Australian businesses must think innovatively to win the war for talent

B2B Editor18 July 2017

Australian businesses must think innovatively to win the war for talent

Recently we commenced advertising for several recruitment consultants with the aim of attracting high performers to our firm in Canberra. Included in our advertising is the offer to enjoy a six week paid holiday to new hires before starting in the job. The idea reeks of a gimmick, doesn’t it?

In today’s job market, the list of catchy perks being offered by businesses seems to go on, and get progressively more ridiculous. In-house baristas, treadmill meeting rooms, personal chefs and meditation rooms are just a few of the recently advertised ‘extras’ used to try and catch potential employee’s eyes. But do “perks” make a meaningful difference to attracting star performers? Do top people really move jobs for better perks? Well, not really, but they do serve a purpose.

Talented recruitment consultants are incredibly hard to come by. In fact, our industry is in many ways a classical case study for industry sectors that experience extreme challenges when attracting high performers. HorizonOne’s story will sound very familiar to many companies out there, especially those that demand highly-specialised skill sets, and recruit to high standards. This has led to our significant investment in Employer Brand, and we believe our story serves as an analogy for the problems more employers will inevitably face in the future.

What is employer branding
In 1997, Steve Hankin and his team at global consulting leaders McKinsey and Company predicted the success of companies will rely on how well they compete in a ‘war for talent’. They predicted employers would need unique and progressive profiles, or ‘Employer Brands’. The underlying assumption is that for knowledge intensive industries, there is an increasingly competitive landscape to recruit and retain the very best. That ultimately, it is talent in your organisation that drives your success.

Fast forward to today, and Employer Branding is a huge area for business investment where companies of all sizes compete for the best people in candidate or skill-short markets. Employer Branding and budgets to attract talent are growing.

  • 79% of Managers/Leaders consider talent attraction as the major priority for their business (LinkedIn, 2017)
  • Over 57% of Australian recruitment leaders would invest more in Employer Branding if given more budget leeway (LinkedIn, 2017)
  • Over 66% of recruitment leaders consider talent shortages in the top three challenges their business faces (BullHorn, 2017)

Investment in Employer Brand is also yielding results:

  • Employers with strong Employer Branding see a 43% decrease in cost per hire (LinkedIn, 2015)
  • Employer Branding can increase your stock prices by 36%. (Lippincott via LinkedIn, v2013)

Your Employer Brand can’t be manufactured. It needs to be genuine, and portray the culture, values and benefits that speak to the exact kind of person you want to attract.

We decided to examine businesses like ours with more advanced Employer Brands and much bigger budgets. Global consulting firms are leaders in the war for talent. The efforts by firms like PWC or Deloitte in employer branding and talent attraction are market leading.

Companies must identify what high performing employees really value. They need to think deeply, and really understand who their target people are – inhabit who
they are, understand how they behave, and zero in on Employer Branding to pinpoint their motivators.

We wanted to see what approach would deliver success for a small to medium-sized business based in a regional city that is experiencing a major skills shortage.

So, six weeks paid holiday is employer branding?
Well, kind of By far the toughest recruitment assignments we undertake are for ourselves. Despite the Australian recruitment industry growing and evolving rapidly from a standing start about 50 years ago, recruitment firms really struggle to attract new employees. Currently, there are as many as 10,000 advertised positions for recruiters in Australia. Things are getting harder, with the abolition of the 457 Visa and the inclusion of recruitment and HR advisers on the removal list. This poses a problem for the Canberra market as it takes, on average, nine months to recruit a high performing consultant. This is one of the reasons why we are sourcing talented and experienced consultants from outside of Canberra.

We’ve got an established Employer Brand, having invested in continuously sharing who we are with the market. We have invested time, money and energy into making it easier to understand who we are, what we do and what we stand for. We also offer employees a host of benefits, which are appealing to high performers. But we still don’t attract enough talented people to our growing Canberra business.

Canberra struggles to compete with the “sexier” cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. A lot of high performers focus their attention where they believe the biggest markets are. But Canberra shouldn’t be low on the corporate recruiter’s agenda. We have:

  • the lowest unemployment rate in Australia – 3.7%
  • Consistently ranks as having the highest levels of candidate shortages in Australia for large recruitment markets such as ICT (#1) and Finance (#2)
  • in a number of ways, a ‘softer’ market for competition

Six weeks holiday cuts through the noise
The big challenge for us is that successful recruitment consultants are usually in wellpaid, secure jobs where they are highly valued and exceptionally busy.

My Co-Director David Harrington knows how big a relocation can be, having moved his young family from London to Canberra a few years ago.

We understand that finding the time to even contemplate such a move can be challenging and often falls into the ‘too hard’ basket.

Naturally, the idea of a six week paid holiday will capture people’s attention because it seems counterintuitive. A holiday for someone that has not earned it yet? That’s mental! But it should also appeal to those experienced consultants that are yearning for something different – those that want to escape the race of congested CBD living, and that welcome the opportunity for a better, more affordable and healthier lifestyle.

The six week paid holiday is about creating a good headspace. Space to allow the idea of change to grow a little. We believe once given even this small chance, the idea of a successful recruitment career in Canberra is incredibly appealing. Once we’ve peaked interest and cut through the noise, we can engage with top candidates in a more meaningful and personal way.

Successful talent attraction is not about throwing gimmicks at people. It’s about coming up with innovative ways to get the attention of high performers, and then attracting them to engage with your business in a meaningful way.

We make our living helping our clients hire unique talent. Our job is to think laterally and creatively to solve challenging recruitment problems in markets where talent is incredibly scarce.

It was about time that we got serious about our own challenges attracting top talent. We are sick of being the plumbers with the leaky taps, so we are getting proactive about finding the best people.

So, is it about time your organisation got serious about your Employer Brand?

By Simon Cox
Please contact Simon Cox at HorizonOne
Recruitment on 02 6108 4878 or
[email protected] Level 1, 27 Torrens
Street, Braddon www.horizonone.com.au

Simon Cox