The need to counter Australia’s post-Covid-19 talent shortage

15 December 2021 Consultancy.com.au 3 min. read

As economic recovery continues, professional services firms need to pull out all the stops to keep their teams intact, writes Matt Seadon, APAC General Manager at Achievers.

The country’s national double vaccination rate is racing towards 90 per cent and our state and national borders are, at long last, re-opening.

While the extended lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 caused significant pain for businesses and individuals – who can forget those images of Centrelink queues stretching around city blocks, as around a million Australians were thrust unceremoniously out of employment – all signs suggest our economy is on the mend.

The need to counter Australia’s post-Covid-19 talent shortage

Australia’s gross domestic product is expected to grow by more than four per cent in 2022 and our unemployment rate was sitting at just 5.2 per cent in October 2021.

Meanwhile, the tales of lay-offs, salary cuts and shortened working weeks have been superseded by the skills shortage story, as employers across numerous sectors struggle to attract and keep experienced employees.

The professional services sphere is not immune from this phenomenon and individuals with in-demand skillsets are not short of opportunities. With the great resignation set to cut a swathe through the market this year, employers whose only significant asset is the intellectual capital that resides in their teams will need to double down on their efforts to retain those top talents.

Rebuilding connections

As part of that process, employers will need to start rebuilding connections that have been compromised during the past two years of largely remote working.

At Achievers, our research suggests many individuals accustomed to the collegiate environment of the professional office have found toiling exclusively from the home study a less than positive experience. While, in theory, knowledge work can easily be done from anywhere, provided individuals have access to appropriate high tech tools and technologies, in practice it hasn’t proved as simple as it sounds, mentally and emotionally.

In addition to endemic Zoom and Teams fatigue, a third of workers reported they felt disconnected from their co-workers during Covid-19. Given the protracted nature of Sydney and Melbourne’s ultra-strict lockdowns, that’s hardly surprising.

Up where we belong

And it represents a risk for their employers. Whether or not professionals feel a sense of belonging and inclusion will play a big part in determining whether they remain with their current firms in 2022, or ‘exercise their options’ and move on. With opportunities opening up, at home and abroad, staying put will need to be made as attractive as the alternatives.

Employees who consider themselves integral to an organisation are twice as likely to be engaged, committed and productive as those who do not, according to Achievers’ 2021 Culture of Belonging Report.

That’s why fostering a company culture which acknowledges, celebrates and rewards individuals for the contributions they make can improve productivity and engagement levels. It can also encourage good workers to visualise a fulfilling long-term future for themselves, as they gain in experience and expertise; something that’s critical for professional services firms whose people are the product.

Adopting a formal rewards program

In many organisations, however, the recognition and reward that underpins a culture of belonging and inclusion may not be delivered consistently, if it’s left to the discretion of individual managers. A structured recognition and reward program, which utilises digital tools to coordinate the process, can ensure all leaders within an organisation engage with and acknowledge their employees’ efforts, appropriately and often.

As professional services firms prepare to tackle the challenges 2022 has in store, it’s an investment in morale and employee retention that’s likely to pay dividends for years to come.