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Empty supermarket representing the candidate short market

The challenge of hiring and retaining in a candidate short market

Demand for talent is as high as it has ever been in the Australian market.

From looking at the recent data on unemployment (3.9%, the lowest it has been in 50 years) to the number of adverts posted on job boards such as Seek & LinkedIn there is clear demand across several sectors. In fact, the number of adverts on Seek in April 2022 was up an astonishing 59.7% compared to the same month 3 years ago. Job postings continue to rise month on month but what is interesting to note is that applications for April 2022 compared to March 2022 are down almost 8%, and if we compare April 2022 to April 2019 applications are down almost 50%!


So why is this & what does it mean?

The supply of potential candidates coming into the country was hit during the pandemic with international border closures and although these restrictions have eased, we have seen more of a trickle of foreign workers coming into the market rather than the waves that many businesses and sectors may have hoped for.

As many foreign workers returned home at the start of the pandemic, this skill gap has yet to be replaced. What has happened is that businesses and recruiters have been looking at the same pool of candidates for the past 2 years. This has therefore led to a dramatic increase in wages as well as attraction policies that businesses have adopted in which to obtain new members.

This means that attracting talent and retaining talent has never been more important.

What are businesses doing to attract & retain top tier talent?

Money is no longer enough

​According to our recent market trends survey; salary ranked as the 3rd most important factor to employees when considering a switch.

Number 1 was the flexibility options that they had available. The pandemic has redefined what flexibility means to businesses and workplaces. True flexibility can be seen as working around the tasks that you need to get done to be happy in life. Such as attending the school pick-ups and drops offs/taking the laptop to the beach for the afternoon and even hitting the gym around your work schedule.

We have had a number of candidates contacting Ambition saying they have been told to go back to the office 5 days a week but don’t want to do that and want to look for a new opportunity.

Flexible working is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Also above salary were progression and development opportunities. There is a demand for upskilling amongst candidates. Whether it be paying for external development opportunities or having scheduled catch ups with leaders in the business around progression and how they can grow their careers.

​Counter offers usually revolve around money, but it is best to put policies in place around flexibility and career development now to avoid your employees being turned to somewhere else.

Read more: The ethics of counter offers

Focus on retention

From meeting with clients across various sectors in recent months it seems that everyone is in growth mode! Headcount is very important to ensure that your business is positioned to take advantage of growth.

  • Review talent across the business.

  • Look at how you are incentivising performance and work winning, could this be part of your bonus scheme? Could this be an opportunity to look at training and development programs?

  • Consider offering enhanced maternity and paternity packages, pay a competitive salary aligned with current market expectations.

​​Senior Leadership Team

Culture comes from those at the top.

Do you have a diverse and inspiring leadership team? It is important to have a leadership team that connects with its employees.

A leadership team who connects with the leaders of tomorrow is a key component to keeping employees in the organisation. If they can see the consistency of goals and can connect with the leaders, then they are sure to be passionate about the journey ahead and much more likely to see it through.

Don’t just say you are inclusive, show that you are inclusive. If you don’t feel you have the diversity you would like at the senior level, acknowledge it, and get your employees involved in a discussion about what needs to be done to move the agenda forward.

Consider reverse mentoring and feedback from internal groups/networks so people feel that they have a voice.

Mental health and wellbeing

As talent becomes harder to find then it is only natural that working environments become more pressurised as the workload grows.

Many businesses have started to embrace mental health training, introduced mental health first aiders, and encouraged their leaders to share their own stories around mental health. They hosted events on well-being, discussed ways to manage stress and offered counselling support.

Then along came COVID and the switch to everyone working from home. Many employees experienced a drop in the quality of their mental health from which they haven't recovered.

More work needs to be done and continue to be done, to ensure support is available for all employees and to make people aware that is ok to not be ok.

Employee assistance programs can be purchased by the business and put in place that gives employees an avenue to seek help in a confidential manner.

​International opportunities

It feels like we have been starved of travel and the experiences of different cultures over the past few years.

Global mobility is increasingly on the agenda to retain talent. More people want to have the experience of living and working in another country.

It does bring challenges but offering secondments within your international offices would be a selling point and could prevent you from losing talent.

A positive exit process

Never leave on bad terms.

As strange as it may seem, if you do end up with a resignation, make the leaving experience as positive as possible for the individual.

Your alumni network is a great hunting ground for talent, even if they do not come back to your business they will talk about their experience and could even recommend a fantastic candidate further down the track.

How to attract new talent to your business

Don't delay hiring decisions

Time kills all deals; this could not be truer than in the current market conditions.

If you see someone that you like and want to hire – and they are interested… then do your due diligence quickly, and keep the process moving. Get them to meet everyone they need to and if you are all in agreeance then hire them.

Stay in touch until they start. I can assure you that their head will be turned at least once between offer acceptance and the start date. Do all that you can to keep them engaged in you and your business.

Invite them along to a lunch? Get them involved in a team day before they start.

Do not lowball the candidate, they will be paid what they are worth somewhere and this only leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. Not to mention the time that you wasted prior.

Train staff on conducting interviews – Good first impression

In this current market, you need to use every part of the interview to sell and impress a candidate. The candidate is judging you as much as you are judging them.

Build relationships with your candidates, talk about projects or clients they could be working on, and build an emotional attachment to how they see themselves working with the firm.

Have a pipeline of talent

Set aside time each week to discuss pipelined talent with your talent team or recruiter.

These are talented candidates in the market who are not ready to leave their current roles but who are a good fit for your organisation.

Not only does this save time in the actual hiring phase but it allows you to evaluate and get to know your potential future employees on a deeper level making that connection more real.


​​If you are struggling to retain talent or are looking to grow then call me on 02 9248 6202 or email me at to arrange a confidential chat.

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