Riding the waves of change

by 13 Dec 2006

So, we’ve reached the end of yet another fun year, and it’s been an interesting time for HR. WorkChoices in all its glorious clarity came into effect, with a lot of predictable fanfare from the Federal Government and harping from the unions. Some businesses took the bull by horns, but most sat on the sidelines and scratched their heads in confusion. Similar to the US Government’s initial ‘shock and awe’ campaign in Iraq, the rollout of WorkChoices could have been mistaken for a ‘confuse and confound’ campaign across most businesses in Australia.

Regardless of industrial relations changes, skills shortages have become increasingly apparent in a number of sectors. Spreading from the traditional blue collar industries, skills shortages have become more pronounced in some white collar professions such as accounting and law. With most businesses probably hoping they could squeeze some bottom line benefits out of WorkChoices, the reality is that employees have the upper hand in an increasing number of sectors. While there will always be unscrupulous employers, they may have even more trouble than ever before in recruiting the people they need to work in years to come.

With the skills shortage set to worsen, the three-pronged challenges of globalisation, generational change and ageing of the workforce have brought themselves to bear on the workforce as well. More fun for HR. With the ageing of the population, workforce reserves are dwindling (as is the Federal Government’s income tax base), but generational change is presenting a number of headaches for HR managers in different employment expectations.

In all of this, many HR functions are still at different positions of the transition scale, with some tending towards more administrative functions while others are getting a handle on more strategic business. It seems the pace of business is speeding up every year, and companies with good HR practitioners who have a handle on business in addition to issues such as those listed above, are in a much better place to handle the change. The question for many HR professionals is, will you ride the waves of change or sink beneath them?