Presentation highlights from Executive Outlook

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

Our survey explores business sentiment and take the pulse of leaders across the region (for our 13th year running).

Multi-Tier Economy

68% of local businesses in our survey are optimistic, with strong growth across housing and industrial sectors. This has flowed on to service outlets, medical centres, accounting and legal sectors.

“Brisbane’s housing market surged by 27%”.

“Well-presented commercial listings selling like hotcakes”.

IT sectors flourished in COVID.

Some Qld manufacturers and supply chains are thriving, to bring home the story of local manufacturing.

The massive injections of stimulus buffered our economy, and helped drive confidence, hiring and profits across the region.

Unfortunately, firms facing restrictions, supply chain backlogs and an explosion in raw material costs have been hit hard.

What do you consider to be your No. 1 threat?

Cybercrime is the No. 1 threat facing local firms.  Attacks on online commerce and COVID fuelled scams have skyrocketed.

ACSC reports Cybercrime and ransomware attacks were up 13% and 15% respectively last financial year.

Just a reminder to turn on auto software updates, multi-factor authentication and back up.

Three in four local firms cited staff shortages (and wage expectations are a hot topic).  This is biting local cafes and venues (compounded by the virus).

Dealing with new regulations showed up multiple times. It falls back on leaders to develop new systems. Compliance underpins safety and protection, but the goalposts keep moving, amplified by COVID.

“We’re falling into a vortex of risk mitigation, with intensifyng pressure on decision-makers, hindering productivity”. (HR Daily, 15/9/2021)

SEQ’s housing boom is one thing, but global shortages of timber and fixtures forced prices to skyrocket. This created a perfect storm for builders trying to fulfil contracts.

“Timeframes for new homes were pushed back month after month – provision clauses now written into contracts”.

Importers faced a perfect storm of freight hikes, delays and container shortages.

“A 40 foot shipping container Pre-COVID cost $500 US in freight. Our last one cost $13,500 (in just 18 months).”

That’s bull park for furniture and timber importers out of China. The main risk is inflation, as costs are passed on to consumers. If these spikes in inflation last, purchasing power can plummet quickly.

The silver lining from this supply chain crisis is the potential to customise locally-made products to suit the market. Architects and designers are on board, and loving our Oz-made products.

Have you reshaped your business?

75% of local firms pivoted during COVID. We’ve learnt to:

  •  Ramp up technology.
  • Educate clients on shifting market dynamics.
  • Rework skills to meet rapid change.
  • Grow our brand through digital marketing, webinars and virtual product launches.

Entrepreneurs found new opportunities to service the luxury market.  With travel on hold, discretionary spend and stimulus has moved into luxuries, like caravans, 4WD’s, jet skis, hobbies and renovations.

Have you implemented hybrid work?

COVID drove us out of the office, and unleashed a new type of worker.  They like the freedom and independence of this lifestyle (the office is so-yesterday). They get to claim expenses, with no commuting. What’s not to love?

Productivity Commission report “We’ve gone from less than 8% of Australians working from home to 40%”.

This trend has accelerated the shift of people out of capital cities, and drawn money and investments into the suburbs. There’s a shift towards blending remote work with a “go-to hub” in the workplace for face-to-face collaboration.

43,000 Australians net moved to regional areas in 2020  (a new record).

52% of local firms have adopted a hybrid model.

“We’re more agile and productive”.. “Staff travel less and seem happier”.

“Remote work is ideal for projects, reports and audits”.

Our conversations also exposed the limitations.

“It’s hard to manage and puts more pressure on those in the office”.

“Flexible work is fine for a while, but then productivity falls. You’re left with the same costs”.

Some leaders give their staff a choice, but find they prefer the workplace.

“Our staff valued coming back to work – they missed the social interaction”.

The bottom line is hybrid work’s here for the long haul.

Younger workers are more skilled and agile. They want choices on when and where they work.

Forward-thinking businesses are adapting to these trends, to secure the skills they need.

Have you been affected by skills shortages

85% of business leaders in our survey cited skill shortages – that’s epic. You told us:

“We’re all fishing in the same pond of people”.

Demand for skilled trades is intense (boilermakers, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, safety technicians – across the board).

There are acute shortages in procurement, finance and logistics roles.

Digital marketers and cybersecurity specialists can name their own terms.

“It’s hard to find the right person, with the right mix of skills and traits”.

Health, aged care and disability workers are in a league of their own.  Our survey confirmed acute shortages of nurses, medical staff and aged care teams across the region.

CEDA research “Aged care workforce will need to grow by nearly 17,000 workers a year over the next decade to meet basic standards of care”.

Farmers are still desperate for pickers. Thankfully, this is turning around, for approved international workers.

Australia lost 96,600 people net in 2020-21. Prior to Covid, net migration added 250,000 to the population. 

There are more jobs “than you can poke a stick at”, but we do need people to come in and migration is a way to do that”. Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

Queensland unemployment dipped to 4.7% (and we’re also fighting the demographic tide).

Where to from here?

Demand exceeds supply. Now is the time to lock-in talent by hiring on potential, with a training plan.

“In this tight market, You’re only likely to get a 60-70% fit – the rest comes down to potential”.

Our advice is to look for transferrable skills and values (or risk being stuck in a paradigm of the past).

Learning agility is shaping up as more important than credentials. Knowledge has never been easier to access online or via networks.  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. 

The key is use technology to engage with clients and build our brand – that’s the edge (machines can’t replicate these skills).  These critical skills combine engagement, influence and empathy with high-level technical skills. You told us:

“We look for high levels of emotional intelligence, to consult with our clients”.

We find candidates value flexibility, a career path and meaningful work that enhances lives. Money’s not everything (but it’s s up there with oxygen). They have multiple job offers on the table, so you need be competitive in all these areas.

A way around this is to grow your own talent (or, if you’re looking for a superstar or trainee, call our team at Top Office Group).

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