Secrets to success: how to attract and retain top talent

Finding skilled, capable, and motivated staff has become an increasing challenge for Australian businesses, with the labour market at its tightest since the 1970s. What are the push and pull factors for candidates who have the pick of the market? We share how business leaders are winning the hearts and minds of great recruits.

Why labour shortages need long-term attention  

Over the past year in Australia, staffing has been a critical issue for many Australian businesses.  In fact, Australia’s unemployment rate hit 3.4% in 2022, an almost 50-year low – and it has continued to hover at record lows.1

Two years of COVID-19 lockdowns played a role, with data suggesting border closures reduced new migrant numbers by about 400,000 people during the period.2

However, it will take more than relaxing migration rules to ease the pressures currently facing business owners. The National Skills Commission’s Skills Priority List report for 2022 warned that almost one third of the 914 occupations reviewed were in short supply.3

Skill shortages are nothing new for Australians. Almost 20 years ago, a Senate inquiry identified skill shortages as a “recurring and persistent feature” of the domestic labour market.4

However, in the past year the problem has become acute. Almost one third (31%) of employing businesses struggled to find suitable workers in June 2022, up from 27% in June 2021, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).5

Of those businesses unable to find workers, 79% reported a lack of applicants and 59% said the applicants that did apply lacked the experience and qualifications needed for the role.

What this suggests for business leaders is that even when current labour shortages ease – as is predicted for 2023 – the fight for talent will remain a core issue in Australia.

To attract staff, some employers have increased wages at potentially unsustainable rates, impacting profitability and sustainable growth. In the strata industry, for example, research shows wages have increased from 29% of total revenues in 2005 to 49% in 2022, with profit margin shrinking from 33% in 2005 to 23% in 20226.

“Finding that ‘why’ can be done by asking your best people what they value about coming to work each day and using ‘human-centred design’ (HCD) to understand the perspectives of others,” says Coffey.

HCD is a methodology to help you focus on the experience people have working for you as employees or working with you as clients. It involves genuinely engaging with staff and clients, understanding their current experience of achieving their goals, listening to their concerns as well as what’s going well, and finding ways to improve their experience.

That could mean anything from rolling out new technology to simplify a task, to reducing the number of steps a person takes to log onto a system, or rewording instruction manuals. Businesses of any size can use this methodology to create better experiences for their people and clients.

Coffey points to an example within Macquarie’s BFS division where the experience of taking out a home loan was mapped. BFS charted the journeys taken by clients, brokers and employees from application to settlement, recording the actions each party took to apply for a loan and how parties felt at each step of the process.

Mapping the experience of all parties end-to-end created a deep understanding of not only how people applied for a loan, but where opportunities existed to improve the experience for the different parties involved. Those solutions ranged from larger investments in technology and communication, to simply locating teams closer to each other to facilitate seamless handovers.

“It was important that we understood that the client experience was essentially grounded in the experience we give to our employees, so if we made their jobs easier, that in turn simplified and improved both the broker and customer experiences,” explains Coffey.

“Essentially, it means starting by understanding the problem end users are trying to solve and grounding solutions in that, rather than starting with what we each think is the most important action to take.”

For practical ideas for redesigning recruitment including informative case studies and key takeaways read our latest Your Business, Our Perspective article. 

To discuss how you can build a more sustainable business, please speak to your Relationship Manager, by calling 1800 442 370 or requesting a call today.

1 ; Treasury, ‘Budget Statement 2: Economic Outlook’
2 Jeffrey Wilson, ‘Deep dive: Australia’s missing migrants and the labour market’, Australian Industry Group
3 National Skills Commission, 2022 Skills Priority List Key Findings Report, 2022
4 Senate Employment, Workplace Relations and Education References Committee, ‘Bridging the skills divide’, November 2003
5 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Business Conditions and Sentiments June 2022’
6 Macquarie, 2023, Strata Industry Benchmarking Report


This information has been prepared by Macquarie Business Banking, a division of Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502 (‘Macquarie’) for general information purposes only. This information does not constitute advice. Before acting on this information, you must consider its appropriateness having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain financial, legal and taxation advice before making any decision regarding this information.

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