The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation
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Even when things return to *normal*, there’s a good chance that the current candidate shortage will continue well into next year. One in four businesses are struggling to find staff and, according to SEEK, applications per job are down in 25 out of 28 industries. As this continues, companies will find it difficult to function at peak capacity.

The leading cause of this challenge is, of course, the pandemic and its side effects. The longer it goes, the more SME’s will need to adapt their hiring approach to workforce availability, attitudes and demands. What is happening isn’t a typical ‘cycle’ or ‘candidates’ market’. Here are a few of the more talked about reasons why staff shortages will likely continue to challenge hiring managers for the foreseeable future:


  • Employees stood down during lockdowns don’t apply for jobs while lockdowns are ongoing, and according to CBA research, a significant proportion of them will drop out of the workforce altogether.

  • Around 286,000 foreign workers have left Australia since the start of the pandemic, and the skilled migrants that arrive each year can’t come due to border closures. Even when borders open, it could take some time to bounce back to anywhere near these kinds of numbers.

  • Priorities and work habits have changed. Uncertainty about future outbreaks and variants means people will often prioritise security, personal needs, and mental health over money. For many, a simpler lifestyle and working remotely will be preferences.

  • Jobs ads are at their highest levels since after the GFC as companies try to build back up after the initial shock of 2020. There were 230,000 internet vacancies in July, a 42% increase on pre-covid numbers, meaning competition for the fewer candidates is furious and evident to anyone looking for staff right now.

  • Large businesses are offering higher salaries and more perks. They also have talent strategies to continually look for staff.

What can SMEs do?

When things start to open, we can expect increased candidate activity thanks to what is being called ‘The Great Resignation‘. Between 25 and 40% (Gartner, Hayes) of employees will look for new opportunities. According to the research, the top reasons for the shift is lack of promotion opportunities, non-competitive salaries, and poor management style or workplace culture. So, what can SMEs and hiring managers do to manage this and ensure they can continue to find the right people for their business? 


It goes without saying, try not to lose the staff you already have. Assume your team are being approached for other opportunities and ensure their existing conditions are comparable with the market. 


Avoid ‘we’ve always done it that way’ and last-minute recruitment. An ‘always-on’ recruitment strategy might be required because timing is everything. The use of resume matching and pre-recorded video interviewing tools allows you to work faster and keep candidates engaged. 


Encourage the most senior people to be involved in talent strategies. Recruitment needs to be given just as much priority as sales, marketing and operations.


Develop a formal recruitment process and use available recruitment software to build relationships with potential candidates. Train anyone who will have contact with potential employees to adopt the approach.


Treat potential employees like you would potential customers. The competition will be fierce for the foreseeable future, so use whatever means you have at your disposal to attract them to your business.


If you have internal issues that could impact your ability to attract or keep staff, address them. Poor salary structures, outdated policies or managers with a scrooge-like attitude to employee relations will make everything harder in the long run. Getting advice from an external HR or recruitment expert can help you deal with such issues.


Keep in mind that just having a job to offer is not a reason to expect people will apply. Instead, offering opportunities that address candidates as individuals with many unique needs is the starting point to being competitive.


Develop the desire and capability to skill/reskill and avoid the scenario where your business can only function with ‘unicorn’ employees. Check the job description and be realistic about how many of those people are likely to be in the market.


Remote working is here to stay. Many people won’t want to travel to an office every day so think about what flexibility you can offer and how you can use this to your advantage by hiring people who don’t live near your business.


Candidates dislike job ads with no published salary. They are less likely to spend time on opportunities that don’t provide all the information they need to compare.

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