24/10/2006 - 22:00

Costs up during boom times

24/10/2006 - 22:00

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Staff retention and costs issues associated with the state’s protracted economic growth were among the key issues raised by panellists at the breakfast forum.

Costs up during boom times

Staff retention and costs issues associated with the state’s protracted economic growth were among the key issues raised by panellists at the breakfast forum.

For Trailcraft’s Brett Martin, the resources boom has resulted in skilled employees leaving the business for higher paying employment in the mining industry.

“We have got welders who are paid $50,000 to $60,000 a year and they are going up to the mines to earn $100,000 where all they are doing is driving a truck, so that has been tough,” he said. 

iiNet’s Michael Malone said the retention of staff proved to be more of a concern within specific departments, such as head office, compared with the company’s technical department and customer service area.

“Technical staff and engineers are motivated by the opportunity to do something that no-one else is doing in the sector,” he said.

“We have been fortunate in that we have been retaining excellent people in that area.

“Areas like finance and human resources…that’s where we have found it very difficult because we fish in the same pond as the mining companies.”

Losing skilled employees in the mining sector and the costs associated with replacing them was a key concern for Sally Malay’s Peter Harold.

“For a couple of months you may have to use a contractor, and if you advertise you have to pay the head-hunter 30 per cent of their salary, and then all your time is wasted trying to gear that person up to speed with the company’s culture,” Mr Harold said. 

The rampant rise in occupancy costs in Perth CBD as a result of the boom has affected accounting firm Gooding Pervan.

“If you work in the CBD… it is an issue,” Gooding Pervan partner Suzan Pervan said.

“We have just had to take over the other half of the floor of the Quadrant building where we have completed a fit out which cost $600,000 for half a floor.”

The panellists also discussed the generation gap and the impact it was having on today’s workforce.

There was no holding back for Argonaut’s Eddie Rigg, who claims younger generations lack the desire to excel in the workplace. 

“WA has a reputation for people going out there and doing things, and I think we have a generation out there who are not driven,” he said.

“They just live their life through events, whether it’s the world cup or whatever.

“[They] have never done it hard and they don’t respect another person’s dollar.”

This view was echoed by Ms Pervan, who said it was a challenge to attract and keep younger staff to remain at the firm.

“Generation Y are not on the same wave length [to our generation],” she said. “That leads to a longer term issue for us and that is succession planning and how you deal with people who are not really thinking about the future in terms of responsibility.”

Mr Malone, however, was more forgiving of members of the younger generation, saying they should make the most of the opportunities available to them.

“Why not make hay while the sun shines?” he said. “You have got changes right now, the money is there and you have some opportunities. Ten years from now you’ll be locked down with family and times won’t be as good, so why not take advantage of it today?”

The resources boom has also had positive impacts for the likes of Trailcraft, with Mr Martin saying production for its boats and caravans has been boosted by the higher levels of disposable income available.

“[The retiring baby boomers] will also be terrific for our industry,” he said. “We have got 200,000 people retiring for the next 10 years, so we have a very large chunk moving forward to capitalise on our business,” he said.

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