Solving the skills shortage in ANZ: Is it time to consider wildcard talent?

Pros and cons of stepping outside your comfort zone

Solving the skills shortage in ANZ: Is it time to consider wildcard talent?

The war for talent in Australia and New Zealand is well and truly on as the closed borders continue to exacerbate existing labour shortages. In some industries, the problem is more acute than for others, but it’s fair to say that across the board, hiring top talent is more competitive than ever.

Is it a case of simply waiting until international travel resumes? Speaking to HRD, Charles Cameron, CEO at RCSA, Australia and NZ’s peak recruitment body, warned that even if restrictions begin to relax in the next year, it will be quite some time before migration returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“I personally have a view that even when immigration restrictions are lifted, I think it's going to be at least 24 months until we see a confidence from international candidates wanting to move to Australia or New Zealand,” he said.

“If we assume it's going be another 12 to 24 months before we see a loosening of the restrictions, by that I mean a genuine loosening rather than the slight opening up that we're exploring at the moment, I think beyond that you've then got another 24 months until we really see confidence of mobility among talent. So really, you're talking about potentially a four-year period here.”

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With the talent pool considerably smaller than before the pandemic, Cameron said recruiters have seen a spike in wages. Even with the restrictions on salaries imposed post-pandemic, he said they’re seeing offers at around 30% higher than they would have been before 2020. Naturally, this trend is having an impact on businesses that can’t compete and are seeing growth stifled by the soaring wages.

That’s why now is the time for clients and recruiters to consider wildcard talent – a strategy he believes could be a business’s golden ticket.

“Ultimately, wildcard talent is about proceeding a candidate who may not fit the criteria the client sees as the right candidate,” he said. “It’s really putting more emphasis upon the attitude and attributes, in contrast to technical skills and knowledge.”

Cameron said the pandemic and the resulting barrier on migration has put clients in a position where they’re having to expand their view on what the ideal candidate looks like, creating a unique opportunity for recruiters to strive for more diversity and encourage more wildcard hires. But he pointed out that while anecdotally, many RSCA members have reported great success from their wildcard candidates, the organisation they’re going into must have the right ecosystem in place.

“It's very important with wildcard talent to invest in the necessary wraparound services. Hiring somebody who is outside the ordinary brief or not within the realms of what you would call the right candidate won't necessarily result in a good outcome,” he said. “It's absolutely critical that you provide mentoring and effective onboarding, as well as regular check ins and a support network.”

This is where working remotely as the result of lockdowns can present a challenge for wildcard talent, Cameron said. If the candidate is lacking technical skills and doesn’t have an immediate avenue of support to help them learn on the job, they may quickly feel isolated and exposed, resulting in a bad experience for both candidate and client.

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For wildcard talent to thrive, a supportive learning environment must be well-established from day one. But like anything that carries more risk, the rewards on offer are greater too. Hiring from outside an organisation’s comfort zone can offer that much-needed diversity of thought, innovation and experience that makes a business more interesting to work and ultimately, more profitable.

Cameron said the idea of wildcard talent doesn’t stop at outside talent either and it could already exist within the organisation. Again, the pandemic has forced businesses to think differently about where they find their talent, both looking at how they nurture and develop existing talent as well as what they consider to be ideal candidate. It’s something Cameron believes is a real positive for the recruitment industry as a whole.

“I think in many ways we're going to see this perpetuate out more and more as candidates look for trust in them as individuals, as opposed to simply rewarding them based upon what their technical skills are,” he said.

“It’s going to change the way we recruit and certainly from our perspective, we love the fact that it's almost forced clients to think differently around what is the right talent. It’s exciting because many of our members have provided wildcard talent options in the past and many of them are highly successful, so it’s forced us to think in a more diverse way.”

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