Here’s why you’re better off retraining employees than hiring new staff


According to a TAFE study released last month, almost half (48 per cent) of Australian businesses would rather hire talent than train existing employees.

Ironically, 70 per cent of businesses are finding it more difficult to hire workers with the specific skills needed. With skill shortages on the rise, particularly in the IT sector, and almost a third of jobs at risk of disappearing within 12 years thanks to automation, simply turning over staff is not the answer.

Hiring is necessary when a business grows and requires more manpower. It is also needed when outside experience is crucial; for example, to establish a new department or bring a niche skill that doesn’t exist at all within a company.

The problem is many organisations are hiring in the belief that it is easier, cheaper and faster than spending weeks or months teaching existing staff new skills they are more than capable of learning.

The cost-benefit myth

It has been estimated the real cost of recruitment in Australia can be upwards of 50 per cent of a person’s salary.

A mistake in the recruitment process that leads to an early employee resignation or dismissal can cost an employer between half and two-thirds of the employee’s annual salary.

Hiring incurs advertising costs, recruitment fees, interview time and resources, as well as induction and administrative training expenses – without any guarantee of improved productivity.

Indeed, the time it takes to hire more than doubled from 2010 to 2015, resulting in average productivity losses and recruitment costs of over $34,000.

The fact is, retention pays. With younger generations far more likely to job-hop than older workers, retention is only getting harder. What makes a difference is training and reskilling.

Indeed, the TAFE report shows training is the second most effective way of keeping staff (20 per cent), behind pay and incentives. Organisations that can continuously create new and achievable pathways for individual movement will retain staff and save money.

Foster on-demand, lifelong learning

Accounting firm EY recently released a study that found about 40 per cent of existing university degrees will soon be obsolete.

Technology is forcing professions to evolve at a pace the traditional university model can’t keep up with. It is predicted the future of university education will involve degrees made up of ‘micro-credentials’ that are directly relevant to the work students want to do.

Workplaces will need to replicate this by putting the annual review to bed and adopting a ‘lifelong learning’ approach to employee development.

Today’s learners expect the same from a learning platform as they do from Netflix or online shopping; personalised, self-curated and continuous on-demand learning is key to giving individuals a sense of ownership to reach their development goals at the pace they decide, and in a way that keeps them motivated.

A single, cloud-based data model that simplifies and streamlines staff assessment and training within an organisation will enable companies to identify skills and competency gaps and give employees the ability to achieve genuine career mobility – be it moving up the ladder, down, sideways, or even making a complete career change within a business.

Technology is making learning and development far simpler, more user-friendly and cost-effective than ever.

Offer training to all – especially women

In both Australia and New Zealand, women comprise of nearly half of the total working population, yet only 13.7 per cent of chair positions and 16.5 per cent of CEO positions.

Despite being more highly qualified at university level, women are also more likely to be ‘under-employed’, working part-time and paid less.

A raft of issues including engrained gender bias, parental leave provisions, the cost of childcare and access to flexible work are among the contributors.

Another is that many organisations are failing to ensure training programs are appropriately tailored to, and accessible for women to participate in, particularly digital skills training.

Access to training is one of the best ways to increase diversity and equality.

Instead of focusing on short-term hires, organisations need to look at how they integrate learning and development initiatives to ensure all their people are given the best chance to thrive and develop their careers, including equal access for part-time, disadvantaged or casual employees.

They should also be introducing STEM training throughout the work lifecycle, particularly aimed at women.

Too many Australian businesses are holding themselves back through untapped staff potential and a gap-filler approach to hiring. The future of work is about the individual and their ability to adapt to change.

Organisations that give all their employees access to lifelong, on-demand learning – and only hire when truly beneficial – will be more equitable, profitable and will thrive in the digital age.

Rosie Cairnes is the Regional Director Australia and New Zealand at Skillsoft.