Where is your next worker?


Where is your next worker?


As our population ages, and the number of Australians available to work falls, the next worker for many businesses may still be at university, offshore, or even outside the traditional workplace, and ‘in the crowd’.

Building the Lucky Country

Where is your next worker?, the first report in our Building the Lucky Country series, addresses the positive actions business and government can take to maintain momentum in the face of a looming national skills shortage.

Where is your next worker?

Population levers

To solve the looming skills shortage businesses can look closely at the number of people of working age or about to enter the workforce to enhance growth prospects as outlined below:

Recruiting talent early and reinventing corporate education

Ensuring future employee skills meet business needs

Recruiting graduates early in their education will help combat the looming demographic gap as the workforce ages and retires and the number of graduates in Australia decreases.  

Competition among businesses for the best students is increasing. The next five years will see fewer than 125 people exiting education for every 100 people retiring – the highest ratio of job market retirements to new entries in Australia’s history.

By engaging graduates whilst in education businesses can shape learning and harness the innovative thinking of “Generation Next”. They can also help educational institutions expand their real-world expertise, ensuring that future employees have the skills to meet business needs.  

Another step is to focus improving training and the quality of corporate education for existing workers as well as encouraging foreign students to live and work in Australia.  

Section 1 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Capturing talent early
  • Competition for graduates will intensify
  • Reinventing corporate education
  • Harnessing foreign students
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: University of Sydney Business School

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • What initiatives are you implementing to source and train graduates and trainees as a source of future skilled labour?
  • What co-curricular research grants or apprenticeships are you offering to students who want to work through their apprenticeship or cadetship?
  • How is your organisation encouraging students to engage and innovate in your business?
  • What recruitement programs are you exploring?
  • What channels into influencing educational curricula do you have?
  • Are you offering your people incentives to share their business experience by teaching at schools, TAFEs and universities?

University of Sydney Business School
According to Dr Nigel Finch, Academic Director of the University of Sydney Business School, “The benefits of experiential learning are that students get the chance to learn how business concepts, designs and thinking are applied in practice. This application doubles the impact of learning for the student.

“One example is Fastrack, where business employees and students interact on business projects. Students undergo the company’s innovation training, identify a business opportunity, develop the business case and get to pitch it back to the business.”

Dr Finch says of the six business cases pitched by students to date, one is being taken forward by business. A student has also been offered employment in that sector.

Cooperative learning programs also allow companies to form relationships with potential future employees at the earliest stages of their careers. Investing in students at this stage helps secure the future supply of labour, solving immediate needs and also delivering longer term benefits.

Crowdsourcing workforce talent and skills

Mass collaboration can power business growth

Crowdsourcing and mass collaboration allow businesses to solve problems by tapping into new talent and skills via the Internet. This technique could enable Australia to fill many skills gaps.

An increasingly connected world creates opportunities for businesses to radically rethink how they access skills. Sourcing workers outside a company or even outside Australian borders from ‘the crowd’ is now a viable option.

As Tapscott and Williams outlined in their book Wikinomics, companies are successfully using mass collaboration to uncover new opportunities. In the case of Goldcorp, the ‘crowd’ identified more than 100 new mining targets that yielded 8 million ounces of gold.

Section 2 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Building a web-based workforce
  • Virtual workers online
  • Overcoming geographical isolation
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: the Kaggle option

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • What challenges does your organisation face that it could “throw to a crowd” to solve?
  • What types of rewards could you offer the public to solve a challenge your organisation faces?
  • What impact could using the crowd have on your investment in research and development projects?
  • How are you involving your customers in the design of new products and services?
  • What data analysis is your organisation undertaking right now that could benefit from the insights of others?

The Kaggle option
Australian start-up Kaggle has consistently proven that crowdsourcing works better than conventional problem solving.

At the time of writing, Kaggle had hosted 21 competitions to crowdsource complex data-mining problems. The company says each winning entry has outperformed existing “world’s best practice” benchmarks.

Founder and CEO Anthony Goldbloom, who previously worked for the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Treasury, started Kaggle with the vision of turning data mining into a sport with prizes. Kaggle also provides a centralised clearing house for analysts to apply their expertise to a variety of problems.

Crowdsourcing taps into a fundamental survival trait: we like to compete and win. It’s being studied, adapted and used in a wide range of business practices. Presenting a problem to a wide audience exposes it to researchers who have no preconception about how to solve the problem. This maximises the chances of finding a breakthrough solution.

For instance, the world’s brightest physicists have been working for decades on solving one of the great problems of our universe: mapping dark matter. Our universe, it turns out, behaves as if it contains far more matter than we can currently observe. Recently a consortium from NASA, the European Space Agency and the Royal Astronomical Society posted the problem on Kaggle for the whole world to weigh in.

In less than a week, Martin O’Leary, a PhD student in glaciology, had crafted a solution. The solution outperformed algorithms for mapping dark matter that had been developed over a 10-year period.

Offshoring to support business growth and competitiveness

Rethinking staffing models

Offshoring has helped businesses in developed economies to solve skill shortages since the 1990s. As a high wage, high productivity nation, Australia cannot compete with wage costs in developing countries unless it looks at offshoring.   

New technologies are enabling a broader range of services to be readily offshored and delivered seamlessly overseas. It can take several years to prepare and execute offshoring programs, so smart business managers will develop offshoring strategies, even if the decision transfer work has not yet been made.

Much of the competition are offshoring, therefore to remain competitive Australian business cannot ignore these options.  

Section 3 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Rethinking staffing models
  • Policy opening the way with responsible leadership in the offshoring debate
  • Reflecting on the business opportunity

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • How will you ensure your organisation is aware of offshoring opportunities?
  • What are you doing to help your people think creatively about offshoring? How could it transform your business or your people model?
  • What level of access and connections to offshoring countries are necessary for you to explore offshoring options?
  • How are you calculating the short-term and long-term costs and benefits of offshoring (including the tangible and intangible) impacts?
  • How will currency fluctuations and exchange rates change your appetite for offshoring? How easily could you change your strategy in response?
  • What impact would offshoring have on your staff’s learning and leadership development?

Skilled migrants can support business growth

Using the short-term work visa to plug the skills gap

There is a large gap between global demand for Australian exports and the supply of people, including immigrants, to meet that demand. The result will be upward pressure on wages and swings in the availability of particular skills. In this environment, businesses that can hire the right people from overseas will profit.

With some developed economies in stress, there is an opportunity to entice highly valued workers to leave depressed markets for Australia.

The Government will have to balance an economy which has key sectors and regions that desperately need workers with an electorate that has mixed feelings about migrants.

Section 4 of Where is your worker? examines:

  • Bridging the immigration gap
  • Importing people not services
  • Do migrants steal jobs?
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunity
  • Case study: Health sector struggling with doctor accreditation barriers

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • How thoroughly have you considered which skills your business should “own” and which it makes more sense to “rent”?
  • In what ways does your value proposition for overseas employees extend beyond money to emphasise Australia’s community and lifestyle factors and work life-balance?
  • What are you doing to tap into highly skilled workforces looking to leave depressed markets such as Ireland, the UK and the U.S.A.?
  • What investment have you made in infrastructure and programs to support global mobility?
  • Have you explored enterprise migration agreements, regional Australia migration initiatives, or considered salary packaging and soft benefits for migrating workers?
  • What are you doing to stay abreast of the migration strategies your competitors are exploring or implementing?
  • What are you doing to attract and keep immigrants in Australia, such as establishing wider community networks and support for extended family?

Health sector struggling with doctor accreditation barriers
The heath sector would benefit significantly if the Government removed unnecessary barriers to entry for skilled migrant workers while still maintaining quality care. When this balance is not maintained, this can create both immediate and long-term recruitment issues for the sector.

A district health service in Queensland, for example, could not find an Australian doctor to provide medical specialist services, so it advertised overseas. However, the hospital recruitment officer had to apologise in advance to potential recruits because the approval process for an overseas-trained doctor takes up to 18 months.

Delays are caused by a range of factors including Federal visa processing, the “Five Year Overseas Trained Doctor Scheme” or other Federal recruitment program processing, the Australian Medical Council registration processes and the State or hospital’s own signoff arrangements. Government needs to work with industry and professional partners to streamline the process, where a need exists.

Such delays are frustrating for specialists who have the qualifications and skills to work anywhere internationally. They are equally frustrating for hospitals with substantial workforce shortages. Many highly qualified specialists have withdrawn applications as a result. class of visa that fits between the existing 456 and 457 categories to allow highly valued prospective workers to leave depressed markets overseas in order to come to Australia for 6 to 12 months. Alternatively, the Government could consider temporarily allowing such workers to come to Australia without a visa.

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