even more innovative with the recruitment packages they are offering if they are to compete with larger organisations who can attract good staff more easily through recognition of their company brand, succession planning opportunities or the total remuneration package.

Strategies to survive the skills shortage

1. Think beyond wages - look at innovative strategies to attract and retain good staff. Identify what factors would make your good staff want to stay in your employ and create flexible employee benefits around these issues. Clearly define what is on offer from the outset.

Consider offering:

- clearly defined career paths

- challenging opportunities

- good work/life balance and flexibility in the workplace initiatives

2. Offer up-and-coming staff the opportunity for professional development. 

Consider offering:

- mentoring by more senior and experienced staff to the up-and- coming talent

- opportunities to take an active role in the leadership team and influence the business’ direction

3. Utilise the skills and experience of your mature aged employees.  Consider strategies that best utilise their skills, experience, passion, loyalty and commitment e.g. coaching and mentoring young and less experienced staff.

4. Offer the opportunity for all employees to develop their skills, knowledge and qualifications. Consider ongoing training and education via conferences, seminars, workshops and apprenticeships.

5. Be a true ‘employer of choice’. Offer and encourage balanced and flexible working arrangements for all staff - women, men, Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

6. Create a culture of trust and employee engagement. Encourage your good staff to feel accountable for staff turnover. Empower them with the ability to make decisions and a difference in this area.