Australia still a global laggard in talent practices: The Netherlands #1

LinkedIn and PWC have recently trumpeted that Australia is the world's worst country for effective white collar recruitment and retention practices due to 23% of new hires quitting their job within 12 months of starting. Our closest cultural cousins, the USA and the UK, were far better with 15% and 12% respectively. 

This information is taken from research undertaken by PWC in analysing the 277 million professionals on LinkedIn as well as 2600 employers and then reported in the white paper Adapt to Survive

The centrepoint of the paper is a concept called Talent Adaptability. This concept is explained in the report: 

The capacity of a market to match supply and demand efficiently depends on the ability and willingness of employers and employees to adapt to changing circumstances and align skills with available opportunities. If this alignment is less than perfect, a mismatch occurs and optimum productivity can't be reached. 

There are two essential ingredients to adaptability. First the ability of employers to look differently at sources of talent. 

This means investigating new geographies and sectors as sources of new talent as well as investing in existing employees, equipping them with the necessary skills and motivating them to adapt to meet new challenges. Secondly of course, this requires willing individuals who are prepared to embrace change and apply their skills somewhere new. In order to assess adaptability in a particular market we need to look at both sides of the equation. 

The report has assessed eleven countries on their respective talent adaptability and provided a Talent Adaptability Score out of 100 (the recruitment and retention practices ranking where Australia ranked bottom, as mentioned above, is just one component of this Score). 

The Netherlands ranked highest with a score of 83. China ranked lowest with a score of 23 and Australia ranked 6th with a score of 52. The UK ranked 2nd (67) and the US was 5th (57). 

I won't go into the various reasons behind the rankings. You can read those yourself in the full report, if you are interested. 

On the face of it, I think the score for Australia is probably fair. From my vantage point I think employers have a lot to answer for with respect to lack of flexibility. Unfortunately, I think, my industry, the recruitment industry is just as much in the spotlight on this issue as any other industry. 

How many of these recruitment agencies have put even a small amount of resources into constructing a half decent careers page

How many recruitment agencies insist on ‘recruitment experience' as an essential part of the selection criteria

How many recruitment agencies use 457 visas to recruit their own staff? 

As much as we criticise our clients for being inflexible, I think many of us in this industry should be taking a long, hard look at ourselves before we point the finger elsewhere. 

What does the report recommend? In this blog I won't go into the recommendations for individuals (Future-proof your career), educators (Offer courses and job training that produce adaptable people) and governments (Create the climate for adaptability) but it's worth noting here what the report recommends for employers. 

Of the seven strategic imperatives for employers, the three that I believe are the most relevant are:

1. Use talent analytics to identify the skills that are central to the business strategy today and in the future: Challenge HR to prove its worth (and earn its seat at the boardroom table) by providing the insight that identifies ways to encourage adaptability, improves hiring and unlocks competitive advantage. 

My comment: How many Australian companies genuinely understand (through objective assessment tools) the key competencies that drive performance in the business currently, and will be necessary to drive it into the future? I am prepared to bet very, very few. Two years ago I asked the Head of Recruitment at an ASX Top 10 company whether they used competency maps for recruitment and development. ‘No' was the answer. I was flabbergasted. 

2. Balance hard and soft skills: Test for an absence of highly transferable attributes such as communication, problem-solving and collaboration skills. Recognise and nurture these attributes through tailored programmes such as coaching and mentoring, negotiation and conflict resolution training. 

My comment: The key word here is ‘test'. As very little benchmarking is done in Australian companies, there is significant ignorance amongst employers as to how much improvement could, potentially, be achieved in employee performance through targeted coaching and training. 

3. Broaden and balance your recruitment strategies: Improve internal mobility - develop and nurture the people you already have - alongside external recruitment strategies that look wider and further for new talent. 

My comment: Innovation in Australian recruitment strategies is very much the exception, not the norm. Given how relatively poorly recruitment conferences are attended and how little time, if any, is given in HR conferences to the topic of recruitment, it appears that a majority of Australian HR/Recruitment leaders are content to do the same old things each year. 

We would do well to consider, given how many advantages Australia already enjoys in the global economy, that there are still massive untapped opportunities to dramatically improve our economic performance through better talent practices.

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