Workplace Changes

By Snehal Shah

Every business in Australia, whether in manufacturing, retail, hospitality, or professional services is experiencing unprecedented challenges in recruiting and retaining staff. This problem has reached crisis proportions for some businesses, which are operating at significantly reduced capacity. Consequently, they are unable to meet customer demand or fulfil commitments.

Part of the problem is structural, as businesses have geared up to meet demand after an extended period of being in limbo due to the covid 19 pandemic. This has been exacerbated by the absence of workers on student visas and the low intake of skilled migrants during this period. On 14 July,2022, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the unemployment rate in Australia had fallen to 3.5% – the lowest in almost 50 years. This is the rate which economists call “full employment” and a further indication of an overheated economy. The unemployment rate for Victorian men was only 2.9%. It is anticipated that this will compel the Reserve Bank of Australia to become more aggressive in hiking the cash rate, further adding to the pain for businesses as their costs skyrocket.

Another phenomenon ignored so far by traditional economists but gaining increasing attention in the mainstream press, is the changing attitude of people (particularly millennials) towards work. Using terms such as “The End of Ambition” and “The Great Revaluation”, newspaper articles observe the changing value systems of a significant section of society due to the pandemic. To an increasing number of workers, laziness is a virtue. They disagree with American author Horatio Alger’s belief that anyone can get ahead with hard work. All their efforts, they have concluded, have only resulted in obscenely wealthy people becoming even richer – the same people who have been responsible for a scorched planet.

There is no doubt that all the above factors have resulted in businesses facing a perfect storm of challenges in maintaining a contented and productive workforce. Every organisation must adapt quickly, and “business as usual” is not an option if it wishes to remain competitive and relevant. It may not be easy or practical for every business to foster a sense of purpose in its employees, but it is now essential that every organisation formulates and articulates a coherent and consistent strategy to attract and retain talent.