3 simple steps for businesses to survive the talent drought

How companies can solve their talent drought through Upskilling
Darren Scott
5 mins

In Australia, there are currently around 400,000 positions that need filling – and no new overseas talent. It’s a challenge facing every business. But could it be an opportunity in disguise… To rethink skill development and hone the experience of your workforce and talent pool?


Finding the right person, with the right experience, at the right time, is becoming more complex. What’s the problem? What skills does it need? What skills do we have? Does that skill have a name yet? Who else could help? Are they available? Is there a contract in place?


All questions that keep business owners and entrepreneurs up at night – with good reason.


The ‘War on talent’ has turned to a drought


Although Australia’s unemployment rate is falling (4.6% in July), this doesn’t tell the full story for businesses facing their own talent crisis.


Pre-pandemic, hiring new talent was already fiercely competitive. Skilled vacancies were around 200,000 – candidates with digital skills particularly hard to come by (often imported and/or expensive).

Combine that challenge, with over half our country’s workforce already in urgent need of upskilling or reskilling, and our education system struggling to deliver enough skilled graduates.


And Australia had entered a major talent drought. Then the pandemic hit.



3 steps for businesses to address the skills crisis


Now deep into the pandemic and our borders still closed, companies are being forced to develop existing staff or look to pools of untapped talent to meet their growth needs. And these companies are doing this by working together.


These3 simple steps summarise their philosophy


1.   Shine a light on your existing talent


Too often, an employee’s expertise is defined by their job title, or at best their previous couple of job titles.  Look past the job title and allow employees to highlight the breadth and depth of their expertise.


Not often do colleagues, really get to understand the journey of one of their co-workers - the skills and expertise, the passions and insights, the failures and lessons learnt that make up all of us. But, these individual experiences are the gold nuggets in any organisation.


Unlocking and spreading this intimate knowledge and understanding, can not only make the business smarter but also build a more connected and engaged culture.



2.  Get closer to your ‘business partners’ – work together on the challenge


Most businesses today have very integrated go-to-markets, stitching together capabilities and services from a range of different organisations to make their business hum!  Start sharing your talent needs with those organisations you are closest with, that also complement your own skills.(think suppliers, technology providers, other SME’s)


Each of these organisations have their own specificareas of core competence that you can tap into and vice-versa. Eachorganisation getting closer to the other, building intimacy and understandingand lifting the capability of all.


Leading organisations are forming small coalitionsand allowing their employees to share expertise to tackle common challengessuch as:

·     Lifting digital literacy in middle and senior management

·     Providing cross-industry mentoringand support for women in leadership roles;

·     Accelerating industry knowledge for early in career employees.



3.  Engage and incentivise yourworkforce to share their expertise with others


People are naturally collaborative – especially whenit comes developing skills and helping others do the same.  We tend to be much better at it in ourpersonal lives, each curating a network of unofficial advisors on a multitudeof areas from cooking and gardening to sport.


When these exchanges do happen at work, you oftensee and much more engaged and effective employee. Rather than just spontaneousor impromptu, exchanges like these should be encouraged, nurtured and rewarded,whether internal or external.


Individual development discussions can include acomponent on an employee’s engagement with their peers, whether that beproviding expertise or reaching out to someone for help.  Broader business reviews can shine a light onthe person-to-person sharing between organisations and the associated impact.



Technology advances enabling businesses to “upskill on demand”


This new approach of micro-learning both within and between organisations is emerging thanks to technology innovations in peer-to-peer learning. (Part of the massive global investmentpouring into the $500B digital learning market.)

Whilecompanies like BurningGlass-Emsi, LinkedInand Seek continue to gather huge amount of data on the global job market andevolving skill needs, it’s their partnerships with a growing ecosystem of techstart-ups that is providing simplified access to and insights of this datadirectly to business owners… And this changes the learning game for justabout every Aussie business owner.


The Experience Exchange (TEX),Cyberseek or Dice, for example, offer insights around in-demand skills, jobmarket data or career progression options straight from their platforms.


Startupslike TEX, in the peer-to-peer sector take it one step further and allowemployees to connect with others who can support them to bridge their skillsgaps:


▪      Businesses curate the organisations they wish towork with.

▪      Smart matching and AI find the “right person” atthe “right time”.

▪      Integrated calendars handle the logistics.  

▪      Aggregated reporting tracks the effectiveness ata community level and how skills are evolving over time.

▪      And a business owner gets their people upskilled with very little effort or downtime.


This on going exchange between colleagues upskills and evolves the community, strengthens your business partnerships but also builds a sustainable culture of learning, preparing your business for future challenges.


Your priorities align with the human needs of your staff


“Humans need three basic things in order to be content. To feel competent at what they do, to feel authentic in their lives and to feel connected with others.” – Self Determination Theory,Edward L Deci


Theunique learning that occurs when two people come together and work through achallenge, I believe, is the answer to the talent drought and skills challengemany businesses face. More than that, it provides that crucial, much-neededsense of belonging and support that we could all use right now.

First published on SmartCompany on 6 Oct 2021

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