All on for young and old

WITH younger staff increasingly seeing relatively frequent job changes as desirable, older workers tempted by early retirement or self-employment, and unemployment at record lows, recruiting and keeping good employees is harder than ever before.

Three reports released in March throw light on the motivations of Australian workers and job-seekers.

Hudson's 20:20 Series report found that 56% of all employees were actively or passively looking for work and 60% are dissatisfied with their current roles.

The first thing employers wanting to keep staff must do is ensure that they are paying competitive salaries. But that in itself isn't enough.

"Employees are finding themselves in a position where they have more negotiating power than ever before," Hudson Australia/New Zealand managing director Gary Lazzarotto said.

"As a result employees are demanding more from their employer. If the employer doesn't deliver, employees are happy to walk or, at the very least, begin looking for a new role."

One of the keys to attracting and retaining staff is work-life balance, according to Hudson.

"While money comes into the equation, it seems that people aren't willing to put up with an unhappy work environment or endure too much intrusion into their life, just for a bigger pay packet," Hudson's report said.

Other research, conducted by McCrindle Research for employee assistance organisation Converge International, also found that work-life balance was important. Indeed, it emphasised this even more than the Hudson study.

"Work-life balance is today the most influential factor in staff retention and engagement," Converge said.

"More than 80 percent of staff state that achieving work-life balance is key to their career. Yet 60 percent of workers are dissatisfied with their current work-life balance."

Converge said business must address the fact that work is not as central to new generations as it was to baby boomers.

But Workplace 2012, a study by economic modelling company Econtech for Mercer Consulting, makes the case that employers should not only focus on how to attract and retain Generation Y staff.

This report finds it is the 55-plus workforce that is growing fastest, and employers must be willing to offer older workers flexibility to maintain productivity.

Mercer retirement business head Tim Jenkins said the research highlights the urgency for employers to act immediately.

"In four short years there will be close to a quarter of a million more workers aged 55-plus in the Australian labour force and assumptions about what an employer should expect from an employee, and vice versa, have to change," he said.

"To take pressure off wage increases, which comes with this increased demand, employers have to hold onto older workers about to exit the workforce."

Australian employers must redefine how daily and weekly work can be managed and how it is remunerated in order to hold onto older workers, maintain productivity and keep downward pressure on wages that, according to the Econtech research, will rise at an average annual rate of 4.2% between now and 2012.

"This is not about changing a few HR policies," Jenkins said.

"There needs to be a shift in the mindset of how, and for how long, Australians work. Balance in the workforce is no longer just about men and women - it's about the young and old.

"The stigma around part-time work not equating to a career or a promotion, or part-time workers not being as valued as full-time workers has to change, and employers are going to have to create more part-time roles as career roles."

However you look at the situation, recruiting and retaining staff is becoming more and more difficult.

Hudson's Lazzarotto said smart employers will sell their company to target candidates in much the same way that they market their products and services to consumers.

"In order to attract talent, highlight your company's points of differentiation using the factors that will appeal to the individual and focus on areas such as company culture, values and approach to staff rather than focusing on the company's global presence, size or consumer reputation," he said.

First published in the April issue of Petroleum magazine

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