Interview: Arthur McColl, CEO of Express Employment Professionals Australia and New Zealand | Global Franchise
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Tuesday 16th August, 2022

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Interview: Arthur McColl, CEO of Express Employment Professionals Australia and New Zealand

Insight

Interview: Arthur McColl, CEO of Express Employment Professionals Australia and New Zealand

Employers the world over have struggled to retain talent as the pandemic has brought about a shift in consciousness, but employment professionals have seen all kinds of shifts in thinking and are well-placed to advise companies on how to negotiate this issue

The Great Resignation has affected virtually every industry and region in the world in one way or another, and it’s exposed some real gaps in company culture and the way in which employees are treated and remunerated. More businesses are turning to staffing solution providers to reduce their employee turnover rate. 

Express Employment Professionals is an international leader in the world of staffing and recruitment, and has recently opened its Australia and New Zealand location with the acquisition of the Frontline Recruitment Group. The brand has had a strong year, signing 61 new franchise agreements and systemwide annual sales topping out $3.23bn. 

We spoke with the CEO of Express Employment Professionals Australia and New Zealand, Arthur McColl, for an insight into what exactly companies are doing wrong, and what others are doing right in terms of attracting and retaining talent, as well as how long The Great Resignation will continue for. 

RP: What do you think are the main reasons for mass resignations around the world at the moment? 

AM: It is a combination of several reasons. The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in some companies revealing their true colors with a lack of leadership. Some employees have been overworked and underappreciated, particularly in sectors that benefited during COVID-19, such as manufacturing. As a result, people are looking for a more culturally-aligned employer. You must also consider COVID-19 fatigue or burnout; a change is as good as a holiday and so is pressing the reset button. 

Then there were people experiencing remote work, some for the very first time. For countless, there was a realization that they could be productive from almost anywhere so we’re seeing more “remote” and “flexible” jobs offered than ever before.

“As far as the Great Resignation, I don’t think it’s going to last as long as we think. Most of the impetus for resignations is COVID-19 driven”

A tight candidate market has also been driving the worker shortage. Closed borders and reduced skilled migrant talent has fueled the war for domestic talent, which is driving up wages leading to more incentive to move to a new role. 

Finally, many people realigned their priorities as a result of the pandemic. They did a lot of reflecting and no longer want to stay in soul-destroying jobs; instead, they want to invest the time that they would traditionally spend commuting and sitting in an office to their friends, families and themselves. 

Of course, there is still concern around future lockdowns as new variants emerge. If an employee’s current role or employer is prone to shutting down in the event there are further outbreaks – hospitality, for example – there’s a desire to move to a role or company that’s less prone to locking down, for more stability. 

RP: What are companies doing, or not doing to retain talent? 

AM: Many companies are increasing their benefits to recruit and retain their talent. Allowing remote or flexible working arrangements is something that’s here to stay. Adding non-monetary benefits such as gym membership and other wellness programs; ramping up professional development and upskilling; offering referral incentives or sign on and retention bonuses; extra paid annual or personal leave; and so on.  

We’re also seeing that companies are becoming more willing to take on less skilled, or unskilled workers, and train them from scratch (raw over refined talent). 

RP: What do staffing solution providers like yourself do to alleviate the problem? 

AM: Frontline Recruitment Group, which was acquired by Express Employment Professionals last year, has a large database of candidates built over many years, many of which seek our support when wishing to take the next step. Often, we know the perfect candidate or role before organizations do! 

We have relationships with hundreds of different organizations so we can advise and share insights with our clients on what the “best” companies are doing to attract and retain talent. 

Being spoilt for choice, more candidates are ‘ghosting’ employers, so we serve as the intermediary and we manage candidate expectations, experience and engagement right the way through from initial application to offer, acceptance, onboarding and beyond. 

RP: What unique pressures are there in Australia and New Zealand that have led to your expansion there? 

AM: Both Australia and New Zealand are heavily franchised countries, but not yet in staffing. That, coupled with the size of the staffing market in AU – $16bn and growing – signifies how tremendous the opportunity is for Express. 

“The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in some companies revealing their true colors with a lack of leadership. Some employees have been overworked and underappreciated, particularly in sectors that benefited during COVID-19”

Express aligns well with market segments in Australia and New Zealand that use staffing firms such as manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, hospitality, clerical/admin and in the FRG verticals of retail, hospitality, education, health, construction, IT and digital. Approximately eight to 10 per cent of companies prefer and see the benefits of using a specialist recruitment company to source their employees. 

RP: How long do you see this labor shortage and trend of resignations going on for? 

AM: The labor shortage might continue for at least 12 months. Uncertainty around travel restrictions and border closures means skilled migrants, returning nationals and foreign students won’t return to pre-COVID levels for some time. 

That said, we will experience shortages for much, much longer as we wrestle with an aging workforce due to people living longer but less babies being born. This trend has been emerging for years but is only going to get worse over the next decade. 

As far as the Great Resignation, I don’t think it’s going to last as long as we think. Most of the impetus for resignations is COVID-driven. As world vaccination rates improve, lockdowns become less frequent, and border restrictions ease, I think people may be less inclined to jump ship, especially if their current employer takes genuine steps to improve retention practices by offering more flexible work arrangements and better incentives to stay. 

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