Executive Outlook presentation – the highlights

We would like to give a big shout out to all the business leaders who shared their insights into Executive Outlook’s latest survey.

It was wonderful to see so many new (and familiar) faces at our presentation, held at the Ipswich Civic Centre last week. We love your feedback – thank you.

“Excellent presentation, well done – so much research”.

“Informative, interesting and very well presented”.

Executive Outlook’s annual survey explores business sentiment and take the pulse of leaders across the region (for our 14th year). Here are a few highlights.

Business Sentiment:

Inflation’s a big deal, but pipelines are solid.  75% of local firms are optimistic.

There is strong demand for industrial space and developments across the western corridor.

“Demand will continue to outstrip supply until new land is released for development.”

This has flowed onto service outlets, medical, legal and finance sectors, which are thriving.

Demand for IT services is massive, particularly with the explosion in cybercrime.

We interviewed leaders in health, aged care and disabilities, crippled by understaffing. Providing adequate care and services is top priority for health leaders in this high-growth region.

The global supply chain crisis drove manufacturers to customise locally-made products. This pivot story is such a silver lining for local industry.

Where economics didn’t work before COVID, now they do”.

Hotel venues reported a surge in occupancy rates, and events across the region have ramped up.

“The last few years have all been about resilience, now it’s getting busier”.

Local media outlets are forging ahead, tempered by inflationary pressures:

 “People are watching their pennies”.

Discretionary consumer spend in retail and travel remain strong at this point.

Whilst education is a high-growth sector, demand for apprenticeships and traineeships has fallen. This is best explained by the abundance of job opportunities on offer.

Pathways for students are very different”.

“We’ve seen a broad lack of commitment to gain qualifications”.

Housing rental vacancies remain at all-time lows. Landlords face significant cost spikes, which has pushed rents up.  The outlook in construction is buoyant.

At the same time, there is trepidation about the economy.  20% of local firms are neutral about the outlook, and a further 5% are concerned.  Many builders on fixed term contracts have been hit hard by freight hikes, timber and worker shortages, with ripple effects on the market.

Overall, commodity exports and conditions are strong, but there’s a sense that the wheel will turn, so it pays to have a Plan B.

Find the right balance between technology and people. Throw resources into improving systems and automate what you can to cut costs. It takes market knowledge and finesse to engage with clients and explore options to meet their needs – that’s our edge. A number of leaders said they’ve “got better at this” and shared ideas:

“Create customer experiences and events”.

“Train the team as rainmakers, to engage with clients”.

“Rework technology”.

Tackling inflation:

Business leaders in Executive Outlook confirmed that:

“Direct wages, insurance, fuel and power costs have spiked (even Christmas parties)”.

However, we don’t expect this to last.

“Once the frenzy’s out of markets, we’ll go back to what we’re used to”.

The cost pressure rattling leaders most is the push for higher wages.

“Inflation is temporary, but you can’t reduce wages”.

“It’s a merry dance of competition for staff and higher wages”.

“Wage pressures make it harder to grow sales”.

Meanwhile, we’re passing on rising costs to our clients with care and diligence:

“Take the time to explain price increases”.

“It’s about relationships and service”.

Our survey found goods and services are up 13% to 40% on last year. It pays to check other suppliers and obtain like for like quotes.

Leaders shared ideas to mitigate inflation:

“Rise and fall price clauses in contracts”.

“30 day quotes”.

“We can’t control fixed costs, but we’re running leaner”.

Top Challenges:

 The stand out constraint uncovered in our survey is labour shortages.  Business leaders told us:

 “It’s easy to get work, the market’s hot. We need more staff to grow. Everything else is manageable”.

“Balance has shifted in favour of employees, and they know it”.

“We can’t see any short term fix to the tight market”.

“We struggle to match competitor salaries, which implicates turnover”.

The pandemic led to a surge in career switching and retirements. We are clearly fighting the demographic tide. Many baby-boomers (and Generation X’s) took early retirement payouts. That’s a lot of knowledge walking out the door.

“It’s a pandemic induced baby boomers bust”.

Meanwhile, cybercrime’s got us all on edge. Data breaches, ransomware. spoofing, phishing attacks have exploded. It’s a timely reminder to be vigilant, turn on software updates, multi-factor authentication and back-up.

Our last line of defence is the human brain. If you don’t know, don’t click!”

Falling consumer demand was cited by 10% of leaders, and is a trend to watch. This was followed by affordability of technology and new regulations.

Skill shortages:

89% of leaders cited skill shortages – it’s epic. This is the mood on the ground.

“Candidates are buying into the hype, and think they’re worth a lot more (without presenting a case)”.

“There’s no stickability.”

“We’ve noticed the loss of long-term casuals like never before”.

We identified shortages in:

  • Cybersecurity, cloud computing, analysts and developers.
  • Nurses, doctors, allied health, aged care and disability teams (all crippled by understaffing).
  • Financial advisors
  • Experienced accountants
  • Boilermakers, electricians, fitters – trades across the board.
  • Legal staff
  • Business Developers
  • Sales support
  • Recruiters
  • Hospitality (cleaners, chefs, front of house).

That’s to name a few. The list goes on (and on).

The unpinning soft skills to shine combine engagement, influence and empathy with high-level technical skills.

Look for transferable skills and values, so you don’t overlook the right person.  It’s easy to train in technical skills, but harder to train in “soft skills”.

 With knowledge so easy to access, workers are more informed and can learn faster, with fewer credentials.

“I can teach you the craft, but I need learning agility”.

As technology changes the scope of jobs, many will be in industries that haven’t been invented yet.  This means upskilling and lifelong learning to stay ahead of the game.

“Lifelong reskilling and retraining will be needed for the future workforce”. CCIQ – Future of Work Report

Businesses are adapting to these trends, to secure the skills they need.

But, if you’re looking for a superstar or trainee, don’t forget to call our team at Top Office.

Staff turnover:

33% of local firms expect staff turnover to increase (there’s a bit to unpack).

“She started Monday and didn’t turn up Tuesday.”

“It’s a flighty market”.

 Most leaders aren’t too concerned about talent being poached, but we’re on alert.

 “If headhunted, they may move for money”.

 Hiring Intentions:

63% of leaders intend to grow headcount. We engage contractors and outsource as needed (but they’re light on the ground too).


A recent SEEK survey found 23% of workers are looking to move jobs in the next 6 months – here’s why.

  • More money
  • Career progression
  • Burnout or lack of work-life balance
  • Poor leadership or culture

That said, it’s much cheaper and saves time to retain the talent we’ve got and give them tools to thrive.  Our advice is to bolster career pathways, training, incentives and flexible work (it’s not just about money).

There’s no one-size-fits-all, but leaders were keen to share ideas. Competitive pay, incentives, training and hybrid work top the list. Here’s what else we uncovered from your feedback:

  • Equity buy-in for long-term staff.
  • Know what makes your key players tick, and facilitate that (money, flexible hours, training etc).
  • 9 day fortnight for office staff.
  • Stay staff focused and create a sense of belonging.
  • Spontaneous rewards (race days, vouchers to restaurants etc).
  • Sign on bonuses.
  • Workplace well-being (to understand their contribution to the business).
  • Executive Coaching.
  • Opportunity to attend industry conferences, with peer networking.
  • Social get-togethers (coffees, dinners, birthday celebrations etc).
  • Extra personal leave for birthdays, volunteering or family matters.
  • Leadership autonomy to make decisions.
  • Subsidised health care and gym memberships.
  • Professional development training.

Work from home:

A recent HRD Hybrid Report by Enboarder found 87% of employees want flexible work.

Workers get to claim expenses, with no commuting, more family and me-time.  What’s not to love?

Productivity is measured on outcomes, rather than a time and place. But it’s not that easy to track with all the distractions at home.  Creativity drops if people can’t brainstorm and exchange ideas.

It’s complex, but we are making progress on the blend of work from home and getting people together.  We just need to be crystal clear about KPI’s, expectations and outcomes.

“It’s now integral to business (works for some, not for others)”.

“Our staff prefer the office (productivity is higher with greater collaboration)”.

The big picture is remote work has shifted people out of cities, and drawn money into the suburbs. So the pressure’s on to get them back to the office. However, there has been backlash to forced returns, in the form of “quiet quitting”. That’s when come to work but check out.

This sadly reflects how we’ve devalued work. If they quit, they’ll have 3 more offers tomorrow. Meanwhile, local business leaders say:

“We work hard to meet expectations, but they’re cruising”.

“It’s hard to find talent that value and appreciate having a job”.

If we go into a downturn, that will be a wake-up call. They won’t have the luxury of dictating their terms to the boss – they’re lucky to have a job. Here’s what companies would do:

  • Automate entry level roles as fast as possible. It’s more expensive to employ a human.
  • What value do you bring to the job? How will you prove yourself?

To wrap up, work’s gone hybrid, talent’s hard to find, inflation’s a big deal, power’s set to surge, data security’s got us unhinged.  Most of this is outside of our control. What we can control is our connections in the community.

That’s why we’re passionate about Executive Outlook, exclusive to Top Office Group. Our survey is a barometer of local trends, a forum to share ideas and keeps us connected to our community. We are so grateful to you for sharing your insights into our research – thank you.

Compiled by Jan Gadsden, Founder of Top Office Group Pty Ltd.