COVID-19 Recruitment Ballarat Market Update

Ange Connor

We are two weeks into the new financial year and Melbourne is back in Stage 3 lockdowns. Fortunately, to date, regionally it has been business as the new COVID-19 normal, but are restrictions for us just around the corner? There is certainly lots of unknown and apprehension however as a positive for Ballarat there has been lots more recruitment activity than just two to three months ago, although it is very dependent on the sector.

We seem to have adapted and bounced back better than many predicted. From my observations, the first lock down in March – April saw basically all recruitment activity stop. It was bunker down, manage workforce resources (which resulted in letting staff go, standing staff down and reducing hours) and try and stay afloat. Sadly, some businesses closed and won’t reopen. There are heart-breaking stories for many. On a positive note, many businesses have adapted (pivoted seems to be the buzz word) and are continuing to hire. Some are creating new positions to meet demand and other businesses are confidently re-hiring positions due to normal staff turnover. This is a positive sign. Often in an economic downturn we see a tendency for businesses to replace staff with casuals or labour hire however the fact businesses are replacing with permanent offers of employment is a good sign for Ballarat.

From the business owners and managers I talk to, there is concern about what will happen come the end of JobKeeper. Will this see a massive spike in staff being let go? Are businesses relying on JobKeeper to keep afloat at present and what does that mean come September when JobKeeper ends? Will we see further support from the Government but in a different structure? Will we be eligible for that support regionally if we manage to avoid another lock down? Time will tell.

With higher unemployment rates it hasn’t necessarily made recruiting any easier. I am hearing from many businesses that are trying to recruit across lower level roles that they aren’t even getting the applications. It’s bizarre, however it appears some people are happy with their government support and are not too worried about finding work for the time being. This short-sighted view may have big ramifications come September when, if JobKeeper and JobSeeker end or reduce, unemployment rises and the market if further flooded with people looking for work. It will very quickly become a much more competitive market for the candidate looking for work.

On the other hand, in many sectors it is still a candidate short market and finding the right candidate with the necessary skills and experience is still like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The further challenge now is that some of that talent is also very hesitant to change jobs. Those that were open to considering a new opportunity 6 months ago are now hesitant about what the future holds. Are they better staying with the devil they know than the devil they don’t while we ride out COVID-19? Many candidates now talk about the value of the personal leave they have accrued and the risk of moving to a new position, not having any personal leave accrued and what that would mean if they got sick and needed weeks off work.

With the requirement to stay home from work if you experience any sign of illness, the time it takes to get in for a COVID test and the turnaround time for the results, we are seeing this impact significantly on the workplace. The employee may well have recovered from their sniffly nose in a matter of days but due to process and to keep us all safe they end up being off work for easily at least a week. This challenge is not so much of an issue for those businesses who can allow their team members to work from home however for those that can’t, it’s having a massive impact on personal leave accruals. It is no wonder there is hesitation in changing jobs and giving up those leave accruals.

What does the shift to being able to work from home – remotely mean for us in Ballarat? This has been a game changer and I think we will see a changing landscape over the coming months and years in this regard. There are those of us who need the people interaction and operate much better in an office and then there are those of us who have thrived in a work from home environment. We will all have to adapt to a workforce that will be much more remote into the future. However, the positive is that we can then also tap into talent not just based in Ballarat. Our team members might be based anywhere in Australia or the world, depending on the position of course. This is a massive game changer for those sectors that have experienced a candidate short market and have been unable to recruit the skills they need locally in the past.

What does all this mean if you are looking to recruit?

In many respects, it is not much different to where we were 6 months or 12 months ago – depending on your sector and the skills set you are trying to recruit for. Your recruitment strategy needs to be tailored to suit the sector and target audience. Chances are you will either be inundated with applications and have literally hundreds of applications to sift through or you’ll have a handful of applications from candidates that don’t fit the skills and experience you need. A timely process is more important than ever as candidates are dropping out of the process more often depending on the changes in the environment. The more talk of another lock down the more hesitation from the candidate.

It’s also more important than ever to communicate with your candidates, for some, it’s really tough for them. They may be unemployed and under significant pressure. Applying for job after job can be soul destroying at the best of times. An acknowledgment email, an unsuccessful email, some feedback after an interview, not ghosting your candidate will make the world of difference to someone. While it might not be the outcome the candidate wants at least they know where they stand rather than being left hanging.

Let’s hope Ballarat businesses can continue to bounce back and we can get through this together. Remember to buy local and support your fellow Ballarat businesses so we can continue to open our doors and create local employment opportunities.



Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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