Australia is experiencing one of the tightest labour markets in the world while simultaneously dealing with a workforce that’s on the move.
In an economic climate where talent is in high demand, but limited supply, businesses and industry are being challenged to rethink their approaches to recruitment, retention and workforce skills training and development.
Australian workforce changing jobs in record numbers
In the 12 months to February 2022, 1.3 million employed Australians changed job, according to new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). That’s one in 10 workers.
This was the highest annual job mobility rate since 2012.
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Key occupation groups with the highest share of movement were health care and social assistance (12.2%), professional, scientific and technical services (10.4%), retail trade (10.4%), and accommodation and food services (10.3%). However, all occupation groups experienced increases.
Staff recruitment and retention keeping CEOs up at night
In 2020, the business imperative was digital transformation. In 2022 and beyond, it’s now skills acquisition and development.
Almost seven in 10 Australian CEOs and directors told KPMG’s ‘Keeping Us Up at Night’ survey that talent acquisition, retention, and re/upskilling to meet a more digitised future were among their top five business challenges in 2022.
Almost 50% believe these challenges will remain among their top priorities for the next three to five years. Business leaders have every reason to be concerned with new data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showing Australia has the second highest job vacancy rate behind Canada. Not far behind us are France, the USA and Great Britain.
The current skills shortage is a particularly painful pinch point for businesses rebuilding their talent base post the disruptions of COVID-19, and for those grappling to keep pace with surging consumer demand for their products or services.
It’s good to see that skills formation and development are key focus areas in a wide-ranging public inquiry currently underway into Australia’s productivity performance by the Productivity Commission.
Rapid skills acquisition and deployment critical for business productivity
With Australia’s unemployment rate at a record low, business productivity will depend on automating processes that don’t require human skills, redirecting and expanding the capacity of existing staff, and building the capabilities of new recruits quickly. Rapid skills acquisition and deployment are more critical than ever.
Many sectors and individual organisations achieved this during COVID. Examples include the rapid training of hospital staff in the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical staff and pharmacists in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets also put their staff through COVID-19-specific hygiene and food preparation awareness training.
While Australia’s well-regarded higher education and training systems have served our nation well, many businesses need qualified staff faster than these institutions can educate and certify them. Research has shown employers want ‘training that is agile, flexible and responsive to industry needs, is affordable, and minimises workers’ time away from work’.
For a growing number of industries and companies, the solution is delivering their own tailored training programs that reflect their corporate standards and culture through ready-to-go software platforms, or to have flexible on-the-job accredited training programs.
Online training as engaging and easy to use as Facebook
Online training solutions today are a far cry from what they were just a decade ago. They are visually engaging, intuitive, as user-friendly as Facebook, and just as accessible. Busy workers can access their courses on their mobile phone or iPad, bringing digital learning to the shop floor, or whenever and wherever it suits them.
This is particularly important for Australia’s ‘deskless’ workers; those employees whose primary place of work could be a train, a piece of heavy machinery, a mine site, a hospital, a hairdressing salon, or a childcare centre. Could the late Steve Jobs have imagined this?
More businesses are likely to feel the effects of the ‘great job swap’ in Australia and overseas. One in five employees have already signalled their intention to switch to a new employer within the next 12 months, according to PwC’s 2022 ‘Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey’ of more than 52,000 workers.
Without a targeted and efficient approach to upskill and retrain existing staff or swiftly skill and deploy new staff, businesses could face costly disruptions.
As challenging as COVID-19 has been, it has been an accelerant for global business transformation. Could the current global labour shortage be the catalyst for an international skills and training reformation?
It will be a missed opportunity if it doesn’t.