Small business owners around Australia are saying it is incredibly difficult to find new workers in 2022. Worker shortages for customer-facing jobs are particularly high making it hard for businesses to continue operating.
Worker shortages occur when there is a gap between the labour needed and the number of people available to provide the labour. In other words, there are more jobs than people available, willing or skilled to work in them.
The Australian Government’s National Skills Commission recently reported that online job advertisements are now at their highest level since recording began (in January 2006). In April 2022, the number of current online job advertisements has increased to well over 300,000.
Multiple media reports also highlight that customer-facing jobs are the hardest to fill. Affected sectors include retail, hospitality, tourism, health and aged care, food service, transport and construction.
According to May 2022 labour force data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the current unemployment rate is 3.9%. Despite this historically low unemployment rate, there’s still a strong, underlying demand from employers for more staff.
Consumer sentiment has shifted during the pandemic with consumers feeling less optimistic about economic recovery and remaining cautious on spending. Small businesses are addressing this sentiment by lifting their customer service capabilities to attract more sales. To do this they need more customer-facing workers.
Key factors causing worker shortages
Many industries have been turned upside-down during the pandemic. The following factors have all contributed to pulling workers away from customer-facing jobs.
- Significant staff shortages are partly due to border closures during the pandemic and a lack of overseas workers filling jobs. Navigating visa requirements remains complex and the uptake by migrant workers will take some time to regain momentum.
- The new working-from-home culture in many sectors has led to a shift in work-life balance and expectations around working hours. Many employees have reassessed their job roles and made career changes that allow them to work remotely.
- Health concerns of front-line workers relating to increased exposure to COVID-19 variants has caused many to burn out or withdraw from their roles. Nobody wants to get seriously sick from just turning up to work.
- Essential service workers have been under immense strain from working 24/7 and some are actively reducing their hours.
- Large parts of the service sector, such as hospitality, are reliant on customer-facing workers to conduct their business. Ongoing disruptions to work hours have caused many workers to drift to jobs with more secure work hours.
- There has been job growth in some sectors, like new technology, that offer favourable working conditions such as 9-5 roles rather than shift work.
- With consumers stressed out by constant changes, customer-facing workers have found themselves bearing the brunt of rude customers. The strain of maintaining health regulations, supply shortages and service accessibility has led many employees to withdraw from customer-facing roles.
10 tips to combat customer-facing worker shortages
- A good workplace culture is attractive to new workers. A calm and organised workplace based on structured processes allows for predictable workflows. Easy to use systems such as online rostering software are drawcards for workers.
- Good onboarding processes which incorporate simple time and attendance tools and timesheet software clearly set expectations about job roles and work hours.
- Transparency in rates of pay and compliance to regulations is supported by automating processes as much as possible. For example, be investing in technology such as employee time clocks and shift management software you demonstrate a modern workplace.
- Ensure you have a supportive team environment. Mechanisms for employees to regularly give and receive feedback helps develop positive engagement and a flexible workplace.
- Streamline your administrative processes with a mobile rostering app. This allows you to manage rosters from anywhere and for employees to view and manage their shifts 24/7.
- Attract new workers by offering free training which leads to better engagement with the employee and makes them feel valued.
- Be flexible with your employee rostering to accommodate study, sick days and holidays and minimise overtime. A good mobile rostering app is an effective tool to keep track of staff.
- Customer facing jobs need to be customer focussed. Freeing workers from repetitious administrative processes allows them to do the job they were hired for and improve your customer experiences. Use online rostering software that integrates with your accounting systems.
- Strive for diversity in your workplace including younger and older workers, women and people with disabilities. This creates a more dynamic workforce that is more reflective of your customer base and increases the pool of potential customer-facing workers you can hire.
- Overworking existing customer-facing workers sets a poor standard to attract new workers. Consider focussing on your core business in the short term to improve the quality of the customer experience. You will then be “growth ready” for the future.