Winning the war for talent | Australia

Even before Covid-19, Australian companies were concerned about their ability to retain and replace key staff. Since the start of the pandemic, the ‘war for talent’ has escalated with huge demand for skilled workers in certain sectors and a shortage of suitably qualified candidates.

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Winning the war for talent | Australia

Australian organisations have a fight on their hands to attract and hold on to the country’s best and brightest.

Even before Covid-19, Australian companies were concerned about their ability to retain and replace key staff. Since the start of the pandemic, the ‘war for talent’ has escalated with huge demand for skilled workers in certain sectors and a shortage of suitably qualified candidates.

Stories of IT graduates being offered starting salaries of over $200,000 and huge pay increases for in-demand candidates in different sectors, highlight how challenging the recruitment market is.

It’s not just due to Covid. The gig economy has changed how we think about work. The quaint notion of a ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past, making it more challenging than ever to attract and retain staff.

Covid changed how we work (e.g. working from home and flexible working arrangements) while the lockdowns gave people time and space to consider the work they did and who they worked for. When Covid first hit, the uncertainty of what lay ahead combined with dire predictions for the global economy caused most organisations to put a freeze on recruitment. At the same time, most people were prepared to sit tight in their jobs and ride out the pandemic.

More recently, as we’ve started to lift restrictions and return to some semblance of normality, people are feeling a lot more confident about changing jobs. Border restrictions drastically reduced Australia’s access to the global talent pool so employees are spoiled for choice with candidates often weighing up several opportunities.

“The war for talent has hotted up significantly,” says Mark Hutchinson of Divergent & Co. “Organisations are losing key people to competitors and finding it harder to replace them with good candidates. Losing key talent has always been an issue but it's become more critical than ever that organisations establish a rigorous succession and talent identification pipeline.”

“Companies invest so much time and money into the recruitment process but up to now they haven’t tended to focus enough on retention. The job market is changing rapidly so you need to identify your key people and make sure they're on a defined development pathway or you will lose them. If you don't manage your internal talent, you end up with no choice but to go to market.”

The average cost of finding and hiring from outside an organisation is much more expensive than promoting from within. Every time you lose an employee you also lose their IP, years of experience, and continuity on critical projects.

“Management needs to know who the key personnel are at each level of the organisation,” says Hutchinson. “Who has the right attitude and the ability to adapt and grow with the business? Who has the potential to be a future leader?”

To help answer those questions, Hutchinson, a psychologist with over 20 years experience in leadership consulting and organisational development, teamed up with Capability Group’s psychologists and assessment experts to develop the Talent Potential Survey, a sophisticated online survey and reporting tool to make talent identification easier and more effective for organisations.

Capability Group provides high impact talent assessment solutions for a broad range of Australian and global clients, supporting clients with talent strategy through to the assessment of executives, leaders and professionals.

“From the conversations I’ve been having across a broad range of Australian businesses, the need for a solution like this is clearly evident,” says Ben Tootill, Capability’s Client Solutions Manager in Australia. “Having an objective, data-based solution to inform talent conversations and calibration is a significant gap that Talent Managers want and need to address”.

“Finding and retaining staff is a big challenge for HR directors and recruiters in Australia right now. I've been dealing a lot with aged care providers recently and it is particularly challenging for them to find people at the moment. I know the construction and retail sectors are also struggling to find staff.”

“One solution is to be more proactive with existing staff by upskilling employees and offering them development opportunities. The Talent Potential Survey is a great tool to help organisations identify which employees to invest in.”

The survey is based on first principles from psychology, human potential and performance and Hutchinson’s experience of working with leaders in different sectors and organisations.

“The fact that it's so grounded in theory highlights how challenging it is to ask managers and executive teams to assess the talent in their organisation without some form of evidence-based support,” says Hutchinson.

“Without a tool like this, leaders are essentially flying blind. They're hostage to their own biases without realising it. They promote people largely based on gut feeling and intuition. The Talent Potential Survey is a more objective way of assessing your talent pool and is designed to help line managers make better judgments. It can also help organisations analyse and address issues with diversity and inclusion.”

The “mini-me phenomenon” is a well-recognised dynamic in social psychology that we like others who are similar to us. It helps explain the tendency for managers to promote people like themselves or people that they like.

This phenomenon makes reliance on intuitive talent decisions problematic when we consider the critical need for increased diversity and inclusive work practices within our organisations. It also makes it challenging to create diversity in leadership tiers at the pace required. A structured assessment tool reduces the impact of the unconscious biases and assumptions that we all have while the data helps inform the broader talent conversation in organisations.

The survey results highlight people’s strengths and the areas they need to develop. It also considers potential derailers like how volatile, defensive, over controlling or risk-averse an individual is, and how that impacts their potential and performance.

Many organisations struggle to differentiate between performance and potential. They promote people who are great at performing their current role but who may fail in the next role because they don’t have the right capabilities or skill sets. As well as providing valuable insights on the capabilities of the individuals in a team, the survey can also act as a red flag for managers completing the survey.  

“If a line manager is struggling to answer some of the questions then maybe they need to have more conversations with their team about their aspirations or concerns,” says Hutchinson. “The survey isn’t a blunt tool or a silver bullet solution. It's not a replacement for good line management; it's an aid to good line management. It supports line managers and HR to have better talent conversations and helps organisations manage people and their careers in a more intelligent and empathetic way.”

“People usually leave organisations because they don't feel they're growing. Most companies have figured out how to create good working environments for their staff but not many have figured out how to ensure their key staff feel valued. A tool like this will help organisations identify, manage and keep great people so they've got the leaders they need for the future. It’s like having a secret weapon in the ‘war for talent’.”

Want to learn more?

Download our latest data report Winning The War for Talent and get key insights about identifying, developing, and retaining your key people.

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