Seek.com recently released a report outlining “Australia’s top 20 hardest to fill roles”. The findings are based on the number of applications received per role, where roles that received the least amount of applications were deemed harder to fill. The reduced amount of applications increases the difficulty for recruiters and hiring managers. The report suggests that 19 of those 20 hardest to fill roles are within the legal (internal staff rather than outsourcing expertise) and healthcare/medical sectors.

The roles mentioned could be deemed as specialised, with positions such as “Taxation Law” and “Nursing – Paediatric and PICU”, and an average salary of $101,000 across all roles. Many of these roles also require specific qualifications. Yet when seeing the report heading, my thoughts immediately went to agriculture and whether roles within the sector would, or should, make the list. Agriculture has been facing a severe shortage of staff for many years now, even with short term visa options available to businesses.

Consideration must be placed on the quality of candidates rather than numbers received. Seek.com is but one of a number of tools used to attract candidates for agricultural roles, and the report potentially doesn’t represent every industry sector best. However, the report provides insight as to how the legal and healthcare industries are addressing the issues faced in attracting staff, which provides universal guidance for all industries, including agriculture.

Firstly, businesses are placing high value on understanding the motivations of candidates and addressing these through changes to working conditions. Law, traditionally considered highly inflexible in nature, has understood the need to offer flexibility and has moved to providing independent short term contract type arrangements enabling the workforce to work, when required, filling immediate needs. This new model, referred to as the ‘Gig Economy’ model offers greater opportunity for businesses to get the right staff at the right moment, yet requires businesses to plan and manage resources well, offering clear tasks, guidelines and timelines.

Agricultural production roles also face similar challenges with livestock interaction and management decisions required daily. While traditional roles offer some flexibility, there could be a need to explore employment structures and human resources differently, with specialised contractors servicing production systems as required into the future.

Secondly, both the legal and healthcare industries are placing considerable time and resources into career development for employees, consistently providing value through educational programs, training resources and development opportunities. These activities motivate staff, assist in creating loyalty and define meaning in the work undertaken. Encouraging and including all staff in group activities, formal education opportunities and specialised training courses that increase skill sets are all vital components for driving motivation, job satisfaction and loyalty. This is the same for agriculture. We’ve previously heard employers question the value of spending time and money training others just for them to leave. We believe it’s better to have them leave more skilled, than to have them stay, and not be properly equipped for the role.

As a company, we talk with hundreds of job seekers every year and can confirm that money is rarely the reason people leave jobs. It may be a factor (and is often over emphasised), but is never the top reason. Offering people the right money is important, but more emphasis needs to be placed on understanding the motivation and satisfaction levels of the employees as well as valuing them enough to invest in their skills and qualifications.

Meridian Ag work with employers to create performance plans, review performance management systems and act as an external HR Manager for businesses. To discuss how this service could be integrated into your business and to understand your employees motivation and satisfaction levels call 03 5341 6100.

Seek Report

Article by Ben Reeve