The Exceler8 HR Happenings Blog

So this is Christmas….is the (talent) war over?


Recently, I presented to people leaders all the way down the East Coast, and asked them, ‘what are your challenges as a people leader right now?’  I wouldn’t be telling you anything surprising when I say that a barrage of HR headaches were thrown out there:

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HR overwhelm right now
  • Finding the right people
  • Keeping the people I have
  • Managing employee expectations
  • Paying them the right money
  • Managing burnout and mental health issues
  • Keeping up with the changes in employer IR obligations

If only we could grow our business without people! But then I’d be out of business, so that’s not an acceptable option 😊.

But with challenges come opportunities, so l wanted to talk about the possibilities with these people leaders.  When I asked the audience ‘what are the opportunities for people leaders right now?’ the room was silent.    But I was ready with some pre-prepared answers. Let me share with you some unique opportunities that are out there right now. 

Improving workplace efficiencies

There is no better time to investigate what can be automated, outsourced and restructured to become more efficient.  What software, job redesign, workflow improvements could you research and implement?  This could reduce the need to fill vacant roles or give existing staff the opportunity for upskilling. Most efficiency improvement will provide bottom-line improvement.  Don’t forget that this will also help manage burnout and support a hybrid workplace where appropriate.

Outsourcing the hard-to-recruit roles.  

If done well, this can be a great short-to-medium term skill shortage solution.  But be aware if you don’t communicate and consult with your staff effectively, it may create more issues that it solves.  Communicate a transparent plan, provide continual updates and reviews of the process and how it is working for the team and business.  Check that it’s achieving the return on investment you are looking for and be prepared to pull the pin if need be.

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Succession and advancement within your business. 

Research by HR Coach Australasia tells us that a lack of opportunities for advancement is one of the top 5 workplace dissatisfiers for Australian employees.  Now is the time to take a strategic and long-term view of how you resource your business with the people you have. 

Implementing structured conversations. 

Australian employees and employers are both asking for more understanding of expectations and follow-through.  Taking this opportunity to plan conversations with team members is vital to ensure you are on the same page. During these conversations, you can manage your retention risks and follow up on delivery if you allow a 2-way discussion.

Define your culture. 

Why do people work for you?  What is the workplace experience they have?  Have you measured it?  Now is the time to understand your cultural drivers and how to manage them.  When it comes to culture, there are only two ways it develops; actively managing it or letting it happen.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which approach leads to a high-performing business.

If these are the opportunities or outcomes we can look for, practically, what can you do?  Here are 6 solutions you can start right now.

  1. Do your salary benchmarking – don’t assume you are paying market rates or ‘it’s just what I can afford’.  Look at advertised jobs, speak with your network to gauge what they are paying, and don’t forget to chat with a recruitment specialist to gain a current market view.  Be informed, as your employees will be. If you lose an employee over an extra $5-$10K, remember, you will have to pay that to a new employee, plus incur onboarding costs.  Is it worth it?
  2. Have a hybrid working plan or look at how flexibility can work in your team.  I get it. Not all businesses can have ‘working from home’, but WFM is only one factor/element of “flexibility”.  You need to understand what flexibility looks like for your employees, individually and as a wider team.  You can then develop a transparent process that reflects this and consistently apply it.
  3. Look at the hours you expect of employees in key roles and ask yourself whether it is reasonable.  Carrying on from the previous point, we traditionally consider that the effort your employees contribute reflects what they are paid – the larger the salary, the bigger the ‘reasonable additional overtime’.  Yes, in theory. But are we paying for skills or time? 
  4. The excessive hours being worked are leading to an all-time high burnout levelsBurnout has now been defined for the first time by the World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases.  There are some quality resources out there, including your local People Paracetamol AKA, me.
  5. Undertake a succession planning process – promoting from within, or multi-skilling has several positive outcomes. 
    • Starts ongoing conversations about growth in the business and its employees.
    • Demonstrates that there are opportunities for advancement within the business that otherwise may not have been thought of.
    • Identifies skills gaps and reduces the risk of these gaps not being filled by resignations.
    • Reduces the cost of training and development of new staff into higher roles as they already know the business
    • It can increase staff loyalty because they are proactively involved in the business.
  6. Set up a structured and ongoing two-way communication process to improve the alignment of all employees with the business strategies and challenges.  Regular one-on-ones, management team, and whole-of-business meetings with set outcomes and agendas.  Holding effective meetings is a skill in itself so check out my tip sheet – Mastering Meetings
  7. Have ‘stay’ conversations – why do your staff stay in your business, and how can you use these insights to attract new staff?  Stay interviews, distinctly different to performance reviews, explore the experience your employee is having in the business.  It’s an integral part of a retention plan. Here is a tip sheet on ways to improve employee retention.

With changes in our industrial relationship framework at a national level and economic figures still trying to level out, we haven’t hit smooth sailing yet.  But as it’s been pointed out to me several times, we’ve been here before.  The 90s ‘recession-we-had-to-have’, GFC, mining downturn, a global pandemic, and now the pandemic hangover….we have been here before and we found our way out.

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No, the war’s not over, but perhaps it’s a chance to do something different, better, and create a business and a team that will last whatever is thrown at us next.  Bring on 2023!

Of course, if 2023 seems like one huge HR headache, get in touch and I’ll bring the paracetamol.

Melissa Langton - Exceler8

Hi! I'm Melissa

I'm a sought-after HR coach, advisor and strategist. I'm also the director of Exceler8. My clients call me their people paracetamol because I help them say 'goodbye' to HR headaches and 'hello' to the perfect people formula to support their business. If you're ready for HR help or transformation, please get in touch. 

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