One word stood out among the rest: Talent
Over the last 15 months, HR leaders in Australia have experienced it all. From the initial economic downturn which saw unemployment skyrocket to a surprisingly buoyant labour market recovery and now, a time of growth for many businesses, it’s been one hell of a ride.
As organisations begin to come out of the other side, new hurdles are cropping up. At a recent roundtable organised by HRD and Globalization Partners, top HR leaders from across Australia’s diverse range of industries came together to discuss the challenges they’re facing and where the workplace is headed in the global, hyper-connected landscape of 2021.
The exclusive virtual event featured the insights of experienced people leaders from businesses across the aviation, E-commerce, technology, finance and recruitment sectors. Sharing their experiences from the last year, it was an opportunity to dig deep into the current trends around culture, employee experience and talent acquisition.
Opening the session, Charles Ferguson, APAC general manager at Globalization Partners, said organisations in the region have gone from survive to thrive, moving into the next phase of the pandemic-induced rollercoaster.
But he noted that while many organisations have evolved into vast growth phases and the economic outlook is overwhelmingly positive, it has been HR at the coalface acting as “nurses, travel agents, and therapists” to huge numbers of employees.
“It’s an exciting scenario because we’re all in new and unchartered waters,” he said. “It’s fair to say, particularly for the APAC region, that the waters are not wholly new in that we went through the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic which certainly was a preview of what we’ve experienced with Covid, the financial crisis and a whole host of changes in government.
“But what’s interesting to me now is that this has been a very level-setting kind of experience. With the advent of new technologies, there is a ton of opportunity right now for businesses to reformat how they operate.”
Thanks to vast accelerations in virtual collaboration software, hiring globally has become a tangible goal for many business leaders. By taking the learnings from the pandemic around virtual hiring, onboarding and culture building, the talent search no longer has to be confined by geographical borders – especially while Australia remains closed off to the rest of the world.
The fight for talent is only getting fiercer
As each of our HR leaders introduced their organisations and gave a snapshot of their experience over the last 12 months, one theme stood out among the rest. Talent.
With closed borders, Australian businesses have been hamstrung by skill shortages across numerous industries. Technology is often the most talked about sector, thanks to a heavy reliance on high-level skills imported through the hiring of employees predominantly in the US. But now, industries across the board are feeling the pinch.
With the borders due to remain closed until mid-2022, this significant hurdle doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Instead, HR leaders have become dynamic and innovative in how they develop new talent pipelines from other industries, as well as identifying upskilling opportunities among their own workforce.
Several of the HRDs said with their organisations now entering growth phases, the focus on attracting new talent was at its highest point. But the discussion also highlighted that retaining talented staff is also a challenge. With a booming jobs market, the power balance has shifted in favour of jobseekers and as a result, organisations are working harder than ever to hold onto their employees.
Our HR leaders said it has prompted them to rethink the employee experience, ensuring their employer value proposition is as strong as it can be. For some, that includes offering fully flexible work arrangements and creating a culture that makes their organisation stand out from the rest of the market.
Read more: Top challenges for the post-pandemic world
Globalization Partners VP of partners & alliances Craig Goldblatt said organisations need to employ a number of different strategies to overcome the current talent acquisition challenge.
“Dollars may not be the issue that people are after, but instead the focus may be on taking the next career step,” he said. “There’s also that need for flexibility. I don’t think there’s anyone here whose whole organisation wants to return to the office which is going to stir a lot of emotions and issues for the senior leadership teams. We’re going to have to really work through those over the next few months.”
Top challenges facing HR
- Talent acquisition for high-skilled roles particularly for industries with a pre-Covid reliance on migrant workers
- Retaining key staff members in the face of a buoyant jobs market and changing employee desires
- Organisational fatigue. Dealing with sky-high levels of burnout and exhaustion after such rapid change
- Communicating with honesty and authenticity. HRDs shared how they ensured open channels of communication with their staff, including in one case, handwritten thank you notes from the CEO
- Rethinking culture from a virtual perspective – especially during key moments in the employee lifecycle such as onboarding
- Levelling up employer value propositions to be as competitive as possible. Embedding flexible work arrangements and expanding L&D opportunities to offer a clear trajectory for career progression