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Marketing to win talent quest

The skills shortage remains a pressing employment issue in Western Australia amid record low unemployment figures released last week by Employment Protection Minister John Bowler. National employment figures for January showed WA led the nation with an unemployment rate of 4 per cent, down 0.2 per cent from the previous month and 0.7 percentage points better than the January 2005 result. The figures are an obvious boon for the government and the state’s economy, which continues to prosper from the resources boom and major infrastructure projects. “There have now been 18 continuous months where WA employment has been high and the rate of unemployment has been at or below 5 per cent,” Mr Bowler said. These figures stack up particularly well against a national unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent in January. But amid the chest beating about employment and the economy, the issues of skills shortages remains a contentious issue in WA. In an environment where an Asian-led demand for natural resources has driven a massive growth in supporting infrastructure projects, the inevitable outcome has been a drain on the state’s labour pool. These conditions make it important for business to look at how it attracts, develops and retains people, and is something that was addressed in a recent survey by human resources specialist Hudson. Hudson recently launched a new employment branding practice and has undertaken extensive research into how companies market their employment experience.The survey’s overriding message was that business should adopt a marketing mentality to win the talent game. In essence, the report said that, while companies are proficient in promoting themselves and their brand, little attention is paid to promoting the company’s employment proposition or ‘product’. Hudson WA general manager Neville Andrews said it was imperative that companies understood their employment brand. “Employment branding is key to attracting and retaining talent, but there is often a disconnect between the two, where people are promised one thing on joining a company but the reality proves to be different,” he said. Further, Mr Andrews said, there was often a disconnect between employers’ perception of the workplace and what staff actually think, which led to a decline in morale and low retention rates. The national survey of 410 senior human resource professionals and 1,024 employees produced some interesting results, including that 42 per cent of HR professionals acknowledge they do not have the right value proposition to attract and retain the talent they need. Also, 53 per cent of employees did not believe their current employer provided them with a clear sense of why their organisation was a great place to work, and 55 per cent of employees did not think that their current employer had delivered on its ‘brand promise’. On a positive note, 86 per cent of HR professionals said they were committed to strengthening their company’s core value proposition for employees. Brands such as Woodside and BHP Billiton are well recognised and are large employers within the state, and these factors alone draw people to them for employment opportunities. All companies need to provide a firm commitment upfront on the employment proposition on offer, and importantly employers must deliver on that promise, the report says. To be effective with this strategy requires HR and marketing departments to work closely together. Employment branding is fast becoming a must have for organisations and is difficult to ignore, given the state’s current skills shortage and the link between having the right people and delivering business performance.

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