Is finding talented and experienced staff a continuous challenge? There is a distinct trend that applicant lists are getting smaller and that when candidates do apply, they are more demanding for what they require to make that all important career move. For now, gone are the days where you need to wade through hundreds of (relevant) resumes and then find that you have plenty of perfect candidates to choose from. If you are still in that space, let me know what you are doing because I want to bottle the solution to sell it and retire early!

From a national perspective, for every position that you are trying to fill, there are, on average, only twelve relevant candidates. Only seven of these have all the required qualifications, and from those, only two are really suitable for the position. In fact, up to 30 per cent of positions still remain unfilled six to eight weeks after advertising.

Research completed by the Department of Employment outlined that the reasons for this are simple; no relevant or suitable experience and the inability to agree on terms and conditions. Up to six per cent of employers give up looking in frustration. It is even worse in our industry, with the average fill rate at 55 per cent. In some cases, only one candidate will meet your specifications, if at all.

So, what do most employers do? They take a punt on the most likely candidate and see what happens. In many cases, they just don’t fit and you are left disappointed.

After many in the industry go through this process, they then approach us with a simple assignment brief, ‘You need to find me an employee that can hit the ground running, has industry experience and who I do not need to train!’

I have always been the eternal optimist and generally say, ‘No problem’. But let me let you in on a little secret, it is easier said than done. Having tracked all of the placements we have made over the last eight years and then compared the result to the placements over the last 18 months, I have found the following:

  • Placements through advertising have dropped from 46 per cent to 21 per cent.
  • Placements through executive search, social media and networking have increased from 54 per cent to 79 per cent.
  • This is a massive change and it is not getting any easier if you just advertise.

So, what is the solution? In my opinion, there are a number of key aspects that we, as an industry, need to focus on if we are to remain skill set strong. The key areas I believe are attract and retain, train, and have patience (with the last one being the most difficult).

Let’s look at each in turn:

Attract & Retain

Fundamental to the growth and development of this industry is our ability to attract and retain talented candidates from other associated industry sectors. We must be viewed by potential candidates as an industry of choice. To do this we need to be the best at:

  1. Ensuring ongoing and relevant training programs.
  2. Having realistic and achievable objectives and targets.
  3. Promoting an ongoing work / life balance.
  4. Continuing with the personal development of your staff.
  5. Developing a clear path for career advancement.


One area that stood out during my recent mystery shopping exercise was a real lack of technical knowledge and skill, relating not only to the products being sold, but also to the process of selling them. When we employ, we tend to believe that just because they are coming from the industry, they will have the skills you require. I have found that this assumption is incorrect, with many (not all) lacking the depth of skill and knowledge to be completely competent.

Now, some of you may think that I am being a little tough, but having now mystery shopped over 150 businesses across our sector – windows and doors, glass and glazing, systems distributors, fabricators, hardware manufacturers and suppliers to general building and construction, I think my sample and conclusions are sufficient to make that statement. We must continue to invest in people new to our industry and, of course, in the ones we already have.

Have Patience

This is an area that causes much of the pain in employment. I am constantly battling with the expectations placed on new employees to deliver results that are unachievable and/or unrealistic in the first three to six months of their employment. In my opinion, it takes a minimum of six months to fully engage a new employee in the business if they already have some industry experience. With an industry ‘newbie’ you can easily double that number before you get the results you require.

I have always said that a new employee is an investment in the future rather than a return in the now, so we must be focussed on engaging them in the way that will ensure they stay.

I can only encourage all of you to think laterally, keep an open mind on candidates from outside the industry and as I have said in the past – ‘Recruit for Attitude’ and ‘Train for Experience’.[/vc_column_text]

About David Esler

David Esler is the Director of Kaizen Executive. With over 25 years experience at a senior management level, David delivers high quality recruitment solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of individuals and corporations alike. David also provides management consulting services in sales force effectiveness, sales excellence training, performance management and customer and market strategies.

e: david.esler@kaizenexec.com.au

w: www.kaizenexec.com.au



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