In today's highly competitive and complex market, employers are facing significant challenges in attracting and retaining the best talent for their organisation. 

With economic uncertainty and job stability at the forefront of many jobseekers' minds, many employees are now hunkering down, choosing to stay in their current jobs. According to Randstad’s 2023 Employer Brand Research, only 16% of Australians have moved jobs in the past six months - a notable drop from 21% at the same time last year. Randstad is calling this ‘The Big Stay’, which means employers looking to attract talent must now consider how to de-risk the move, to persuade new employees to join their organisation. This is about mitigating the perceived risk potential employees face when changing jobs during challenging economic times, to make them feel comfortable that it would be a safe, long-term bet.

Essential to this is employers understanding how to optimise, enhance, and adapt their employer value proposition (EVP) to reflect the shifting desires and priorities of today’s jobseekers. And key to that is building a more inclusive, equitable workforce - an ever-increasing priority in the eyes of today’s employees.

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the importance of powerful storytelling

At a business leaders panel event hosted by Randstad, the discussion explored the experiences, learnings, and advice of executives from Coles, Swinburne University, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and Ventia (formerly Transfield Services) in building a strong employer brand, and how to remain competitive in attracting, engaging and engaging the right talent for the future.

Matthew Berry, General Manager of Talent Acquisition at Ventia explained how people, opportunity and impact are the three key areas Ventia chose to build their EVP and how important it is to be able to tell a powerful story to effectively engage their people.

“We are always looking at how to attract and secure the best people, and how to engage, develop, inspire, and retain our talent. We know that the breadth of our business is the opportunity, and we also know that being tightly connected to our local communities is the impact piece for us at Ventia. That’s where the powerful storytelling comes into play. 

“We have such a broad range of workers, skills, specialisations and locations, so an attractive proposition for individual employees can be worlds apart. The way we approach this is to carefully segment the different groups of people working at Ventia, acknowledging that the balance of people, opportunity and impact will vary depending on individual needs, desires, and interests. 

“The goal of our EVP is to have a common theme that resonates with everyone, explaining what our business is all about, and then telling more personal stories to build connection and a sense of belonging. A big part of the journey is to continuously educate our business on what the Ventia EVP is. Talking to our people and asking them: ‘why would you join your team, why would you join Ventia, what is important to you?’, is an ongoing learning opportunity for us.”

think outside the typical realms of talent attraction

Berry also spoke about Ventia finding it challenging to hire great people, particularly in this challenging economic environment and especially for the highly specialised roles. “As a result, we’ve created a new ‘hypercare team’ whose job is to build out a fresh, new talent attraction and retention strategy for each of the targeted, hard to fill positions. They are essentially breaking down each individual role and building out an EVP per role until we have each proposition right.”

From a talent attraction and employer brand perspective, Coles’ Diversity & Inclusion Partner, Pamela Marcou, explained that it’s about rethinking who Coles is targeting to hire and to look at the great pockets of talented people in the market who are perhaps being overlooked by other organisations. 

“With our world becoming more digital, our customers want more and better online experiences. Our stores want better automation to improve their processes and enhance the customer experience and our candidates want a great online experience. So, if digitalisation is key but great digital and tech talent are increasingly staying at their current organisation, while there’s increasing competition, how do we at Coles attract great tech talent?

“One strategy we have is to focus on untapped talent through upskilling. We have introduced a development program at Coles focused on helping people who have had a long career break and who find that their technical and digital skills are a bit rusty. We know that other employers are passing them over because of this, yet we are saying ‘join Coles, and we will upskill you because we see the value you would bring to the organisation.”

This is the right move from Coles, with Randstad’s employer brand research revealing 65% of jobseekers are prioritising career progression and upskilling opportunities from their employer.

Furthermore, for people with disabilities who often experience high barriers to employment, Marcou says Coles is doing a lot of work to tap into this huge pool of talented people, many of whom have great digital skills.

“I truly believe ‘The Big Stay’ is forcing organisations to be more innovative, to rethink who is out there, and how to bring this potential talent into the organisation.”

A man and woman in a video conference with another woman.
A man and woman in a video conference with another woman.

DE&I requires deep connection to the heart

Randstad Australia’s Executive General Manager of Talent Solutions, Angela Anasis shared that in uncertain economic times when high salaries and pay rises are not on the table, non-monetary benefits become invaluable for people considering new employment opportunities. “And a visible and tangible demonstration of an employer’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are increasingly significant to jobseekers when evaluating a potential employment offering.

“In this year’s employer brand research, nearly 4 out of 5 (82%) jobseekers indicated they expect some form of employer support relating to DE&I issues, mental health, and wellbeing. And almost 1 in 4 (24%) said they would rather be unemployed than work for an organisation that does not align with their personal values when it comes to DE&I.”

While Coles has a great DE&I strategy, and the senior leadership team is really invested Marcou said that what actually seems to be moving the dial and viewed as the most attractive to employees are the visible, active symbols displayed to show Coles’ commitment to DE&I. “Things like our staff polo shirts with indigenous or pride messages, the rainbow stickers on our name badges, the way we celebrate NAIDOC week or the National Week of Deaf People in our stores, and teaching our staff AUSLAN. This is the stuff that's really resonating with our teams. 

“And yes, it's all underpinned by important strategic DE&I work, but it’s important to remember the majority of staff are not reading through our strategies and policies. They are attracted by what they see and what they see is us showing up for them in moments that matter.”

For Belinda Leon, Employer Brand Specialist at Bendigo Bank, DE&I is about values, authenticity, and culture.

“We understand the power of DE&I and have a strong connection to our communities. We really lean into what we do, who we are as a bank, and what makes us special. Our unique model is that many of our branches are like franchises, essentially owned and operated by the local communities. They have their own board of directors and invest a significant portion of their profits back into their local community. That of course provides a strong and authentic connection to our values and aligns with the culture our people are looking for.

“In terms of disability, it’s critical for organisations to ensure that barriers are removed - and it’s something I believe with my whole heart. Yes, it’s important to have strategies and diversity and inclusion plans in place, but unless the culture is there with a genuine commitment and lived value by people across the whole organisation, you're not going to get as much traction as you think. Leon believes that to get the best out of your people, organisations need a culture that allows psychological safety, that allows humanity where people are treated as humans first and not like number crunching widgets which you extract work from.


“At Bendigo Bank we have areas of the business headed up by a senior executive looking at how it can be more diverse and inclusive. They run working groups and are meeting on a regular basis to ask questions about how we can support our people, how we can improve the diversity in our workforce and increase participation for this cohort, and what can we do better? These are the questions we’re grappling with on an ongoing basis.”

Anasis agrees that for DE&I to work, it needs to be authentically part of the organisational culture - it needs to emanate from the top. “That’s when people will truly feel a strong sense of inclusiveness and belonging. Employers that prioritise this as part of their EVP and employer brand, who demonstrate their efforts in creating an inclusive environment where employees feel safe to bring their best selves to work every day, will be well on their way to standing out as an attractive employer.”

data is critical but can be biased

Marcou’s top tip was to not fall into the trap of thinking that data is unbiased - that the data is telling you the full story. “Many senior leaders have an addiction to numbers and pie charts to show a positive trend, but it’s important to pair that with qualitative storytelling listening of intersectional voices. 

“From a storytelling perspective, DE&I is one of the most meaningful and powerful for your leadership teams. Whenever we do a survey at Coles, we conduct a listening session with diverse groups. We do this by creating a psychologically safe space with an external facilitator, asking them to share their personal stories. This is when our people will reveal a negative workplace experience. My goal is to elevate those voices along with the pie charts, to ensure the leadership team has a complete picture and knows where there's work to be done.”

Anasis adds that when looking at your EVP, look at what the market is telling you about your brand as well as your internal data. Look at LinkedIn, Talent Insight, Glassdoor, your retention rates and exit rates, so not just all the shiny things. 

“Being upfront about some of the things you might find about your brand are not great is the whole point of the EVP development process. There will always be things that don’t work, so it’s how you respond to them and improve them will help you on your journey.”

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it’s a long game

Berry says that the senior executive team will always ask the questions about how to hire great people faster, how to stop losing their people and how best to retain them. “The question is, are your senior leaders engaged with your EVP? And what is the story you are telling people about why you would join, why you would stay and why you would strive in the business? Once that becomes the conversation then the EVP makes perfect sense because it’s the story that links development, REM, communications, attraction, and retention, all informed by the proposition.

“One to one interviews with senior leaders regarding your EVP and values is therefore essential. They need skin in the game.”

Tash Gawne, Director of Talent & Remuneration - People & Culture at Swinburne University of Technology also spoke about authenticity in terms of living and breathing the organisation’s values every day, ensuring they are reflective of everything you do. “Are they in your onboarding? In your performance process? Are they talked about in your engagement surveys? And is everyone really clear on what your values are and how their role reflects that, because that is important?

“Swinburne University of Technology is really invested in its people and succession planning. We constantly look at our talent, at the development we offer them, the career opportunities, the skill sets needed to align with our 2025 strategic vision, and how we can support our staff to get there.

“And in terms of building a strong EVP, the most important message I can convey is to set the expectation with senior leaders that it is a marathon not a sprint. You need to explain that you’re not going to see results next week. It's a long-term game. It's about taking all your metrics and working on the question - why do I want to work at your organisation? Then it’s about making sure it aligns with a potential job seeker in terms of what they see externally and when they are in the organisation, that their values and the opportunities provided all align with what you're selling.”

research is essential

Anasis explained the importance of understanding the current mindset of employees and employers in the market, because there is often a gap. 

“Knowing what employees want, what they expect of their employer, versus what employers offer, and what they believe their employees want can in many cases be worlds apart, which is why extensive internal and external research is vital.”

According to Randstad’s 2023 employer brand research, work-life balance is at the top of the list of must-haves from a new employer at 67%, followed by attractive salaries and benefits (61%) and job security (59%).

Furthermore, 78% of respondents said non-monetary benefits are an important part of an attractive salary and benefits package. So, when a high salary or pay rise is not on the table, 48% of people want flexible start and finish times; 38% would like reduced days (40 hours over 4 days) and 32% request professional development opportunities. 

“Knowing this and combining it with your organisation’s internal and external research will help to provide a clearer picture of why people are drawn to your organisation and what makes them stay. What’s important is that your executive team knows it’s a long game.”

For more data and insights regarding the shifting preferences and priorities of the Australian workforce and how employers can adapt their talent attraction, retention and engagement strategies to create a more powerful and inclusive employer brand, get your copy of the 2023 Randstad Employer Brand Research report


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