The next 12-18 months could bring about choppy waters in the Australian talent acquisition market, predicts adidas’s talent lead. Here are his tips for making your organisation stand out.
Australia’s current low unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent, paired with our relatively flat economy, could lead to some challenging times ahead in the local talent market, according to Michael Bradfield, Director of Talent Acquisition – Global Tech, Digital and D&A at adidas and upcoming speaker at AHRI’s National Convention and Exhibition.
“I think we’re heading into some rocky territory next year from Q2 onwards,” says Bradfield.
Previous 2022 research from RMIT showed that a significant portion of Australian employees (56 per cent) were considering taking steps to change their employment, and SEEK data demonstrates that, this year, 37 per cent of workers were having similar thoughts.
“We’re sitting in a pretty tense market at the moment from a talent perspective. A lot of organisations, not only in Australia but abroad, need to be cautious with their talent landscape over the next 18 months.”
With this in mind, Bradfield shares four things he believes talent acquisition specialists should be considering in order to prepare their organisations for potential storms ahead.
1. Become a hunter
People naturally stay put when economic environments are unstable, says Bradfield.
“People hunker down, wait it out, then they’ll make a move. If you move in the middle of a downturn, or even if the economy is just a bit flat, what’s stopping that organisation from making cuts?”
But organisations can’t rely on employees’ fear of leaving as a sustainable retention strategy, because beyond every storm is a clear sky.
Bradfield says employers could be facing a lot of “churn and burn” in the upcoming 12-18 months due to attractive employment offers from global economies, meaning the Australian talent market could be in “a liquid state” next year.
This could mean that talent poaching starts to become more common.
“There are two types of people in talent acquisition: the hunters and the gatherers. A gatherer will post and pray – they post a job advertisement and hope it reaches the right people. If you’re a gatherer, you’ll get left behind. It’s the hunters who win in the talent acquisition game.”
Hunters are rare, he says, but they will be the future of talent acquisition.
“Talent acquisition people should love talking to new talent and networking. That should be their core passion – to deliver a great experience and figure out the talent market.”
2. Embrace global mobility
Another challenge for talent specialists, says Bradfield, is the fact that working in Australia isn’t as attractive as it used to be.
“In the past, we used to use our climate [as a drawcard] to attract talent from overseas. Whereas look at major locations around the world, like London and New York – they attract talent due to the density of business. People feel like if they want big, chunky jobs, they need to be in these locations.”
This has resulted in Australia experiencing a fair bit of ‘brain drain‘ in recent years – losing homegrown talent to overseas competitors.
“We’ve lost a lot of really good knowledge out of this country and we’re left with a residual base at the moment. This is leaving a lot of organisations pretty short on what they can get. This means they’re not operating to their full potential. And there’s a knowledge gap in the Australian market on how to get around that.”
“If you’re a gatherer, you’ll get left behind. It’s the hunters who win in the talent acquisition game.” – Michael Bradfield, Director of Talent Acquisition – Global Tech, Digital and D&A, adidas
He believes Australia needs to position itself more strategically, stating that employers need to set up global mobility teams on the ground, led by specialists who know how to entice people overseas and support them to get settled.
“If we had the right people in the right jobs, generating innovation, creative mindsets and pushing the envelope, you’d probably have a different state of play [in Australia] at the moment.”
“It’s mind-blowing to me that companies aren’t already doing this at a rate of knots. It doesn’t take long to get a work visa now. I think it’s about two weeks.
“It all depends on how organisations want to win in the market. The safe bet is just to keep doing the same thing, because you get incremental growth. But if organisations out there want to change the game through talent, there’s a significant advantage in [global mobility]. It’s completely under-leveraged.”
3. Hire for future skills
Employers need to take a long-term view when hiring for specific skills, says Bradfield.
“We’ve heard a lot about skills like e-commerce, digital and tech. They will always be necessary, but I think that’s kind of plateaued a little because a lot of companies have hired people [with those skills].”
He imagines supply chain management and operations will be a big focus for employers in the next few years.
“With manufacturing having gone through the COVID-19 era, it has changed the way a lot of organisations are looking at where they house manufacturing [processes],” he says.
“Essentially, the types of behaviours employers are looking for are people who can pivot on the spot quickly and seamlessly. They need people who can be agile.
“Organisations also need subject matter experts. Employees need to be really good at whatever part of the organisation they’re fitting into. This is where I can see specialisation work and the contracting market growing. Organisations will engage [people with these specific skill sets] to enhance their ability.
“It’s going to be quite a journey from a skills perspective. Especially because Australia is quite slow to adopt. It’s a very traditional market, so it remains quite rigid.”
4. Learn from your marketing and brand teams
Imagine you work for a retailer and are about to launch a new product. You wouldn’t put it on your website then cross your fingers and hope people find it on their own.
There would be a comprehensive marketing strategy at the pre- and post-launch stage to generate buzz with your target market. This would then be backed up with a strategic customer nurture journey that could span years. This is how we need to think about talent, says Bradfield.
“It has taken a long time for talent teams to catch up. Brand and design teams are light-years ahead because the profits of the organisation are hinged directly on a lot of the work they do.”
Attracting talent isn’t just about slapping an attractive salary on an ad and listing all your benefits. Strategic recruiters are playing a much longer game, says Bradfield.
“Some of the best employers are running very smart employer brand campaigns that are enticing you to start learning more about their organisation every time you’re on a platform like LinkedIn.”
Their employer branding teams are analysing current talent drivers – be that learning opportunities, social cultures or emerging trends such as the four-day work week – and creating content around that.
“Purpose is one you’ll see used in a lot of EVP messaging. They’ll say, ‘We are sustainable and look after the environment.’ Everyone does that though, so it’s not really differentiating. What some employers do really well is tell the stories of their people – stories that hit the emotional heartstrings of potential talent.
“These stories are usually positioned with a narrative that aligns to the person who is listening. And they might not even know it.”
That might be targeting recent graduates with the story of a young employee who moved through a company’s graduate program and is now managing their own team, or it might be a story about how a new father was able to take up a generous parental leave policy, targeting candidates with young children.
“If organisations out there want to change the game through talent, there’s a significant advantage in [global mobility]. It’s completely under-leveraged.” Michael Bradfield, Director of Talent Acquisition – Global Tech, Digital and D&A, adidas
“You’re being drip-fed information that you might not even be conscious of, but it’s enticing you to start considering career opportunities in these companies. This means [a candidate’s] knowledge of these companies is steadily increasing, and so is their emotional attachment.”
When job ads go up, people feel a sense of alignment to the brand and are more likely to apply.
“There’s so much smart stuff that goes on in the background. That’s what some companies are doing really well. They are clarifying a really smart employee value proposition that’s emotive and authentic.”
The expectations of talent have shifted dramatically over the past 10 years or so. Candidates are seeking more information about companies and making much more considered decisions before deciding to jump ship.
“And there’s a tonne of information online. People still go to Glassdoor to look at ratings and stuff like that, but the top companies get on the front foot. They don’t want you to seek the information. They’ll push the information to you.”
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