Invest Wollongong, a partnership between the NSW Government, Wollongong City Council and the University of Wollongong (UOW), has launched with a clear mission: to make Wollongong known nationally as a superior location for talent acquisition, staff retention and corporate wellness.
Invest Wollongong is focused on implementing practical programs that tangibly support HR managers working in, and recruiters working for, businesses considering the thriving region as a place to call home; where staff retention is a priority, the talent pool is plentiful, and a work-life balance is the rule rather than the exception.
Wollongong’s skilled workforce has often been referred to as one of the main reasons many business owners, executives and entrepreneurs have moved their business from Sydney or internationally to Wollongong. HR managers and recruiters have access to a total of 1.2 million workers within one hour of the vibrant city, in fields as diverse as coders, software developers, product managers, marketers and accountants – ideal for firms in professional services and the tech industry – all the way to manufacturing, engineering and industrial employees – ideal for businesses in advanced manufacturing.
Interestingly, Wollongong’s large commuter pool makes talent acquisition easy for new businesses. Currently 23,000 people, offering a good mix of skills in both white and blue-collar occupations, travel to Sydney for work. Almost two-thirds work in white-collar occupations, including nearly 9,000 managers and professionals. There are also 8,300 blue-collar workers who are commuting, including technicians and trades workers, sales and business development, machinery operators, drivers and labourers.
All this before we even mention the region’s constant flow of graduates from the University of Wollongong (UOW), many of whom would love to work locally if they had the opportunity. “A business based in a major city has a myriad of fellow employers who are looking for quality graduates to enter their companies. On the flipside, businesses here who employ graduates have a large number of applications and are literally being spoilt for choice,” comments Mark Grimson, spokesperson for Invest Wollongong.
Ben Hobby, CEO of itree, a Wollongong business that develops intelligent software for government agencies and regulators in Australia and New Zealand and employs almost 100 locally, says recruitment has been good at the graduate and junior level for his business. “We have a strong relationship with the UOW; specifically, the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences. As an Awarded Employer of Choice at the Australian Business Awards, we are also fortunate to receive a large number of unsolicited expressions of interest from skilled professionals.”
Retaining staff is always a high priority for any business, considering the financial and cultural impacts associated with a change in personnel, especially at the senior level or after a long tenure.
Wollongong proudly boasts a low staff turnover rate of 8 per cent 1 which is half the turnover rate across Australia of 19 per cent.
Renee Whiteside, People and Culture Leader at Mercer Administration Services, the administration services business of a global professional services company who employ close to 550 in Wollongong says the business benefits from low turnover rates as employees have a genuine work-life balance: “In Wollongong, Mercer employees have the ability to pick up our children from school, take them to extracurricular activities, and still be home and have some dinner on the table by 7 o’clock at night. Most of my industry peers that work in Sydney don’t always have the luxury of having that family time. There’s a general sense of purpose and meaning in life here too, whether that’s caring for an elderly parent or having young children. And, equally being able to sustain a hobby on the side, whether they like studying, triathlons, golfing, or whatever that is important to them.”
Productivity is also a critical component of business and it stands to reason that happier and refreshed employees are more likely to deliver high quality and high volume work. According to independent research, ‘Quality of Life’ is one of Wollongong’s top performing areas, 2 largely due to employers being able to provide their employees with enhanced work-life balance due to shorter commute times.
David Laing is a Senior Principal at Cardno – a 6,000-person global business who this year celebrates 75 years of delivering infrastructure, environment and social projects in 130 countries. David is one of the senior managers responsible for 120 staff in the local Wollongong office who says being local has changed Cardno’s employee value proposition.
“Our Wollongong Office allows us to turn up the dial and attract new staff who want more than just an attractive salary package. We pitch it to candidates that they can experience exciting projects from Port Hedland to Port Arthur all from a modern local office which is a short trip from home. We offer flexible hours so you can start living again and experience the advantages of this great region. Throw in the affordable homes, good schools, a great university, beaches, rainforests and you have the ultimate salary package. Many skilled people in Sydney are fed up with the congestion and chaos so choose Wollongong for a better lifestyle and we get the benefit by employing them. It is our real competitive advantage.”
Invest Wollongong’s new website www.investwollongong.com.au includes a wealth of information for HR managers and recruiters seeking more information about a potential business move to Wollongong. Please visit www.investwollongong.com.au or send an email to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ‘2019 Knowledge Services Capability Study’, Fifth Quadrant – Wollongong Analysis: Knowledge Services Capabilities Research Summary https://www.advantagewollongong.com.au/assets/Resources/Wollongong-Services-Capability-Assessment-Summary-Final-3.pdf.
- Domain 2019 – State of the market report, June quarter 2019.