Where is your next worker?


Where is your next worker?


Employee engagement, attracting and retaining the right people and improving processes using data analytics, will be key to addressing Australia’s decline in productivity.

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.

Productivity levers
To solve the looming skills shortage businesses can look closely at the value generated by those who work to enhance growth prospects as outlined below:

Where is your next worker?

Enhancing workforce productivity to beat the skills crisis

Technology, data analytics and efficient systems combine to boost productivity

Increasing worker productivity through technology, data analytics and more efficient processes are keys to boosting and beating the skills crisis.  For the nation as a whole, just a one percentage point gain in efficiency adds $14 billion to the productive power of the nation, (Deloitte Access Economics.)

The current skills shortage also represents a huge opportunity.  Increasing productivity would have clear and significant impacts on GDP and labour supply but would also help improve service levels and lower waste emissions.  

In the absence of major reforms, Australia can use strategic investment in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a productivity catalyst.  

Section 9 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Eliminating roles through better systems
  • ICT powering productivity
  • A recipe for successful productivity growth
  • Quick wins versus transformation
  • Policy opening the way – consider streamlining compliance and risk management
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: Boosting productivity through creating access to complete and accurate patient information

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • What insights do you have into how productive your people really are? How are you measuring it?
  • Have you had conversations with business partners and allies about complementary capabilities along your value chain?
  • What are you doing to reduce the time your people spend on unproductive activities?
  • Are your organisation’s productivity improvement goals transformational (changing the business model) or incremental?
  • What measures have your competitors taken to improve productivity?
  • Do you have a structured program for continuous business improvement?

Boosting productivity through access to complete and accurate patient information
Medication-related health and safety problems place unnecessary resource and cost demands on healthcare systems. Medication errors – when one or more medications negatively impact an individual’s health – place increased pressure on public hospitals, primary care providers and other healthcare providers.

eHealth frameworks such as “medicine use review” solutions support healthcare providers by identifying potential health and safety concerns with prescribed medications in a nationally consistent manner. This requires a patient’s complete medication history, rather than the localised history maintained by a single provider. Alerts and warnings raised by medicine use review solutions can help healthcare providers identify potential health and safety concerns with prescribed medications. They also provide a basis for discussing these with patients to determine the safest course of medication. Such intervention would significantly reduce the incidence of medication errors.

Medicine use review solutions have been shown to reduce preventable medication errors by between 50% and 75%. This represents a significant opportunity for productivity improvement.63 For example, a national medicine use review service in Australia could reduce medication error-related hospitalisations by between 490,000 and 736,000 over 10 years of operation.

Developing workforce talents and skills for evolving roles

Learning and development strategies

Recognising the potential of current employees should not be overlooked in the rush to recruit external talent to overcome skills shortages. There is value in training and retraining existing staff. The OECD found that an additional year of education on average can lead to an increase in long-run GDP per capita of 4-7%.

Businesses must support the personal growth and internal mobility of employees through clear learning and development strategies that target the specific skills and qualifications required for new and evolving roles. With each new challenge comes personal growth and rewarding experiences, both of which increase engagement.

Section 10 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Talent right under your nose
  • Develop clear learning and development strategies
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: The career ladder is dead – meet the corporate lattice.

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • How are you measuring the productivity of your workers?
  • What are you doing to enhance your understanding and use of your people’s potential?
  • How are you identifying which of your staff have the appetite to re-skill?
  • How are you mapping your organisation’s lattice to understand the talent you may already have on hand?
  • What opportunities do you offer your people to move through the lattice to new roles?
  • What are you doing to understand the aspirations of existing staff and how to develop them to match your business’ needs?
  • How do you track your investment in developing your people’s education or skills? What return on investment is this giving your

The career ladder is dead – meet the corporate lattice
In their work, “The Corporate Lattice, A strategic response to the changing world of work”, Cathy Benko, Molly Anderson and Suzanne Vickberg provide a case study on the global lattice. They cite global law firm Orrick, Herrington, Sutcliffe LLP (“Orrick”) as a case study that illustrates how careers are today being built by way of a corporate lattice rather than in a linear fashion, traditionally known as the “corporate ladder”. Orrick realised that launching a new career model could help address two key issues: client dissatisfaction with the price-value ratios of legal service providers, and significant changes in the expectations of law school graduates who want flexible career options. The firm’s new model gave these graduates a variety of career options rather than a single, linear path to partnership.

“Advancement at the firm is now performance based rather than tenure-based, with specific core competency criteria used to guide decisions,” says Laura Saklad, chief lawyer development officer. “By aligning promotions and corresponding billing rate increases with the lawyer’s skill set and level of experience, client value and work delivery is better aligned since people attain various levels of proficiency at different rates.

A custom career track allows individuals to tailor their development based on their career interests and goals as well as their life needs. ”Compensation has also changed to enable the new approach. Rather than base bonuses on billable hours or firm profitability, bonuses are based on what matters most to clients – quality, efficiency and contribution.  All of these changes improve the value clients receive.”

“The model recognises that moving forward in one’s development is not limited to moving upward on the traditional career ladder. There are many ways of progressing one’s career and contributing meaningful value to the organisation.”

Succession planning required to retain future leaders

Career strategies essential to keep employees

Retaining the best people, including those at the beginning, and the end of their careers, has never been more important. Mismanaging transitions for leading employees bears a high cost for any business – and that cost will grow in a skills shortage.

It will take innovative leadership, succession plans and smart career strategies to retain younger employees as future leaders and at the same time retaining mature aged workers.

Section 11 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • The danger of losing key staff and future leaders
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: the value of planning ahead.

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • To what degree are your employees connected and looking for their next challenge in your business – or in someone else’s?
  • Are your talented people restless? What are you doing to keep these people and make “restlessness” work for you?
  • How much does your business focus on career coaching, mentoring, succession planning and leadership development?

The value of planning ahead
Forward-thinking small and medium businesses use succession planning to allow owners to step away from day-to-day management to focus on business strategy. 

Early planning avoids one of the most common skills and workforce challenges that threaten the survival of small and medium businesses – the loss of knowledge associated with the retirement of the long-standing business owner. 

Business owners of Superior Food Services, Craig Phillips and Michael Jeffs, for example developed a management succession plan though both only being in their early 40s.  

“The decision to step away from day-to-day management and subsequently hire a general manager has allowed us to redefine our roles, upskill and focus on longer-term business opportunities. Coupled with ongoing coaching and mentoring, succession planning is allowing us to drive growth,” said Craig Phillips.

Engaging employees for greater productivity

Create a sense of belonging and company advocates

An engaged workforce can have a significant impact on an organisation’s performance. Employees who have a greater sense of belonging, believe in the goals of the organisation, and share a common understanding of the behaviour needed to carryout key tasks are far more productive.

With the cost of disengagement for Australian business estimated at more than $39 billion a year significant business benefits can be gained through employee engagement including:

  • higher operating incomes
  • net income growth and earnings per share
  • higher retention rates

Section 12 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Beating the skills shortage by engaging your employees
  • The challenges of engaging employees
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: Working As One. 

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • Are your employees just cruising or truly engaged? How are you measuring this?
  • What are you doing to understand the individual needs, drivers and motivations of your employees?
  • How systematically are you tapping into the needs and drivers of individual workers to help productivity?
  • What strategies or recognition and reward programs have you implemented to encourage your employees to behave as one team?
  • Do people in your organisation have radically different mental models of how they are supposed to work together?
  • How are you mapping this and what strategies do you have in place to ensure you are dealing with this effectively?

Working As One
Leaders need to understand employees as individuals. The marketing industry discusses the virtues of marketing to the ‘category of one’ or the unified group: this can be applied equally to employees. Understanding and acting on individual employee’ needs and preferences is the key to achieving greater individual effort and increased rates of retention. 

An article in the May 2011 edition of AFR Boss provided an overview of global logistics giant Brambles CEO Tom Gorman’s efforts to engage employees, foster collective action and enhance productivity. 

Gorman applied a focus on making personal connections between people from Brambles subsidiaries in different regions to foster informal networks. Detailed analysis of how his top 1000 staff were working ‘as one’ led to significant insights that reshaped his strategy-setting and transformation efforts.

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