Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce

Successful business operators well understand the importance of human resources to their ongoing enterprise.  It is critical for them to recruit, train and retain qualified, capable and motivated staff.

 

In the modern digital age this presents a constant challenge due to cost of living increases, demands for cheaper products and services as well as the expectations of a young mobile workforce.  Unemployment nationally is currently running at less than 5% which also indicates that the labour market is very tight as employers compete for a decreasing pool of professional and skilled workers.

 

Whilst wages growth has been very flat recently cost of living increases and a lack of professional and skilled people will inevitably lead to upward pressure as employers compete for workers.  Most employers recognise the need to monitor staff resourcing and recruit as needed to match demand.  This will be the critical balancing act for businesses as we see how upcoming state and federal elections play out and what that means for the economy over the short to medium term.

 

In Port Macquarie we are fortunate and well positioned to educate and train our labour force with Newman College providing vocational training whilst TAFE NSW and accredited private trainers offer a wide variety of skills training.  At the professional level Charles Sturt University, UNSW and Newcastle University Campus all provide a range of degree qualifications whilst the Base Hospital provides on the job training for medical staff.

 

These opportunities for local school leavers didn’t exist a generation ago and now allow those entering the workforce to be trained, obtain experience through placements and gain permanent employment without leaving this region.  This certainly helps provide a bigger pool of qualified young tradespeople and professionals to fill vacancies in local businesses.

 

Having recruited good staff and provided on the job training the bigger challenge is retaining them for the long term.  The lure of bigger salaries in metropolitan areas is ever present and many of those entering the workforce inevitably begin their careers in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane or other capital and it is difficult to get them to return.

 

Employee retention incentives such as affordable salary increases, bonuses, company car and expense allowances are often necessary and a good means of keeping key staff.  However it is often overlooked that small regional businesses provide many advantages to their staff that are not possible in big metropolitan firms.

 

Local businesses, particularly those here in Port Macquarie offer employees a great lifestyle, more time with family and a lower overall cost of living.  There are also many very well run business operations that provide secure, long term employment because they genuinely want to retain staff through good times and the not so good economic periods.  It is often not recognised that employees working for local businesses are usually well treated and considered “part of the family” rather than just a number as is the case in the big national firms.

 

In small firms key staff have very close and direct contact with the boss, have delegation to make important decisions and are more likely to be included in succession plans with future ownership opportunities.  During a recent tendering seminar in Sydney a comparison was made between big and small firms on the basis of “heft” versus “heart”.

 

Whilst the big national firms provide heft through sheer numbers it was seen as a clear advantage that smaller local businesses provide “heart” and this is certainly the case in relation employee retention and what makes a great workplace.

 

Michael Mowle,

President, Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce

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