17/08/2004 - 22:00

The trouble with staff

17/08/2004 - 22:00


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I hate to repeat myself week in and week out, but the skills shortage in Western Australia is looming as a major issue for this State.

I hate to repeat myself week in and week out, but the skills shortage in Western Australia is looming as a major issue for this State.

Every time we ask somebody if they are having trouble getting staff they confirm our worst fears: there aren’t enough people to do the work required if we want this State to maintain its economic-miracle status of seeming perpetual growth.

As I have said before, it’s not just labourers on the North West development sites that are hard to come by. There are shortages of engineers and other professionals which help ensure these major projects are constructed on home turf.

Look outside the resources sector and the problems are there, too.

Ask anyone who needs to employ people and they are crying out for good staff.

While this might be a boon for those of us who live here, especially those whose value has been inflated by the skills crisis, it could well be a short-term benefit.

The downside of this is that major projects are either cancelled or moved to other locations, reducing the flow-on effect and slowly drying up the bonus work that we all get – from selling flowers through to professional services such as the law or accounting.

This is not a problem we have invented to sell more newspapers.

It is very real and is being discussed in boardrooms around the State.

WA’s resource sector may be the goose that laid the golden egg, especially for the nation’s coffers, but we still have to attend to its needs.

Olympics in the workday mix

Hands sup whose business has had a productivity impact from the Olympics.

It’s hard to imagine that, with the Thorpedo blasting down the lanes at rather inconvenient hours of the night, most workplaces aren’t suffering some form of swimming fatigue. You can probably smell the chlorine in the air.

Still, it could be worse. They could have been held in Sydney again with all those races going on during the day.

Perhaps the Olympics-induced work reduction syndrome (OWRS) is not such a bad thing given globalisation.

Since we are competing with each other, it’s probably more important to look at the relative OWRS impact, rather than the actual OWRS resulting from time lost in front of the box.

In other words, are the other guys getting it worse than we are?

I’d say so. And we can thank the most important people at the Olympics for that, the television networks.

Basically, the US networks dominate the timing and placement of the games, with a preference for a location in a handy timeframe that hits daytime viewing. Well done Europe for getting that right.

So when you are rubbing your eyes at 2am waiting for the medal ceremony and a bit of an anthem, spare a thought for the average US employer whose staff have 90 cable channels to distract them throughout the day.

Then again, you might think, what about those tired brains the next day?

I am not convinced this is a problem. Yes, the average Australian is a sports junkie – why else would a nation with the population of Shanghai send the 2nd largest team to Athens – but we are a parochial lot, which means we are trained in precise spectating, rather than the inefficient hit-and-miss variety of those who blunder into sport every four years.

Aussies aren’t interested in trampoling or jousting or whatever else the Olympics mezze (that’s a Greek-style cheese and savory  platter, for those yet to sample the delights of the Mediterranean) has to offer.

Mr and Mrs Australia want targeted injections of that winning feeling that comes from known heroes. They are happy to catch the surprises packages (women’s road racing medals) on the next day’s replays.

That means setting the alarm, catching the race and going back to bed. It’s tiring but not debilitating.

Talk about efficient and productive, it’s not just in the pool that we are beating the rest of the world – at least for a fortnight.


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