With almost two years of the coronavirus pandemic behind us, employment services providers are facing unprecedented disruption to their businesses. The Omicron variant, labour shortages, government contract uncertainty and a looming ‘great resignation’ are key issues facing the sector.

Prospert recently asked leaders from employment services providers across the country to share their priorities and advice for the year ahead. Here’s a summary of their top ten tips to put your business on the path to success in 2022:

Evolve your business or risk becoming stagnant 

Employment services CEOs are working on strategies to ensure long term financial sustainability. Most CEOs agree that one thing is clear – the employment services sector needs to evolve, or it’s at risk of becoming stagnant. Some providers are choosing to diversify by expanding into areas such as training, while others are seeking to scale their business by increasing their market share. Importantly, CEOs acknowledged the importance of partnerships and collaboration in supporting the growth and success of the sector.

Understand customer experience 

The most successful employment services providers are focusing on marketing strategies, innovative technologies, and customer experience to differentiate from their competitors. Some CEOs are concerned about larger international players who are entering the Australian market with very sophisticated approaches to understanding the customer journey for jobseekers and employers. Focusing on the customer’s needs must be top priority at this time.

Scenario plan outcomes on government contracts

The CEOs we consulted with were eagerly awaiting the government’s announcement of NESM licenses. NESM is set to replace the jobactive program this year with Digital Services for job-ready job seekers and Enhanced Services for people who need extra support. At the same time, we wait for the announcement of the Federal election. Many CEOs were concerned that any further delays on contract announcements will contribute to increased uncertainty and anxiety which can lead to high turnover in the sector. Providers are keen to bed down their service delivery models so that they can hit the ground running when the new licenses are announced.

Invest in technology

Whilst the Federal Government is investing in its new Digital Platform, several CEOs are running parallel investment workstreams to deliver tender commitments and increase their middle office efficiency. These exciting innovations – which use artificial intelligence, bots and latest business intelligence concepts – promise to underpin service delivery models to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and performance of their operations.

Provide more support for long term unemployed

There’s potential for Australia’s unemployment rate to fall below 4% due to recent employment growth. Government spending on COVID-related programs has been crucial to achieving the lower unemployment rate. In addition, closed borders have seen long term jobseekers employed in positions that previously may have been filled with backpackers and migrant workers. The pandemic has highlighted that some industries have become highly dependent on migrant workers to fill certain jobs. According to our CEO consultations, Australia needs to find the right balance of migrant workers, while also investing in long term unemployed people who require additional meaningful support to secure and maintain employment.

Bolster your business for the ‘great resignation’

With media reporting that the ‘great resignation’ has hit Australia, many employers are scrambling to fill job vacancies and retain quality staff. According to the ABS, more than 600,000 Australians expect to change jobs in 2022. ‘Pandemic burnout’ is also affecting many employees who have been forced to work from home during lockdowns. The reality is that people can walk out the door with the confidence that they can find another job and, even possibly, a higher paying one. The other compounding issue is that some employees are choosing to abstain from COVID-19 vaccinations and are subsequently leaving their jobs. It’s no surprise that employment services providers are struggling to find staff. However, some of the more progressive providers are introducing additional benefits including sign on bonuses, extra leave and flexible work arrangements to attract high quality candidates.

Protect and grow your leaders

Another CEO commented that post-pandemic, people will reflect on how and where they want to work, and leaders will need to have strong emotional intelligence to create engaging and positive workplace cultures. It’s important that businesses have executives in place who will lead people by inspiring and motivating them. This will require employment services providers to move away from a mindset of ‘delivering on the contract’ to connecting their staff with the purpose of creating pathways to real and sustainable careers for jobseekers. One CEO said he hoped that tomorrow’s leaders were more “youthful, passionate, resilient and have a bigger risk appetite”. No doubt, these leaders will need to walk the talk by recruiting, training and supporting employees with disability and those from Indigenous and multicultural backgrounds.

Man with disability picking tomatoesAccess the potential of employees with disability

Tennis star, Dylan Alcott, is the first person with a visible disability to be awarded Australian of the Year. Alcott’s appointment will put a spotlight on his advocacy work to remove barriers to employment for people with disability. “When people with disability look for work, it’s often what we don’t see that is the biggest barrier – that of unconscious bias,” says Alcott. It’s a timely appointment, given the Government’s review of the Disability Employment Services (DES), and the fact that workforce participation rates for people with disability haven’t changed in decades. The CEOs we spoke with agree that there is a golden opportunity to access the untapped potential of people with disability to meet the needs of our employment market, but there is more work to be done to ensure employers understand and accommodate these employees. Further, several CEOs are reviewing their own performance in this area and have realised they can do more.

Close the gap on Indigenous employment

Many CEOs were pleased to see that Indigenous and CALD contracts are being treated as specialist areas under the New Employment Services Model (NESM). There are huge opportunities to bring employers on the journey to help close the gap in employment for Indigenous people. One CEO commented that he hopes the Indigenous specialist contracts will provide more useful data and opportunities for research into barriers to employment. He’s also keen to see more efforts to support Indigenous ex-offenders with experience showing that concentrated mentoring and support for employment reduces re-offending.

Take action now

Consider these five actions you can take to prepare for these trends:

  1. Review your proposed Service Delivery Model against rising expectations for a better customer experience
  2. Understand your organisation’s pathways to growth and under what scenarios you may need to explore these opportunities
  3. Protect and develop your greatest assets – your people’s leaders – and ensure they are prepared to lead in new ways
  4. Develop place based strategies for different cohorts and employers and train teams on how to execute these
  5. Embrace technology to remove mundane administration tasks and free up your front line teams to focus on your customers.

While the market is undergoing drastic changes, Prospert is looking forward to working with employment services providers to proactively embrace these new opportunities. Contact our team to find out how we can support your business with strategy, training, mentoring, tendering and business development services. Find us at www.prospert.com.au.

Prospert would like to thank the CEOs who participated in our research.