Rethinking our approach to work

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Much has been reported about the tight labour market, which is unlikely to ease anytime soon. Data from the National Skills Commission showed that in February 2022, 62% of Australian employers experienced recruitment difficulty and 33% expected to increase staff. Lack of suitable applicants and lack of applicants generally were the top two reasons for recruitment difficulty.

Research conducted for the Committee for Perth’s Race to the Top project showed that Western Australia’s unemployment rate is currently the lowest and participation rate the highest in over a decade. Our finding is that it is time to rethink our approach to work and policy.

A lack of applicants for jobs is symptomatic of a depleted workforce, and with workers being more astute about role and company selection, this makes for a highly contestable labour market. Ramstad Workmonitor (2022, p.3) showed that ‘Gen Z and Millennials are the ones leading the charge for a new social contract with employers’. More young people are looking to align work with their personal goals, and three-quarters of Australians think their employers’ values and purpose match theirs. What are some of the other drivers of work?

Source: Randstad Workmonitor (2022)

Flexibility is more than just a buzz word; it has become an important recruitment and retention tool. The Committee for Perth’s Future of Work survey conducted during the pandemic showed that 66% of employers in Greater Perth were shifting towards more flexible employment options, with hybrid working arrangements the norm now for many. The Workmonitor 2022 showed that flexibility in working hours and location drive workers’ sentiment, with 85% and 74% of Australians indicating a preference, respectively. Australian employers are doing better than employers globally, for example, 68% of workers reported having flexible working hours and 54% reported having flexible working locations. It would be interesting to explore the difference between private and public sectors’ offering on flexibility.

Keeping skills relevant will improve employability and minimise skills mismatch. While 72% of Australians indicated the importance of training and development, 24% were not interested in any learning and development opportunities compared with only 12% globally. Given the importance of soft skills, only 41% of Australians indicated they want to develop these skills compared with 48% globally. More concerning is only 28% of Australians were interested in digital training compared with 36% globally. The Future of Work survey indicated that young people were more inclined to train to keep abreast of technological change. Upskilling workers will require a change of attitude and motivation, notably among older workers.

A reluctance to change employer or a lack of career plan could prevent workers from searching for new opportunities and reduce labour mobility. Only 23% of Australians wanted to advance their career outside of their current employer, and less than a quarter were setting out long-term career plans or future-proofing their careers. Clearly, there is a role for employers to develop career plans with their employees.

There should not be any surprises about what workers, particularly the younger generation, expect from employers. COVID-19 has brought these expectations into play and magnified the connection between personal and work life values. Employers will need to keep up to attract and retain workers as well as ask more of their existing workforce as a result of being short staffed.

Access the research here.

Published in Business News 17 May 2022.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.