Aussies better positioned to tackle the skills gap than global competitors

Peter Hamilton, VP and Director APAC at KellyOCG

Australian businesses may be in a better position than global competitors to tackle the talent crisis, thanks to their willingness to recruit contingent workers and their focus on training current staff, according to the KellyOCG 2021 Global Workforce Agility survey.

The survey of more than 1,000 senior executives across 13 countries found Australian businesses are more likely to hire temporary staff and less likely to hire permanent employees.

They are also more focused up- or reskilling current staff than many global competitors.

While SMBs have been impacted by border restrictions and the pandemic, the research also found that the majority of Australian businesses increased revenue during the past year.

Australian businesses focus on a fluid workforce, but lack a clear view of right talent mix.

Australians are less likely to hire new permanent staff than global peers (36% in Australia vs 45% globally) and more likely to hire temporary workers (52% in Australia vs 48% globally).

They are more focused on up or reskilling current staff (60% in Australia vs 49% globally).

48% of Australian executives say they have a clear view of the optimal talent mix required across all business areas, with 22% saying they have skills gaps they don’t know how to fill.

Australian businesses experience a divide between diversity, equity & inclusion and business strategy

Australian business leaders say that better employee satisfaction and loyalty (56%), retention (45%) and a more collaborative culture (41%) were all benefits of improving DEI.

However, while most Australian businesses say they are focused on improving their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, they are less likely than global counterparts to prioritise workplace culture (30% vs 37% globally).

In addition, 73% of Australian business leaders report that their DEI strategy is focused only on permanent talent and does not include contingent workers.

“Australia is potentially facing another six to 12 months of border closures, which is only exacerbating the skills crisis,” says Peter Hamilton, VP and Director APAC at KellyOCG.

“The battle for talent is fierce as the economy recovers from pandemic setbacks. Companies are tackling this challenge by taking a more fluid approach to building their workforce.”

“This allows them to tap into a much more diverse talent pool and close capacity gaps in more innovative ways. That recovery may be held back by some internal challenges.”

The KellyOCG survey found that 45% of Australian executives do not believe their leaders have the skills to manage the workforce they want to build.

Additional insights from the study

The study categorised organisations into ‘Vanguards’ and ‘Laggards’. Vanguards report that employee wellbeing and productivity have significantly improved during the pandemic.

These leaders, about 10% of respondents, are taking a strategic, long-term approach to improve the resilience, agility and wellbeing of their work forces compared with the Laggards who reported a decline in employee wellbeing and productivity last year.

The data uncovered four dynamics of the Vanguards’ response to the pandemic that are helping them build a more agile and resilient workforce, and a more profitable business.

Vanguards amplify workforce fluidity

They are more likely to have a comprehensive strategy for bridging skills gaps by employing new talent, bringing on temporary labour (63%), and implementing re-skilling initiatives (52%).

Vanguards are building a better employee experience

Nine in 10 (91%) Vanguards say improving the employee experience is as high a business priority as improving the customer experience.

Vanguards are improving DEI

Many still pay lip service to DEI programs. Vanguards are twice as likely as Laggards (67% vs 35%) to have developed DEI strategies for both permanent and contingent talent.

Vanguards understand that adopting leading-edge technologies is critical to managing a workforce in flux

Many have already begun implementing new technologies to alleviate workload pressure and enhance efficiency (64% vs. 48% of Laggards), and nearly half are using technology to gain visibility of workforce utilization and to improve the recruiting process.