Like most Australian companies, Anagenics Limited (Anagenics) has fine-tuned its recruitment handbook over the past 18 months.
“Skills shortage in digital marketing and sales roles is so acute that we have been unable to fill positions for months,” says Anagenics CEO Maria Halasz.
“Salary expectations have increased significantly in these roles well beyond what normal inflation would suggest and, in some areas, salaries went up 25-40 per cent within twelve months.”
Anagenics is a health and beauty-tech business that develops clinically validated anti-aging products. Despite its ASX listing, the company has just 30 Australian employees, for whom work is returning to normal.
“Whilst a few of our business development managers work from home, largely as they are based interstate, approximately 70 per cent of our staff are working from our office and warehouse full time as of 1 December 2021,” says Ms Halasz. “This was achieved gradually as we have transitioned employees back from the lock-down in mid-October.”
Despite the tight job market, Ms Halasz proudly explains that retention has been less of a problem than recruitment. “We’ve only had one resignation during this period, and she was planning to change career previously, so it was expected and probably not part of the wave of resignations due to the pandemic.”
Attracting the best candidates
Although Anagenics has struggled to fill some positions over recent times, the company has continued to hire. Ms Halasz says the key to attracting the best candidates is to offer:
- A competitive salary
- Performance-based incentives in cash and equity
- Autonomy and outcome-based contracts
- A collegial, respectful environment where people can develop and bring their best
- Opportunity for learning new skills
- Opportunity to advance in career
But offering an attractive package is just the beginning. Ms Halasz’s top tip for attracting and retaining staff? Be a good listener.
“We sat down with each employee during the lock-down and after to establish where they are in their overall ‘job readiness’ and asked them questions about how they are and how they see their career unfolding going forward,” she explains. “It is remarkable how much people give you when you ask, which is also true at job interviews. A culture of active listening is very high on the list of most people looking for work.”
She recommends business owners update their knowledge on salary expectations because much has changed during the pandemic. It is vital to adjust and pay people what they are worth and to stand out from the crowd with the right incentives for performance.
Ms Halasz also stresses the need to be a better communicator. “When you have the right ingredients, make sure you communicate it upfront in your job ads. Just getting people to show up for an interview is hard, so you are halfway there if they do.”
Becoming an employer of choice
We often hear the term “employer of choice” bandied around, but what does it really mean?
“Definitely not snooker or pool tables,” Ms Halasz wryly observes. “Leaders have to become better at leading from behind; elevating their staff, making it possible for them to succeed.
“Job satisfaction does not come from dollars, so long as you are paid what you are worth. It comes from doing something that gives you satisfaction and being recognised for a job well done.
“So, the employer of choice should pay their people what they are worth, help them perform at their peak and recognise their contribution and talent. Providing opportunities for learning and growth, including advancing their career, are also important.”
Redefining the Great Resignation
Ms Halasz says that it’s time to redefine the Great Resignation.
“I believe the Great Resignation should be called the Great Transition,” she explains. “It’s not that people are leaving jobs and they no longer want to work. Rather, expectations of what work should mean in employees’ lives have changed, and it requires companies to transition and provide what employees value when it comes to their jobs.
“This could be different for different people: salary, flexible working conditions, childcare at work, more autonomy, incentives etc.
“What makes people come to work every day is different for everyone, and you can only find out by asking.
“So, the Great Transition also means we have to get better at leading.”
Will the talent drought continue in 2022?
Australia’s skills shortage and brain drain seem likely to continue to challenge business owners in 2022. A recent Finder study, When Worlds Collide: Small business meets post pandemic life, found that half (53 per cent) of SMEs are concerned about their ability to retain staff over the next twelve months. The survey also found that 24 per cent of SMEs are experiencing higher than usual turnover, and 33 per cent have noticed a drop in employee satisfaction.
Ms Halasz believes that the government must play its part in the easing of Australia’s talent shortage in 2022.
“Reopening the borders is critical to allow skilled migration. However, it will take some time to regain some equilibrium in the market, and it will require companies to work harder at becoming better employers.
“It also depends on how far the government is prepared to go. At this stage, they are talking about increasing the annual migrant intake to 190,000 from 160,000. I don’t think this will do it.
“What would work well is a government campaign facilitating skilled migration by reducing the visa costs to the employers and providing incentives to the people migrating by allowing them to get permanent residency earlier. This would make it easier for families with kids to move, where the future has to be more certain.”
Read more: Let’s Talk: How to find and keep great staff