Where is your next worker?


Where is your next worker?


Participation is the share of those of working age who are willing to work.

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.

Business needs to consider greater diversity in the workforce and look for new people who want to work, including those who have retired, and women, who remain one of the largest untapped sources.

Participation levers

To solve the looming skills shortage businesses can look closely at the share of those of working age who are willing to work to enhance growth prospects as outlined below:

Where is your next worker?

Retaining the ageing workforce for their expertise

Motivate older workers not to retire

Mature age workers are typically the most experienced and reliable employees.  When they leave a business, their knowledge, experience and technical expertise leave with them, so retaining them will be increasingly important during a skills shortage.

Deloitte Access Economics estimates that by 2030 there will be over 5 million Australians aged 55-70 and based on current participation rates only 1.73 million of them will still be in the workforce.

To tap this potential source of productivity, businesses need to think differently about staff engagement. Forward-thinking employers will work hard to convince older workers not to retire.

Section 5 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Making more of a rapidly ageing population
  • Talent comes in many shades of grey
  • Lifting participation rates into a retirement headwind
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • What percentage of your workforce will retire in the next five years?
  • What alternative jobs or flexible arrangements with more work-life balance can your organisation offer to encourage retiring workers to keep working?
  • Have you considered providing personal financial advice to your employees in this stage of their life, within the package of benefits provided by the organisation?
  • How are you supporting and encouraging your retiring workers to pass on knowledge in critical competencies to other employees?
  • What checks do you have in place to remove ageist barriers in language, processes and policies that might hinder retaining or recruiting older workers?
  • What is your recruitment and retention strategy to attract older workers who are re-entering the workforce? Does this include specialist advice on retirement planning and associated complex matters?
  • What is your succession planning strategy for retaining older workers?

Increasing women’s participation in the workforce

Australia's hidden resource

Retaining women in the workforce could lessen the impact of Australia’s skills shortage.  While both sexes are equally represented in the workforce when careers start, women’s participation rate drops between the ages of 25 and 44, and never fully recovers. Yet Australian women are more highly qualified than men.

Goldman Sachs identified women as ‘Australia’s hidden resource’, and estimates that GDP could increase by 13% if male and female participation rates were equalised.

Closing the gender participation gap will require Government’s continued involvement. However, business can adopt flexible and supportive tactics to attract women re-entering work.

Section 6 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Let’s stop wasting women’s talents
  • Australia’s hidden resource
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: A balanced workforce reduces wear and tear costs.

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • How are you rewarding your managers and leaders for attracting, developing and retaining female workers?
  • What is your strategy to attract women who may want to return to work but lack the connections or recent workplace history to do so?
  • How do you maintain contact with employees on maternity or parental leave?
  • What workforce flexibility and career options, such as childcare and flexible working hours, does your organisation offer a primary caregiver who is returning to work?
  • How are you helping your leaders to understand the potential traps of unconscious bias in recruiting and retaining workers who have family or carer commitments?

A balanced workforce reduces wear and tear costs
According to the ABS, in 2010 some 4,483 women were working in Australia’s mining industry as truck drivers.  Former teachers, nurses’ aides and public servants are the recruits of choice, aged from 21 to a 68-year-old great-grandmother earning a six-figure salary.

39 In certain mines, female “truckies” are highly soughtafter as drivers of large ore transportation trucks because they balance the group dynamics. As a result, some drivers are less likely to “show off” to their peers and more likely to drive with restraint. In this instance, a workforce that employs both sexes translates to less wear and tear on the costly tyres of 300-tonne ore transportation hulks.

Sourcing talent and skills through workforce diversity

Equal opportunity for all employees

Increasing workforce diversity could be a major contributor to solving the skills shortage.  The following labour pools are often overlooked as sources of potential workers:

  • Indigenous Australians
  • Immigrants with qualifications from unfamiliar institutions
  • People with disabilities

Despite their potential, many businesses struggle to identify these groups as sources of talent.  Companies also face the challenges of changing workplace practices and individual behaviours that marginalise these workers.

Federal Government can use taxes and benefits to optimise these labour pools. The Disability Support Pension (DSP), for example, is a vital part of Australia’s social safety net; however, it’s tended to be a one-way ticket for recipients. It makes sense to reassess people’s capacity to work from time to time.

Section 7 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Seek out your workers in hidden places
  • Unaware of outside-the-box talent
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: mining an untapped resource.

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • Can your organisation identify the qualifications and skills of foreign trained workers?
  • What are you doing to challenge assumptions and stereotypes about workers with a disability?
  • What work experience placements do you offer to foreign trained workers to gain on-the-job experience?
  • What training do you have in place to help your workforce confront unconscious biases such as discrimination, prejudice and ethnic stereotyping in selecting candidates?
  • How are you providing in-job mentoring and opportunities to build the workplace skills of Indigenous workers?

Mining an untapped resource
The Argyle Diamond Mine’s Participation Agreement establishes a number of mechanisms to ensure its mining operations provide benefits to Indigenous people well beyond the life of the mine. These include community development initiatives and collaboratively managing the environmental and cultural impact of mining activities. The agreement also establishes mechanisms to ensure traditional owners are actively involved in managing the lease’s assets. 

Argyle also works to increase Indigenous employment through a number of educational initiatives, such as local high school support programs, young Indigenous women’s leadership camps and a horse-mastery program. Argyle uses a number of Indigenous staff recruitment strategies, including pre-employment training;accelerated training; flexible traineeships and apprenticeships; new entry points for employment; career planning; and Indigenous leadership development programs. 

Finally, in line with its longer-term outlook and lifestyle, Argyle pursues programs to improve health in the community and support local businesses that are independent of the mine.

Moving workers interstate

Supporting mobility and teleworking

Workforce mobility is critical to accessing skills and workers but Australia has conflicting laws that mean businesses spend an estimated $5 billion a year complying with inconsistent laws across multiple jurisdictions trying to move workers interstate. The State and Federal Government must now move fast to remove barriers to interstate migration.

Companies can further support worker mobility by addressing issues such as family impacts and lifestyle pursuits as well as remuneration or relocating jobs to low-cost regional centres.

Innovative telework applications and faster Internet speeds will also give businesses an opportunity to take the jobs to the workers and free businesses from geographic constraints in hiring.

Section 8 of Where is your next worker? examines:

  • Location, location, location
  • Taking jobs to the workers
  • Successful relocation is about more than money
  • Policy opening the way
  • Reflecting on the business opportunities
  • Case study: Mining by remote control.

Reflections on the business opportunities

  • Have you considered the financial benefits of reduced office space and infrastructure which might flow from increased teleworking?
  • How is your HR function supporting mobility and minimising the cultural impacts of relocating
  • workers?
  • If your business requires employees for remote locations, what creative solutions have you adopted to address labour supply problems, such as fly in/fly out workers?
  • How are you rewarding employees who are prepared to accept the challenge of relocating?

Mining by remote control
Rio Tinto has opened a remote mining control centre in Perth, which is trialling operations of an iron ore mine in the Pilbara. Drivers and other machinery operators can control the equipment remotely from more than 1,000km from the mine, reducing the need for staff to be located in a remote area. 

In its thisisourstory.com.au advertising campaign, Rio Tinto has featured employees such as Marie Bourgoin. This recent recruit to the firm who studied a Masters of Business Administration in France, was given the opportunity to study in Australia, and today is a manager at Rio Tinto’s Remote Operations Centre in Perth, with responsibility for scheduling and maintaining the efficiency of Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations. 

“The walls of the centre are lined with screens, which monitor rail, port and mine movements up to 1,500 kilometres away in the Pilbara region of Western Australia,” she says. “In the mining industry, there is nothing that compares to it, anywhere in the world.” 

At present, the network bandwidth available at mining operations in remote locations constrains the widespread adoption of such services. However, they are likely to become more viable as wireless technologies gain speed, and additional bandwidth becomes available. 

Finding people to work in remote locations is a challenge and involves significant transport and housing costs. This creative project could be an important part of the solution.

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?
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