What should Australian organisations be doing about the skills shortage?

Many people in the workforce are considering more progressive modes of work and questioning the conventional values that were once at the core of the way we work. There is an increase in people leaving traditional employment structures and either going to non-traditional work (temporary, gig/freelance, or part-time roles) or starting their businesses.

This has led to an overall reduction in the workforce, helped by issues like the immigration shortfall due to barriers for entering Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Project Management’s report with KPMG, The state of project management in Australia 2022:

  • 73% of project professionals said their projects experienced staff shortages
  • 52% suffered from delays in sourcing key roles or skills critical to projects.

Organisation culture matters

Organisations across Australia need to understand what motivates employees today. We are seeing – in our recruitment of people in general, not just PM roles – that aspects such as flexible working options and Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) policies are what candidates expect employers to have; they are not differentiators. According to research by McKinsey, up to 55% of employee engagement is driven by non-financial recognition.

Sure, there needs to be a financial reward given the cost-of-living pressures, but it’s being weighed heavily against being felt valued by the firm and delivering meaningful work. The study showed that the strongest indicators of a positive work experience came from aspects like quality relationships with leaders, trust, caring teams, and the overall social climate.

Recruiting needs to change

It is crucial for organisations to create a more complete employee value proposition, and this includes employees looking for non-traditional work options, such as freelancers. Firms should adapt their recruitment strategies to encompass both the customary and non-traditional approaches to work. Using freelancers or contract project managers for example, allows you to scale your project quickly and gives you agility when things need to change.

But it will be important to integrate these people into your firm, not just the project – just as if they were an employee. The focus should be on promoting an atmosphere of inclusion.

Interviewing in reverse

The notion that companies are doing the interviewing has faded, with Aussies’ unemployment rate at 3.4%, a 48-year low and over 470,000 job vacancies, according to the most recent data release (August 2022) by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Good candidates now have the upper hand, with the dynamic almost shifting towards interviewing the firms.

Skill-based recruitment

In looking for new people, organisations should carefully consider what they need in an employee to deliver their project. We have seen a trend towards skill-based recruitment.

Glassdoor reports that companies including Google, Hilton Hotels and Apple, are offering well-paying jobs to those possessing in- demand skills but lacking a degree. We have seen a shift to the practice of setting specific skills and competency requirements for a job rather than only looking at a candidate’s credentials. This shouldn’t be seen as devaluing a formal degree but to increase your options while ensuring you have the right skills to meet project needs.

Encouraging mentoring

Another driver behind the skills gap within the project management profession is the 13 million people that are predicted to retire from the profession over the next eight years, according to Project Management Institute’s (PMI) 2021 Talent Gap Report.

The wealth of knowledge and experience stored in the top-tiers of the industry has become a valuable asset to a business. Yet, in the AIPM’s recent report with KPMG, The state of project management in Australia 2022, 42% said their organisation wasn’t doing anything (or they didn’t know what they were doing) to attract and encourage emerging project professionals.

The transfer of knowledge down to entrants should be leveraged in development frameworks in addition to increasing stakeholder engagement in training. Finding the right people is a challenge, but shifting towards valuing a entrants potential can broaden the candidate pool.


All employees expect learning and development, including freelancers and part- timers. But despite firms spending about $1,308 per worker on learning and development activities, only 12% of employees can apply these skills, reveals the Harvard Business Review. Traditional learning and development frameworks have become stale in today’s skills short climate; we have already seen changes in learning delivery with online and AI models available.

The research shows that industry, vocational education, and university providers should be considering ‘micro-credentialling’, which are qualifications that can target skills gaps, in a short term, focused manner. This is especially relevant in the project management space, as the practice is upheld by a framework of principles and methodologies.

It’s now up to you

The workforce is thinking differently, so firms need to also think differently if you want to be an employer that the new workforce want to work with. So, what kind of organisation are you? Will you follow the same path, or become a leader in this new paradigm?

Jody Blinco and Petria Paynter are advisors at Proximity.