The Northern Territory should consider positioning itself as a gateway into Australia for the global transient population to grow its workforce.
This was among the advice given by Peter Sheahan, keynote speaker at the Charles Darwin Symposium in Alice Springs on Friday October 28.
The Generation Y expert explored the motivations and inspirations of 18-25 year olds who he said perceived careers and workplaces radically differently to older generations.
Mr Sheahan addressed an audience of 150 people who came together for the CDU/NT Government symposium entitled A Skilled Workforce for Regional and Remote Australia: Keeping, Attracting, Training.
Mr Sheahan said the skills shortage in regional Australia would only worsen in the next five years and labour growth, currently at 1.2%, was predicted to slow significantly.
Without innovative and lateral approaches to recruitment and retention of staff, the Territory would further struggle to retain a workforce.
‘It’s not about what you think about your workers, but about creating an effective outcome for you, your staff and business,’ he said.
'Asking, not assuming the motivations of employees, was the first step.'
Many young people expected more from their employers than previous generations, which Mr Sheahan acknowledged, were often hard to accept by management.
He said the relationship with authority had fundamentally shifted from direction to negotiation.
‘And supply and demand says you simply have to build the bridge and get over it and develop a workplace around their mindset,’ he said.
And this process starts with recruitment. Mr Sheahan suggested the Territory embrace workers on short-term contracts and offer a workplace compatible with their motivations.
He said ‘lifestyle’, the NT’s drawcard for interstate workers wasn’t unique to the Territory and the community as a whole had to identify a point of difference from other regional centres across Australia.
And it was the responsibility of all individuals, not government, to create a career experience generation Y wanted with a core of workplace appeal and in an environment offering a sense of adventure.
This could include teaming up with other regional centres and offering a rotational package for workers to work in different locations throughout Australia.
But looking after and retaining local Territorians was critical.
‘The Territory needs to attract people who punch above their weight and provide opportunities that keep them here and you need to create a space for these workers by talking to them and finding out what their motivations are whether it be child care or flexi time,’ he said.