A business’ guide to recruiting and retaining staff

The art of recruitment has become a minefield, and it is not feasible for all businesses to hire expert help. 

That’s why CCIQ and the Brisbane Business Hub brought the experts to you for a highly interactive session on the Queensland workforce shortage. The session aimed to provide businesses with support and resources to address the shortage and improve their position.

The panel – including Michael Merlo, Policy Advisor of CCIQ; Emma Rhoades, Recruitment Consultant of Beaumont People; and Michael O’Brien, Senior Industrial Relations Specialist of CCIQ – covered how businesses can do a better job of recruiting and retaining staff and managing HR and industrial relations risks.

For those who couldn’t attend the event, here are some of the key takeaways.

From left to right, Michael O'Brien, Emma Rhoades and Michael Merlo, in front of a CCIQ banner.

Where are the workers? 

While the June quarter of CCIQ’s Pulse Survey report showed an overall improvement in business performance compared to the March quarter, Michael Merlo said this solid performance was heavily undercut by overwhelming cost pressures. 

“Business operational costs and labour costs reached a record high in the June quarter,” he said, “with 83 per cent of businesses reporting an increase in operating costs and 72 per cent reporting an increase in labour costs. This led to an erosion in business confidence.”

Additionally, 77 per cent of businesses said they are facing issues recruiting and retaining staff, with the most common factors impacting businesses being: A lack of job applications (79 per cent), applicants not having the required skills or qualifications (66.5 per cent) and pay conditions (38.3 per cent). 

Michael Merlo presenting at a lecturn

“When asked how businesses planned to address these issues over the next three months, 62.5 per cent of respondents indicated they were planning on increasing wages or salaries for the jobs required in order to improve recruiting and retention,” Merlo said. 

“This, on top of already record high labour costs and direct wage costs, is a significant constraint on business growth.

“While a majority of respondents are planning on increasing wages and salaries, this is obviously something that not all businesses can do, and we are seeing a significant proportion of the Queensland business community exploring alternative options.”

Other methods reported to be utilised by Queensland businesses include rearranging job roles and responsibilities, retraining existing staff to fill job gaps, and outsourcing work to a third-party. 

Retain first, recruit second

Emma Rhoades said retaining staff is much more cost effective for businesses than recruiting them. She suggested looking at the main reasons employees leave, and addressing them as part of your retention strategy.

In her experience, these reasons include:

  • Seeking more money
  • Lacking career growth, responsibilities and challenges
  • Wanting more meaningful work
  • Organisational changes
  • Not feeling valued and appreciated
Emma Rhoades presenting at a lecturn

However, she emphasised that if you do have to recruit, you should focus on your employee value proposition to attract the right candidates.

“You need to ask yourself: Why would people work here? And why would people choose to work here over the competition?” she said. 

“You need to have strong answers to make people want to switch roles, especially when companies are offering more incentives than ever for retention.

“If you’re not selling your company – in your branding, on your website and in your job ads – you become vanilla. If you’re not selling yourself, they will gloss over you.”

For more information on nailing your employee value proposition, you can read Jaz da Silva of HR consultancy firm Relate’s tips here

Avoid recruitment traps

For business owners tackling recruitment themselves, Michael O’Brien shared some recruitment traps to avoid when hiring to avoid getting caught up in industrial relations risks. 

Michael O'Brien talking into a microphone

Avoid requests for contracting

More than ever, we are seeing people applying for permanent roles and once successfully receiving an offer, negotiating to be a contractor. 

“Sham contracting is becoming a real risk with more and more sham contractors coming out of the woodwork, fueled by the gig economy,” O’Brien said.

“If you do find yourself in this situation, you have two options: Say no, or seek professional assistance putting that arrangement together.”

Ensure working rights

“If you hire someone that is not a citizen or who doesn’t have work rights in this country, you can get caught having to pay their return flights back to their home countries,” O’Brien said.  

Before hiring anyone, ensure they have the right to work in Australia. O’Brien suggested using their passport details and VEVO to find out visa details and work privileges.

Check qualifications and ID

Ensure those you are hiring have the right qualifications and ID needed for the job. O’Brien said it creates business risk and costs having new staff turning up on their first day without the required qualifications and documentation. 

“For example, if someone needs to drive for work, see their original drivers licence before they start,” he said. 

Determine your social media policy

Before starting the hiring process, O’Brien recommended deciding as a company if you’re going to use social media as a recruitment tool. 

“My preference is to avoid using social media as a recruitment tool,” O’Brien said, “However, if you choose to use it, have a policy about how it will be used and what is going to be done about anything that comes to light.”

Be aware of discrimination laws 

Discrimination is a huge risk in recruiting staff. Those involved should be trained on the laws around discrimination, and your company policies with regards to it before you start interviewing. 

“You can’t ask an interviewee about things like their gender, marital status, pregnancy and breastfeeding, physical characteristics, disability, injuries and illness, family and carer’s responsibilities, sexual and gender identity, race and nationality, religious beliefs and trade union memberships,” O’Brien said. 

“Before interviewing, know what you can ask, when you can ask it, and what to do with the information once you’ve gotten it.

“Injury and illness is the number one risk for discrimination in recruitment. You can only ask about injury or illness if it’s related to the inherent requirements of the job.” 

Know what you’re getting into when hiring family and friends

Hiring loved ones, while common practice, can cause lots of issues when personal and professional boundaries collide.

“Sometimes you can’t avoid hiring friends and family, especially in small business,” O’Brien said. “In this case, always have a documented conflict of interest policy in place around how you are going to act, who is involved in what decisions and what the expectations are. 

“When a conflict happens or there are different sets of rules for different staff, it can affect work dynamics, culture and your overall business. 

Take the appropriate precautions when hiring staff with a criminal history

As a company, put a policy in place around hiring staff with a criminal history. 

“You can only say no to someone with a criminal history if it is related to the job – for example, if the job is in finance and an interviewee has a history of money laundering,” O’Brien said.

“If a criminal history is disclosed or revealed, it is best to have a policy already in place as to how you are going to make a decision, who is going to make the decision and how you are going to engage with the applicant about the decision.

“If you don’t have an existing policy in place and you say no, you will have a huge risk on your hands.”

Unpaid trials are illegal

If you bring someone in to work on your business, regardless of the period of time, it is illegal not to pay them.

“A trial has to be demonstrating tasks that are not being used for commercial gain,” O’Brien said. “For example, if you bring someone in to trial making coffee, you can not then sell the coffee that they make.”

With more businesses looking to hire good staff and needing to keep those good staff on, it is important to educate yourself on best practices to minimise your exposure to business risk.  

Interested in upcoming Brisbane Business Hub events and workshops? Please visit businessinbrisbane.com.au/workshops.

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Brisbane Business Hub

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