7 Creative Ways to Overcome Australia’s Workforce Shortage

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3.12.2021 Business tips

7 Creative Ways to Overcome Australia’s Workforce Shortage

Don’t let labour shortages stifle your business's growth.

Does your business have enough staff on the payroll to get through the festive season? If not, you’re not alone — restaurants and cafes, bars and pubs, and retailers are crying out for workers. As labour shortages reach dire new heights, businesses having enough staff to ride out the holidays could just be the biggest Christmas miracle of all.

Faced with a veritable economic hibernation over the last two years, merchants in Victoria and New South Wales in particular are having to get back to business without one key resource: a full team. Combined with fractured supply chains and spending urgency, businesses all over Australia are more desperate than ever to attract workers — with bigger businesses offering eye-watering wages and expensive perks that smaller businesses simply can’t compete with.

So, if you can’t find more workers, what can you do? Keep reading to learn more about Australia’s labour shortage, and discover some creative solutions you can implement to get your business through the Christmas season shorthanded.

What is a labour shortage?

Simply put, a “labour shortage” means there are more jobs going than workers to fill the positions. This particular phenomenon has been brought about by Australia’s pandemic recovery, however the concept itself isn’t new. Major economic events, such as the Global Financial Crisis, have triggered labour shortages before — as has generational retirement and geographic population shifts.

The issue that has sparked today’s labour shortage is, of course, the pandemic. Over the last two years, an alarmingly large number of retail and hospitality businesses have been forced to let workers go to minimise financial pressure. Now, those same businesses are being forced to cut business hours and services because they don’t have the staff required to trade as normal.

Alarmingly, the current labour shortage has been ongoing for some time — and small Australian businesses are paying the price. In March 2021,  42% of small businesses reported having job openings they couldn’t fill. Fast forward six months, and the situation has become increasingly dire. Recent data from Seek shows job ads across Australia have risen to the highest levels in two years. 

Suffice to say, Australian businesses want to grow — but a lack of workers is stopping them.

How are businesses dealing with the labour shortage? 

The severity of the shortage is hurting businesses of all shapes and sizes, and small business owners in particular are feeling the pressure. With countless positions open across Australia, small business owners are struggling to move at the speed required to secure workers — most likely because they have their hands full, keeping the wheels turning. 

Another reason is that small business owners are unable to match the incentives offered by big businesses. One company going to extreme lengths to source labour ahead of the holidays is Australia Venue Co, which operates more than 170 hospitality venues across Australia. This festive season, they’ve launched an ambitious recruitment drive to lure 500 hospitality workers from the UK with promises of free flights and $1,000 vouchers — perks a small business owner simply cannot compete with. 

Similarly, some bigger businesses are offering paid training and $1,000 bonuses to workers who stay for more than three months — while a Sydney restaurant is recruiting dishwashers at $90 per hour

So, short of emptying your pockets to grow your team, what can small businesses do to battle the labour shortage? 

How to combat a shrinking workforce

1. Raise your wages

Rest assured, you don’t need to raise your wages to a whopping $90 an hour. However, boosting your rate is a good place to start. Some workers feel they are being paid better by unemployment programs than by businesses. Similarly, others remain uneasy about returning to work and don’t feel like low wages offset the risk.

The secret to increasing hourly rates without hurting your bottom line is to look for savings elsewhere. Are there any costs you could cut, such as in supplies, services, or advertising? Can you raise your prices? Could you cull any unpopular services or products, or explore some additional revenue streams that aren’t labour dependant?

The important thing is to think of raising wages as an investment in your workers, and in the future growth of your business.

2. Introduce work perks 

That investment could also take the form of appealing incentives. These don’t have to be four-figure checks or bonuses, but instead something as simple as a free meal during their shift or an employee discount.

In essence, if you can’t afford to boost wages, get creative. Perhaps there’s training costs you could cover, or social events you could host for your team.  One of the biggest incentives at your disposal could even be converting part-timers to salaried employees, who’ll then have leave and super benefits. You could also consider performance bonuses to incentivise productivity.

The trick is making your workers feel valued. When they do, they’re likely to not only work harder, but stay with your business for longer.

3. Introduce flexible hours

The pandemic has highlighted the value of a good work-life balance. After spending more time at home with family, up to 60% of Australians don’t want to return to business as usual. Instead, they're seeking greater flexibility.

By proactively accommodating these needs, you increase the appeal of your open positions. Something as simple as a smart employee scheduling app can do all the heavy lifting when it comes to factoring in staff preferences for shift scheduling, accommodating desired hours and times of day to keep staff happy.

4. Cast a wider net

If you’ve been rehashing the same old job description every time there’s an open position in your business, consider reviewing it. Are there any skills you can teach on-site? Immediately, you’re opening the job up to the thousands of new apprentices — whose training could be largely supported by government assistance.

Similarly, if you’re turning to the same hiring channels every time, consider exploring some new ones — such as social media, staffing agencies or recruitment tools. Something as simple as a video ad on Facebook or Instagram can be infinitely more effective. Candidates spend 316% more time considering a job description when it’s in a video format.

5. Make applying effortless

Sometimes it’s the application process itself that’s turning away potential hires. Make sure your job ad and position description includes key details, such as duties, desired requirements and pay rate. That way, potential applicants can see — at a glance — whether they'd be a good fit for the role. A clear job description minimises admin on both sides. 

Similarly, it pays to carefully consider your method of application. Instead of asking candidates to apply via Seek or email, you could get creative. It could be as simple as scanning a QR code on a poster and following the prompts. 

6. Create a supportive culture

As businesses adjust to the new way of operating, front-of-house retail and hospitality workers are having to bear the brunt of some of the most difficult and contentious adjustments. This means employers need to be more supportive and understanding than ever. 

With the introduction of masks, mandatory check-ins and vaccination mandates, many workers now need to be rule enforcers. This is where it’s important that they feel confident in holding their ground.

After all, job satisfaction can only be gained from feelings of support, respect and value. 

7. Optimise your current team 

Labour shortages threaten to stunt business growth. Merchants are left with little choice but to overwork themselves and their current employees, or reduce their ability to meet customer needs.

One way to avoid curbing business growth in the face of a labour shortage is to optimise your current workforce through the introduction of clever technology that automates time consuming tasks and streamlines your most critical functions.

One tool your staff use every day is your EFTPOS Terminal, so it needs to be user-friendly. Zeller Terminal is designed for swift transactions, enabling your staff to take payment from a customer in just a few seconds. Each piece of functionality — from refunds, to MOTO payments and surcharging — has been purposefully designed to be as simple to use as possible.

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As a business owner, your staff are your most valuable asset. If you can ensure your experienced workers feel satisfied, supported, empowered and valued, you're more likely to retain them. And, by embracing new technologies, you can take some of the administrative burden off your team — giving them the time and energy to tackle the more important tasks.

Now that you’re aware of all the ways you can combat the labour shortage and maximise the potential of the holiday season ahead, it’s time to optimise every other aspect of your business for future growth. Sign up to the Zeller Business Blog to cash in on valuable insights sent straight to your inbox.