Skills are the new black

Skills are ‘the new black’, and retaining them must become an integral part of the way that we think about sustainable industry practice.

When we think of sustainability, we usually think of factors such as energy and lighting. But there are two clear threats to the sustainability of Australia’s many industry segments: an increasingly competitive labour market and the imminent retirement of the baby boomer generation.

They are a potent combination, and potentially lethal to the skills that many of Australia’s industries rely on.

There will be no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the problems that these factors are creating for employers across the country. However, the principles will be the same for all levels of business: if these challenges are to be successfully navigated we need strong leadership and integrated programs that will transform the nature of workplaces.

On this note, I read recently that the Australian Government put an end to tax payer funded massage for public servants. The interesting question is: why was it deemed to be a good investment in the first place? It seems a fair guess that this was a strategy is to counter the effects of a stressful workplace.

A ’sick’ workplace, both environmentally and managerially, has become too common in modern business, and the effects are now beginning to be well documented.  Job stress – which one Victorian study defines as “the combination of high job demands and low job control” – takes an enormous toll on employees where it becomes entrenched. The study concluded that job stress is in fact “a substantial public health problem” that significantly contributes to cardio vascular disease and depression in the community.

Other studies assert that a significant driver of stress in the workplace comes from management bullying and harassment. Estimates of the amount of time spent by managers resolving conflict in the workplace can range up to a staggering 90 per cent.

These are expensive problems for employers – but far worse when you consider the cost to our most precious resource, a skilled workforce.

The unhealthy workplace is a strong driver of absenteeism: one in five sick days can be attributed to stress, not illness, and emotional factors account for up to 61 per cent of lost time through absence. Worse still, these issues are among the most significant factors in high staff turnover and separation. Can your business really afford this?


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