Australia is apparently facing a critical labour shortage. Relying on overseas and local students and imported labourers to take up what is considered ‘menial’ roles in the workforce, recent state and international border closures because of the pandemic are having a worrying effect on the recruitment and retention of millennials and older Gen Z workers.
This has nothing to do with panic buying anymore and everything to do with difficulty obtaining goods and the components that make up goods from overseas and then once on Australian shores, the lack of available workers to hustle those products up the chain to the stores. Farmers and local producers who invariably rely on imported and seasonal labourers can’t get the fruit off the trees fast enough before crops spoil because there is no one available to work as pickers. Cafes, restaurants and retail stores can’t find staff to work as drivers, salespeople and kitchenhands. So apart from the overseas workers who can’t get into Australia, where did everybody go? Well, they could be part of The Great Resignation and we, as a country, might be open again, but our young people have gone on the proverbial long lunch.
As 2021 draws to a close, record numbers of millennials have left their jobs. Reasons include lack of support from management, burnout, stress, a mismatch in values and simple epiphanies about their life choices. Record numbers of people relying on government benefits and their overly stringent rules about earning extra income have also removed incentives to undertake ‘lower level’ casual employment. And so, our employers are on their knees with “staff needed – urgent” signs on many stores.
How do we navigate the shortage?
1. Offer more appealing conditions
Instead of hiring five casuals to cover seven days, think about whether it’s feasible to offer full-time hours to three casuals and have two casual staff to cover just weekends. This way, potential employees can work the days that suit their commitments. In fact, research shows that this is what casuals want from a workplace: splitting their work into different types of opportunities.
2. Take the time to train
In the panic to get stores open and businesses operational again, the desperation in job ads for employers who want staff who can hit the ground running is palpable. While it’s not unreasonable to want experienced staff, stop and consider if the job they are required to do is actual rocket science.
3. Look at transferable skills and personality
A clever young employee who is bright and eager to work is worth 10 employees who don’t really want to be there. When interviewing, look for those who are intuitively competent. They will quickly add value to your business when they show you they can do more than just what you hired them for.
4. Offer a clear path of progression
If you are hiring casual employees, it’s likely your business is a pitstop to something permanent and full-time. It costs businesses to keep replacing employees so when hiring, think about what you can offer staff that may entice them to stay. Can you create roles with more responsible that staff can work their way up to? Can they potentially become full-time, permanent with you?
High levels of employee satisfaction, morale, wellness, and something to hope for will result in better recruitment and retention of the younger generations. For Australia, it’s what this economy needs to get back on its feet.