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Three under-utilised labour pools

Whilst I don’t believe there is a “magic pill” to fix the skills shortages and we need to take a longer-term view of buy, build, bench, borrow and bot strategies, I do believe there are underutilised sectors of our society that are being overlooked.

Watching the latest Miriam Margolyes show “Australia Unmasked”, I was saddened by the statistic about ageism: 50% of the population are ageist and nearly 90% of Australians agree that ageism exists in Australia.

Which then brings me to the first untapped labour pool: older Australians. When the Australian Human Rights Commission data* tells you that if you’re over 55 you’re going to find it more difficult getting paid work – we have a huge untapped pool of skilled workers who are being overlooked and whose skills are going to waste.

There are challenges faced by pensioners in particular who have restrictions on the number of hours they can work without reduction in payment, which the government needs to review. In addition, many older workers have their own requirements for flexibility. Whether it’s to spend more time with grandchildren, more time on hobbies or just more time enjoying their life, flexibility is a major motivator which is not being offered in many roles and needs to be standard for every organisation.

Our second untapped labour pool are migrants. My publishing coordinator is immensely qualified and has many transferrable skills, however when she arrived in Australia she struggled to find work. The occupations in demand list doesn’t include her skillset and yet, (according to Shopify) books and ebooks are one of the fastest growing markets.

Whilst she is now employed in the publishing field, (thank goodness, she’s been a backbone to publishing my book “Offshoring or Shitshoring”) her visa status initially was the number one reason for her rejection from roles including the retail and hospitality jobs she applied for.

With changes to the temporary visa thanks to COVID, the 6 month work limitation has been temporarily relaxed until 31 December 2022, which means you are missing out on a whole host of very skilled employees who you can now employ for up to 12 months.

To enable employment of additional immigrants, not just holiday makers, the government needs to make some adjustments:

  • amend the occupations in demand list,

  • review the visa system to enable pathways to permanency,

  • provide flexibility for critical skills and different talent segments "just in time", and

  • fill their own shortages to cope with the backlog in visa processing.

But you do need to ask yourself if your own prejudices or assumptions about working holiday makers or visa-holders is preventing you from tapping into this labour pool? Let’s be honest, most people are not “lifers” at companies any more and 12 months can be a long time in many organisations.

And that segues nicely into our third untapped labour pool: workers with transferrable skills. My publishing coordinator is a classic example of this. Her skills in the publishing, marketing and writing fields are easily transferrable to any number of roles, including customer service retail and hospitality jobs, and yet she was overlooked because she didn’t have specific experience in these industries.

During the pandemic, many industries that declined lost great employees permanently, as those transferrable skills were utilised in industries who took a different lens to their requirements and offered upskilling or cross-skilling in technical areas and took advantage of the human or soft skills that those employees brought with them.

Can you utilise workers who don’t have the specifics but have enough to build from?
What are the absolute must-have technical capabilities you require and what are the behaviours you want to encourage?

Businesses today need to look at different ways of engaging and retaining the skills needed for their long-term viability. I challenge you to look at the specifics of your work design – what are the activities that you need your team to undertake to deliver your customer outcomes and can that be done via alternative resourcing options: short-term, part-time, casual, subcontract, on-hired, remote and/or outsourced labour?

Resourcing is like dating and marriage – it’s all about tolerance. What is the 80% you absolutely must have, and what is the 20% you can shoulder without your business imploding.

What assumptions do you need to shake to utilise these untapped labour markets? Is it ageism, racism, trust or other biases that are preventing you from taking advantage of the knowledge and skills available in different guises to the ones you’re used to?

Can you change the labour demand requirements to simplify the supply challenges?

Understand those untapped markets, adjust your expectations, adjust your preconceived notions of what you think you need when you’re recruiting or promoting or seconding. Open your eyes to who you have in front of you.

If you need support finding alternative resourcing solutions for your organisation or want to assess the long-term viability of your workforce plan click here.

Jude's new book "Offshoring or Shitshoring" is launched and is filled with tips and tricks, as well as detailed implementation activities for offshoring, outsourcing and centralising or de-centralising activities. It will help you design your organisation to optimise your human capital and implement the structural and process changes you need to sustain and grow your business.


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