It’s been decades since the Australian workforce has experience such dire employee shortages.

Since the pandemic began, almost every sector of the workplace has faced significant staff shortages.

And, recruitment advertisements are at an all time high.

The latest National Skills Commission's Internet Vacancy Index (IVI) release shows online job advertisements increased 7.8 per cent (18,100 job advertisements) in October 2021, to stand at 250,900.

This represents the second consecutive month of increasing recruitment activity nationally, as job advertisement levels reach a 13-year high.

Mariah Halasz, CEO and Managing Director of health and beauty tech company CellMid, has been through the recruitment process numerous times and has faced first-hand the skills shortage.

Post-pandemic, CellMid continues to develop different ways to incentivise new recruits and existing staff.

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Halasz says over the past 30 years in business, she has never seen a shortage as what is being experienced today.

“Never before have I seen candidates who don’t turn up for interviews, not just here but with the recruitment agencies. Jobs relating to e-commerce and sales marketing roles are particularly hard to fill,” she adds.

There is also a significant shift in attitudes towards jobs.

‘Candidates come and say they don’t want the job unless they can work from home. They’ll say, ‘Can I start at 10 am instead of 9?’ They’ll want to do an initial interview via zoom as they don’t want to come into the office.”

She gives an example of a young employee who resigned from her job as a graphic designer, to then be re-employed on contract for more money.

“The employee came back to me and said, she was very happy to continue working for us. She liked the culture, but she would like to come back in as a contractor and be paid more!”

To retain staff and incentivise new recruits the most important factor is to pay people what they are worth.

“Generally salaries have gone up in ecommerce by 20-40 per cent within the last 12 months. We have implemented an employee profit sharing scheme for all. Those with 12 months plus employment with the company, we’ve implemented an employee equity scheme.”

Working from home remains a priority for many.

“We offer a combination of office and home and have a very active social scene within the company and encourage teams to meet together in informal settings.”

Please stay

Another important issue for companies today is not just to recruit, but to retain staff.

“An existing customer is the cheapest customer.

“Recruitment costs and the time and pain in finding suitable candidates are so high.

“It’s much better to give staff the opportunity to reposition their roles moving forward,” she adds.

At CellMid, Halasz and her team sat with each staff member and asked them a series of questions: What motivates you in your job? Why do you like your job? How can we make your job even more exciting for you?

Leaders today need to step back and lead differently than they did before the pandemic.

“They must be much more consultative and ask staff members how can they help them to do their best. Allow them to be autonomous. These issues have become incredibly important today.”

The process of asking staff members what they wanted in their jobs brought employees back together.

“What’s interesting about this process was we came out of it so much stronger as a team. Asking the questions empowered staff. It allowed them to have a say in their job and the company.”

“You can implement all sorts of incentive schemes; they may or may not resonate. Ideally, it’s best to drill down and find out what a staff member wants, otherwise it’s futile.”

As for attracting highly skilled talent to Australia, the borders must open, said Halasz.

“We need to be able to offer more specific visas for more jobs. Skilled migrants should also qualify for permanent residency earlier so their families are more prepared to make a move.”

Halasz recommends the following key levers that businesses can use to secure skilled employees:

  • Competitive salary
  • Performance based incentives in cash and equity
  • Autonomy and outcome based contracts.
  • A collegial, respectful environment where people can develop and be at their best
  • Opportunity for learning new skills
  • Opportunity to advance in career