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Addressing talent shortages with a proactive, candidate-led approach at Jemena/Zinfra

At LiveHire, we have some amazing clients that are doing innovative things to overcome talent shortages. We recently sat down with Fiona Haymes, Group HR Operations Manager at Jemena/Zinfra to explore the strategies they have adopted to tackle talent shortages. We think you will find the insights inspiring and powerful.

If you’re not familiar with Jemena/Zinfra they operate across Australia, owning  and managing energy infrastructure assets, gas pipelines, and gas and electricity distribution networks.

How would you describe the current state of the workforce at Jemena?

We have around 3,000 employees, with about 60% of those being field workers. In terms of age around 50% of the workforce is over 45 and 21% of those are over 55. Employee engagement is strong and sitting at 68%.

Our ageing workforce is an issue that we are facing head-on. We have a significant number of people likely to retire in the next 5 years and a big gap in our experience coming in behind them. This is exacerbated because years ago we cut our apprentice and trainee programs and didn’t really step back into them in any significant way until about 5 years ago.  

We are acting now with the development of our Ageing Workforce Strategy (AWS) to harness all that knowledge, experience, respect and corporate memory that our older workers have and transition it to our younger team members. 

We are actively and aggressively recruiting apprentices, trainees, graduates and cadets. We have increased our graduate intake from only four two years ago, to seven this year. Our apprentice/trainee numbers have grown from 22 apprentices four years ago to almost 60 apprentices this year.

Turnover, traditionally has been very low for us ~7% (which brings with it its own challenges). In the last year, we have seen this rise to 12% across the group with much higher rates in specific pockets of the business, up to 15% and our SLC turnover has been 21%. 

We have approximately 200 open roles, at the moment, with the vast majority being on the Zinfra side of our business which is the services contracting arm – fast paced, low margins and often in remote locations.

How is your team navigating talent shortages in the current labour market?

Re-evaluating our Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

We believe we have a great EVP but it is not packaged well. We have invested in developing an employee experience narrative from which EVP key messages and proof points can be extracted and used both for attraction and retention. 

We have maintained our hybrid working model since the pandemic and are super open to hiring remotely. We have just done this in the talent team where we hired a recruiter in Perth who works east coast hours. We have no operations there, and were struggling to hire in Melbourne or Sydney so we said “Why not. Let’s give it a crack!” This approach has also helped us tap into the construction and project management talent in the west.

Referral bonus

Referrals are the best source of talent. We have substantially increased our referral bonus from $1,000 to $5,000. We are trying to do a lot more to attract talent earlier in the cycle. 

Our data shows  that around 60% of the applicants our employees refer are successful for those roles. We streamlined the process of referring someone to ensure that it was simple and easy for everyone. We asked employees to look at all the jobs available, think about their networks (work, family, friends) and share links with them if they thought there was a match. This has proved to be a successful way to attract quality candidates.

Harnessing data to fill roles faster

Applying an operations lens to the recruitment process with a focus on data has helped us improve time to hire. That old maxim of what you measure (and share) gets managed, is so true! 

We have had a big focus in our talent team recently around open roles. Our Workforce Planning manager aged all our recruitment requisitions to understand the profile of our open roles. It was surprising to see that 40% were greater than 90 days old and 20% were greater than 120 days old. 

After sharing this information weekly, and methodically working as a team through these roles, results improved. After 8 weeks, the profile completely flipped with 80% of open roles being less than 60 days old and the number of long term open roles was halved.  

Candidate engagement

Getting hiring managers to engage with candidates early in the recruitment and onboarding process keeps candidates engaged. 

The candidate experience extends from the first point of engagement, through to when they become an employee on day one. Using the LiveHire 2-way SMS with candidates has improved engagement; we have found that TAs who use this tool have better hiring statistics. 

TA is good at running people through the recruitment process. That gap from when a candidate signs a contract to when they are on-boarded is something we are focusing on more to ensure we don’t lose quality candidates. 

We are encouraging hiring managers to engage with people actively between offer and day one. This is particularly true with our graduates and apprentices who often have a lengthy delay between contract signing and their start date.

Building the Talent Community

Talent Pooling is part of the ethos around workforce planning and it allows us to move quickly when a hiring need arises. In the last couple of months, we have talent pooled over 700 candidates. We didn’t have the bandwidth to do this on our own as we were in that perfect storm of increasing open role volume, and a talent team that was 30% under-resourced, so we engaged LiveHire’s People Services team to pool candidates for 20 of our most difficult jobs. This has delivered great results with our monthly days to hire reducing by 25% in the last 3 months.

Tapping into past employees

Another area that is becoming a game changer for us is the Alumni Reserve Talent Pool – an element of our AWS. We are re-engaging people who retire by offering them casual contracts. This is helping us manage BAU peaks and troughs, training and mentoring of our less experienced people, knowledge transfer and it is having a wonderful inclusivity effect on our culture. 

There are a lot of discussions today about Talent Acquisition and Talent Management moving closer together. Can you talk about how you’re creating more alignment between those functions at Jemena?

Talent Management for managers

In the talent management space, we are taking talent management down to the lower levels. We are placing a deeper focus on succession and retention (beyond simply focusing on senior leaders). 

We have developed a Talent Toolkit that provides a foundational overview on “What is talent management” and the 4 key steps around that (talent mapping, succession planning, retention management, regular development conversations). For every role, (not just critical roles), we ask managers to think about who has potential and encourage them to have  conversations with their employees during their regular one-on-ones. We encourage these conversations to be a year-round activity, rather than just taking place once during the annual review process. 

Using data to identify flight risks

I spoke earlier about data, well workforce planning is an area where the Talent Management and Talent Acquisition teams are doing some really cool stuff building a lead indicator model. 

They have started with one large team (80 pax) and using Excel they are pulling together a whole heap of datasets – job family, tenure, engagement, high potential, etc. and then looked at what we know from external data – e.g. engineers move jobs every 4 years and everyone is trying to hire female engineers. 

Using this model we can then see who are our ‘at risk’ people, e.g.: female engineers with around 4 years service in teams with low engagement. This has uncovered people who may not have been on our radar as a flight risk, allowing us to proactively manage that risk. 

We are also having Talent Acquisition and Talent Management teams attend detailed quarterly field scheduling half day sessions.

Talent mapping to support retention

Retention, particularly of our female leaders, is a huge focus for us. As part of our talent management focus, we had a look at those talent maps and did an overlay on where the women are on those maps and their comp ratio, relative to their job family. 

We discovered that we had high potential key middle management successors with salaries well below the median. Interestingly this is the level in the business that is least engaged, with the highest workload and the lowest feeling of control. 

We used that information to identify a whole bunch of attrition risk (not only in the female cohort) and then put the HRBPs, Rem and Org capability CoEs together to work through retention actions for each employee we were concerned about.

About Fiona Haymes

Jemena/Zinfra, Group HR Operations Manager

Fiona Haymes Fiona Haymes is Group HR Operations Manager at Jemena/Zinfra – an exciting place to be these days as Australia transitions to a low carbon future. For 25 years she has helped Jemena/Zinfra employees excel in their roles by making traditionally complex HR systems, frameworks and processes, simple.

She possesses deep expertise in leading Talent Acquisition, Talent Management and Reward teams and is an accredited Human Synergistics practitioner.

Outside of the office she is a keen water-skier, buys tickets to every musical that comes to town and loves a good home renovation TV series!

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