It’s hard out there for recruiters and hiring managers. While in the past, businesses have acknowledged a skills shortage in Australia – particularly in the technology sector – it’s only been recently that many owners realised the depth of the issue. A lack of talent with high-tech skills in fields such as cybersecurity and data science has driven many employers to turn to the international market, bringing in overseas professionals at an enormous cost.
As we return to normalcy from the multifaceted effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across all industries are gearing up for a busy end for 2022, and a daunting initiative is finding the right people. As a result, our job market is seeing higher vacancy rates and fewer applications, so finding the right talent can be tricky.
Compounding this issue is a change in ways of working amongst local professionals. Much of the top talent in Australia and around the world is moving away from permanent commitments, instead preferring project-based work that fits their work-life balance needs.
The result is greater competition for professionals on contracts of every length. In this market environment, what can businesses do to keep their positions filled and their company at the top of the industry?
Understand what professionals are looking for
The way professionals want to work has changed. According to Oncore CEO, Damian Bridge more and more professionals are deliberately choosing contracting over permanent positions. “It used to be that the contingent workforce was made up of people between full-time roles, but not anymore,” he said.
“Now it’s people at the top of their game who don’t usually require training or development and just want to work on a project basis.”
In fact in our recent survey of 500+ contractors we found 90% of contractors surveyed chose to contract and would continue to do so in the future. The reasons ranged from pay rate to flexibility and ability to engage in projects they preferred. See survey summary here.
Now that many of the country’s top tech employers are expecting to increase their contractors, it means that competition for top talent has never been fiercer.
Contractor culture is Company Culture and it sells!
It is well documented that it’s more cost-effective to retain current employees by investing in employee experience than to have high staff turnover and need to refill roles regularly.
In the same way, retention of contractors is an efficiency measure for a business too.
For Damian, he suggested a big reason why contractors showed interest in remaining with a company beyond their initial contract was more to do with culture than with remuneration. “Gone are the days of focusing on culture with permanent staff only and saying hang the contractors,” he said.
Taking the time to integrate your contractors into your corporate culture can have serious cost benefits for your business. Focus on sharing and inclusion and individual recognition for the contractors as you would for permanent employees.
“Companies are not putting a commercial value on retention of contractors, mostly because they can’t monitor this cost,” Damian said. “If you manage to hold on to a contractor for 12 months instead of a six-month project, imagine the cost savings you could achieve.”
With contractors, businesses are required to evaluate the value of the engagement every three, six or twelve months, especially and usually at the end of a contract period. Doing this is important when considering contract renewals and extensions.
Global headcount freezes typically creates a real surge in contractor hiring. Businesses are facing an enormous amount of required growth and therefore the demand for skilled, adaptable workers to deliver and meet those requirements right away will continue to grow.
Ensuring your culture stacks up for contractors as well as permanent staff will give your employer brand an edge in today’s competitive market.
Stop looking for the ‘perfect’ candidate
Top talent with world-class skills don’t grow overnight. It takes years of formal education and upskilling to turn someone into an industry leader, meaning that a homegrown solution to Australia’s skills shortage could be years away.
Complicating the problem is the rapid pace of change within the sectors experiencing the greatest shortfall in staff – the tech sector. The pace of change and innovation within fields such as data science and microarchitecture means that by the time a professional finishes a degree, the relevant field has already expanded again. A statement to the ABC from the Australian Council of Deans for Information and Computer Technology reflects this, noting that it was trying hard to listen to industry, but changes to the skills required were so rapid, it was finding it hard to keep up
However, there is a solution. With the right approach, your business doesn’t need to suffer while you wait for the next crop of professionals. Recognising the gap between who they want and who they can get, some recruiters are proposing an alternative solution for their clients: building talent, instead of buying it.
ManpowerGroup ANZ managing director Richard Fischer said it was no longer possible for companies to provide a shopping list of desired skills and receive a perfect candidate. Increasingly, recruiters are looking for ways to leverage a candidate’s desire for training and development to make them into the ideal candidate. Recruiters have begun offering their clients “people who have three or four of those things, and they present to the [employer] an up-skilling opportunity for a candidate that would grow into the role”.
Open up to the flexible workforce
In a traditional employment arrangement, an upskilled employee often becomes a loyal employee which is an advantage. However, this approach can be useful for short term and contract engagements too. You’ll still benefit from their loyalty as they can continue to be engaged in similar short term roles or in other areas of the business as required. Being flexible about how those required skills enter your workforce means you could open your business up to workers who are doing part time study or split employment. You could have someone do a few days a week on high quality outcome based work who might not normally be available for tradition permanent, full time work. With an ever growing demand for remote work and a work/life balance, businesses should start opening up their engagement policies to welcome flexible options for workers of all types.
As the way we work and live become ever more fluid, companies who accept and engage with talent where they are, will ultimately win in this candidate short market. This is an opportunity to think differently about the way we hire to build stronger teams, brands, cultures and organisations for the future.
For more insights on how to get the most from your business’ every changing workforce, speak to the team at Oncore.