The current Australian business environment is facing a number of significant challenges moving into 2022, both pandemic-related and otherwise. And one of the biggest hurdles is procuring, training, and retaining highly skilled staff.
This is especially difficult during a period of historically low occupational mobility, with the rate at which employed staff are changing jobs having declined steadily since the ‘90s. The ABS has reported that during the year ending February 2021, only 7.5% of employed Australians changed jobs, the lowest annual mobility rate on record.
Leading firms, including our team at NAG, have had to increase their efforts over time to find and engage adequately skilled professionals to fill vacancies or scaling programs without decreasing the quality of the product. We’ve developed a reputation for retaining and training our top talent, allowing us to continuously provide a premium level of service for our clients.
To understand the solution to the problem, let’s first discuss what the broader picture looks like.
There are two clear factors driving the skills shortage in Australia over the last 24 months. Firstly, there is simply more demand, especially for specialist staff, than there is a domestic supply. This leads to increased intensity in the competition for highly skilled workers.
According to a recent Sydney Morning Herald article, domestic supply has often not met the skilled labor requirements within various industries. However, this talent shortfall has usually been recouped in the past by skilled migrant workers.
This leads to the second major issue – the pandemic border closures. With migration on pause, the pool of talent has been stretched even thinner. News.com.au reports that up to 82% of business leaders are concerned they may lose their top, highly skilled staff as a result of Covid-19 and the corresponding restrictions, with work-from-home flexibility not offering the bargaining chip business owners might expect.
The predicted result is an upswing in wages, which have largely stalled over the past 10 years. As noted by News.com.au:
“On average, Aussie workers could expect a wage increase of 3% or higher, according to ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank, as the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6% and is expected to go even lower.”
This is especially true of wage increases for highly skilled positions. David Brushfield, director at specialist recruiter Robert Half Asia Pacific, also notes in the same article:
“If you are in software development, in cybersecurity or a strong financial analyst or finance professional then a 20% pay rise is very realistic”
A recent survey of the auditing industry by Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand explored the extent of the skills shortfall that has been experienced by firms of all sizes. The survey found that, as of April 2021, there were 888 audit vacancies.
This is a significant number, with the surveyed respondents indicating that the shortfall has resulted from the same combination of a lack of domestic supply, and governmental business and border restrictions.
According to the survey findings, professional services firms in Australia “traditionally have relied on overseas recruitment and secondments to fill the shortage of skilled auditors to cope with the concentration of June year-ends. However, the closure of the Australian border has ended this practice.”
Interestingly, the position with the highest number of vacancies was that of Audit Junior, indicating a lag in qualified skilled professionals entering the job market, as previously discussed above.
The government responded to some of these pressures facing the industry in June 2021 by adding audit professionals to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, potentially allowing for the visa applications of skilled migrant auditors to be fast-tracked.
This may be a positive move for the industry, as the average recruitment time for each position in April had ballooned out towards 3-6 months, resulting in high workloads and backlogs for the firms with staff shortages.
Most importantly, it is crucial to ensure that the quality of audit operations does not dip because of any constraints brought about by personnel shortages. As an industry, we must continue to maintain our integrity, and there can be no leeway when applying the required standards and procedures in dealing with a client’s finances.
Here at National Audits Group, we have established a reputation for providing audits of the highest quality for several reasons, with the most significant being our ability to train and retain team members. This is especially true for recruits who progress from a post-graduate level through to an auditor with several years of experience.
When it comes to hiring and retaining top talent at National Audit Group, we want people to want to work for us. Creating this kind of environment requires not just listening to wage expectations, but also providing flexibility and career progression opportunities for our staff.
There is a comprehensive benefits package available to staff, including a study program, uniform allowance, community leave, and more. You can’t deliver your best work if you don’t have a well-rounded life and further training to upskill, and we make a point to provide these opportunities.
There are opportunities to work remotely, and a premium on ensuring that all of our staff are able to balance their work and personal life. We also place emphasis on the mental health of our employees, so that they are well-positioned to deliver for both our clients and themselves.
We’ve also prioritised the establishment of a cohesive and supportive team culture over the long term to foster the best possible environment for our employees to succeed. Regular social events and our Mentor Program are two examples of the initiatives carried out to promote a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among our staff.
We also have a progression model for salaries as employees proceed through the first few years of their work with us. This keeps our retention levels high so that we are able to prevent any drain of employees away from the business.
There is room for extraordinary growth for team members who join our team at a junior level after graduating university. As opposed to some of the larger firms, our operation size allows us to really invest the necessary time and training into our staff to ensure they see a pathway for meaningful career progression. You are never just “a number” at National Audits Group.
That being said, the type of person we look to recruit for the National Audits Group understands the critical importance of the family and staff culture that we’ve been able to nurture. Not simply a skilled professional, they are capable of working both autonomously and interactively with a team.
There has to be a drive, a willingness, to be a part of a larger goal. We provide our staff with the means to continuously move forward within their careers, but they have to want to be a part of it.
We’re flexible with our team and they have to be flexible with their thinking. The future is always on our doorstep and we need staff who can be innovative enough to step up to the task.
If you’re interested in learning more about the National Audits Group difference and discovering potential career opportunities, please visit our careers page.