Skilled worker shortages: How to find and retain staff in a challenging environment

Neil Littlewood

The shortage of skilled workers is one of the biggest challenges impacting Australasian businesses – and Royal Wolf is no exception. Low levels of unemployment mean that every potential employee has an abundance of choices when it comes to workplaces, making it harder to fill roles and retain staff.

At Royal Wolf, our people are by far our number one asset. In order to find and retain skilled workers, we’re regularly assessing our workplace offerings to ensure they meet employee needs and expectations.

Some of the key actions we’re taking include:

Communicating benefits clearly

We've learned the importance of better communicating the benefits of working with us to employees and potential employees. In all of our candidate interviews we discuss the company’s values and those of the candidate. It is vital that we align the value expectations of both parties.

We also let them know that Royal Wolf offers an employee benefits program that includes training opportunities, financial assistance for study, mental health and wellbeing support, an employee compassion fund, a family sports and arts scholarship, and more.

As a subsidiary of United Rentals, the world's largest equipment rental company, our employees also receive shares in the company. We believe that if you’ve got a stake in the business, you’re more likely to look after it.

Meanwhile, we’re finding that our employee referral scheme, which comes with a $1500 reward, is another effective way to find new employees.

Understanding that one size doesn’t fit all

It’s crucial to recognise that different roles across a business have different needs and ways of working – a finance role is very different to an outbound sales position, which is different to a job in a workshop. Similarly, staff requirements across our 43 Australian and New Zealand locations vary widely too – the needs of our Auckland team are not the same as the needs of our Townsville and Adelaide teams, for example. Every individual has their own specific conditions and expectations. You've got to be like a willow tree – able to bend towards what people are looking for but still have structure around what your expectations as a business are.

Knowing what your issues are

I consider our annual staff engagement survey crucial to the strength of the business. It’s a great barometer of what's working and what's not. If someone's disengaged, they're pulling other people down, which leads to increased turnover and, in turn, impacts your customers. It’s also helpful to acknowledge that no business is perfect and there is always something to work on. We try to break down the issues identified in the survey into key categories. For example, what are the top three things affecting the business as a whole? Then what are the three things that are affecting the North Queensland team? Not everything works the same way across the business; it’s about understanding and respecting differences. We then use pulse checks throughout the year to monitor our progress on these issues.

At the end of the day, if you look after your people and have the right values going through your company, you will find those workers – and they will stay for years to come.

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