The new people problem

With Australia’s employment landscape facing several headwinds, Kim Seeling Smith provides her tips for attracting and retaining top talent

The new people problem

With Australia’s employment landscape facing several headwinds, Kim Seeling Smith provides her tips for attracting and retaining top talent

Our workforce is currently undergoing historic change that has huge implications for Australian businesses. Often known as the ‘people problem’, this phenomenon is the result of several converging factors likely to reshape the labour landscape.

Firstly, due to our ageing population we are headed for a future in which there will be too few workers to fill thousands of vacancies left by retiring baby boomers, with current birth and immigration rates failing to plug the gap.

Secondly, there is the impact of technological disruption, with automation and labour-saving technologies expected to result in nearly one third of jobs being automated within 10 years.

There is also the ongoing effect of globalisation, which continues to alter the types of jobs on offer in the labour market as certain sectors decline, low-skilled roles shift overseas, and local demand lifts for creative workers. 

Companies need to take action

While overall demand for workers will likely remain strong, these changes will lead to a shortage of people with the right skills for the jobs of the future. 

Official estimates make this clear, forecasting that Australia is likely to have around 1.4 million unfillable job vacancies by 2025.

With this scenario on the horizon, it’s critical that businesses take action now to attract and retain the right type of talent, or else risk failing to survive the next 10 years.

The big problem, however, is that while many companies understand that there is a looming problem, they often don’t know what can be done to fix it.

Fostering a positive employee experience

There are many ways that companies can prepare for this workforce disruption, but an easy place to start is to focus on delivering positive employee experiences. 

At times overlooked, creating positive experiences involves revamping how businesses think about staff by borrowing from the principles of customer experience. This, in essence, means reconceptualising staff as internal customers – a perspective geared towards the imminent job market in which there will be intense competition for skilled workers.

After all, our current people practices come from the industrial era when work was process-driven, focused on efficiency, and staff were easily replaceable. By contrast, in today’s world, automation has reduced the need for workers who do repetitive tasks and boosted demand for high-skill and strategic roles. 

Looking ahead, I expect this will shift again to a new focus on adaptability as organisations seek people who can respond to the changing business landscape. Critical to this employment climate will be finding people with the right values, cultural fit and adaptable competencies.

As the nature of work changes, our people practices must change with it.

Re-examine HR processes

In practical terms, employee experience – or EX – involves looking differently at our people practices in order to place staff at the heart of business.

That includes applying an EX mindset to things like sourcing, hiring, onboarding, managing and leading people in the workplace.

Staff training, internal communications and performance management should also be viewed as opportunities to improve employee experience.

Importantly, these are all changes that can be executed without a huge investment of resources but can nonetheless have signifi cant positive, long-term impacts.

Supporting employees along their journey

With the workplace set to change dramatically over coming years, Australian employers need to be looking at their people practices through the lens of employee experience. Keeping the best talent will be driven by an organisation’s ability to deliver positive experiences at every step of the employee journey.

Combining this with new hiring practices that focus on values, cultural fi t and adaptability will enable companies to not only survive but thrive in the midst of disruption.

Employee Experience – or ‘EX’ – is clearly a hot topic in the HR sector. While there is a lot of global research and insight on the subject, much less is known about the Australian context and whether there are features and considerations unique to our marketplace.

To understand this better, Ignite Global in partnership with employee benefits specialist Maxxia, is launching an Employee Experience survey. The study will survey Australian HR professionals to uncover what companies think, what they are currently doing, and what shape EX could take in the future. The results will be released in the 2018 Employee Experience Report.

The goal of the research is to deliver an industry-wide perspective that HR professionals can use to benchmark their approach and inform strategy. If you would like to participate in the Employee Experience survey, you can access it via All participants will receive a free copy of the report that will be released in July 2018.


Kim Seeling Smith founded Ignite Global in 2009 and is committed to helping her clients hire and retain better people. The author of Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity, Seeling Smith is a frequent contributor to major business and trade publications in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Powered by Maxxia

The 2018 Employee Experience Report is brought to you by employee benefits specialist Maxxia. Maxxia’s salary packaging and novated leasing solutions can help enhance your employee value proposition to attract and keep the best talent.



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