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The Current Skills Shortage – where has everyone gone, and what can we do

It seems just about every business we talk to today, need staff. This has not just happened overnight, this has been building for the past 18 months or so, and unfortunately there is no immediate end of staff shortages in sight.

What do we mean by a skills shortage? According to an article by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry there is a difference between a skilled worker and a skills shortage. Skills shortages are measured by national, state or regional labour market analysis of data trends such as vacancies, industry surveys or similar. As the name implies, skill shortages tend to focus on either current or forecasted statistically significant shifts in demand for occupational skills and the real estate sector has seen this impact dramatically.

The phrase ‘the great resignation’ was first heard in 2021, where the living fear was put in to employers minds about how, as many as 50% of staff were going to depart their jobs in 2022. And, as predicted, we are now experiencing staff exiting jobs in droves. In property we have seen this clearly with roles such as property management/administration/accounting/reception/owner’s corporation. So, what has caused this mass exodus? Wikipedia explains it well;

The COVID-19 pandemic allowed workers to rethink their careers, work conditions, and long-term goals. As many workplaces attempted to bring their employees in-person, workers desired the freedom remote work afforded them during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as schedule flexibility, which was the primary reason to look for a new job of the majority of those studied by Bankrate in August 2021.] Additionally, many workers, particularly in younger cohorts, are seeking to gain a better work–life balance. Australia is seeing an unprecedented number of workers leaving their jobs for better pay and working conditions. In IT, salaries have increased well over 10% in many areas*. In February 2022, Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg reported that the labour market had been experiencing a “Great Reshuffle” rather than a “Great Resignation”. He also reported that over one million workers started new jobs in the three months prior to November 2021, an increase of almost 10% prior to the pre-pandemic average. In the three months prior to February 2022, 300,000 workers reported resigning for better job opportunities, a record number. A main incentive may have been higher pay, as the typical Australian worker who switched jobs received a pay bump of 8% to 10%.

As mentioned, there is no imminent relief in sight, we all need staff and for roles such as property management and accounting, experience at some level, is not a nice to have, it’s essential. So, what can we do to secure more wins in this ongoing battle for talent? I’ve listed a few ideas below that seem to be making some difference to companies willing to think outside the square.

1. For existing staff:

- Provide avenues for professional development to upskill staff. Educating your staff and providing clear career paths see staff become more engaged and effective in the work place. - Put employee referral programs in place. If your staff love it at your workplace, chances are they may know someone who may like to work there as well. Promote your referral program to existing and new staff, this could be by way of a cash incentive (always a winner), dinner vouchers, additional annual leave days or the latest tech gadgets. - Prevent staff burnout by developing an internal wellness program. Employee burnout is very real today. Can you provide more flexible hours, working from home options, flexi start/finish times?

- Train your managers on how to recognise staff burnout and how to put remedies in place to alleviate. But don’t forget the managers themselves, they are people too and are often more vulnerable to the stresses in their roles.

2. When interviewing for new staff. - Clearly state the benefits of the role/company such as the full remuneration package (including bonuses, equity opportunity, parental leave (both maternity and paternity if this is in place), flexibility, working from home options. These are what many candidates are looking for at present. The days are long gone where you could sit back and rely on the reputation of your company to outweigh the lure of the competition. Job interviews are becoming more like first dates, and candidates are certainly doing their research on their employer of choice, so ensure you go into the interview prepared to impress. Create an environment that is engaging, respectful and mindful of the candidates requests.

3. Transferable skills are key - In a period of skills shortage, hiring staff with transferable skills may be key. Attitude and eagerness are invaluable and often can’t be taught. Is it possible to take someone onboard who can be trained over time? Accordingly, salaries will be lower during this training period - a win win for both parties.

4. Make hiring decisions quickly. - If this candidate is a goodie, chances are they will have other interviews lined up. Whilst we know the interview process can have many moving parts, ensure all decision makers are either in the interview or are at arm’s length to come in to meet the candidate if the interview has gone well.

- If you like what you see, ensure you have references ready to read, I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed in preparation and a hiring decision can be made super-fast. We have instances where we (as recruiters) can meet a candidate in the morning, only to hear they have an offer (or multi offers) within hours.

-Dragging the interview process to 2 or 3 interviews could well leave you out in the cold back to square one.

5. If you make an offer, put your best foot forward - first time! You’ve found a great candidate and you want to offer them the role. You will not be doing yourself any favours by coming in short on the remuneration package. Acceptance can be lost by trying to save yourself a few dollars at this critical point. Do your research on current market salaries. Find out, if you can, what your competitors are paying for the same role. Let the candidate know ALL the benefits of why they should accept your offer, this goes far beyond just the financial aspect.

6. Create an exceptional onboarding experience You’ve secured the employee – hoorah! We cannot emphasise enough the importance of a great onboarding program. Prior to their start date touch base by phone (not email) ask how their lead up is going. Let them know you are getting things ready for their first day. On the day they start, be ready with all thing’s such as computer, email, phone etc. Personally introduce them to their team, show them around, even where to get the best coffee nearby. Building connections with co-workers helps them from being outsiders to become insiders and building social connections increases the likelihood of retention. Check in with them during those first few days and schedule a one on one at the end of week one.

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