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Danny Chung
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You have probably seen this topic floating around since late last year, and as this is affecting Australia on a National Level, I thought it would be important to see what fellow Australians thought on the matter.

The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics defined the following in one of their recent publications: “A skill shortage exists when the demand for workers for a particular occupation is greater than the supply of workers who are qualified, available and willing to work under existing market conditions.”

Recent studies show that while the unemployment level is low, the level of skilled employees also continues to drop, especially in the trade industry. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

  •  Engineering professions
  • Health diagnostic and therapy professions
  • Nurses
  • Automotive trades
  • Engineering trades
  • Food trades
  • Child care

Have these professions become unattractive?

A recent article in www.news.com.au pointed out that these firms would be hit the hardest by looming skills shortages for the next decade!

While putting on my ‘detective’ hat and investigating the matter further, I have noticed a big gap between our ‘baby boomers’ that are now on the verge of completing their final years of employment compared to the those who have finished their education and are wanting to get into the workforce but not yet possessing the necessary skills/knowledge to pursue that particular field. This is where I had respondents agree that career guidance also plays a vital role for the newer generation within the workforce.

I tend to find this links well with our recent News Article: Are You Learning as Fast as the World Is Changing? This article outlines that new training methods and skills are required regularly to keep up with the world today and as an employer, one must be open-minded to new recruits and be willing to offer the training and skills required to be one step ahead of not only competitors, but to also be recognised more within their particular industry.

Another term that you may be familiar with on top of skill shortages is a skill gap. The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics identify that skill gaps ‘occur when existing staff do not have the skills for the required positions.’ So, what about those already employed that would like further skills testing? Would the government consider increased funding for these subsidised studies?

One of our poll respondents stated, ‘There are two things holding me back from further studies. Time and money. I genuinely believe that everyone, no matter the age, needs to keep learning in order to keep growing, and if the government can ease one of those problems, I would jump at the opportunity!’

While the option to Import International Talent was not favoured as highly by our poll respondents, the overall feedback was that more than one strategy is required for any improvement in this field to take place.

I believe that this weeks’ poll can be summarised by one of our respondents’ as this: ‘In short, we need a clear understanding of where & why the shortages exist as well as a collaboration from both government and private sectors to address it.”

Let’s just hope that it won’t take a whole decade to see improvement!

Haven’t had a say? What are your thoughts?


I broke my toe at a long-ago Christmas function. I would like to immediately emphasise (mainly because my boss will read this) that it was not whilst working here. The thing is, I don’t remember actually doing it, which made it all the more startling when I awoke the next day with a purple toe. 

The point is: had the company I was working for at the time spent less or even nothing on the Christmas party, and I had been required to pay for my own Christmas cheer, I may not have imbibed it with such abandon, hence no broken toe. 

However, because I am now a “responsible adult”, I do accept that it is my responsibility to curb my enthusiasm re free drinks and I am one of the 87% who responded with a YES to last week’s online poll question: “Should employers fund the company Christmas function.” 

Of course, this does mean that 13% thought they shouldn’t. Interesting. “Why?” I hear you asking in disbelief. 

Well, one response that I thought was perhaps fair enough was “a community-funded organisation should not spend community money on a Christmas party.” There are some things that are more important to spend money on than bad wine and silly hats. 

And the other respondents in this group basically all said that the cost should be shared between employers and employees. 

Hmmm … 

Overwhelmingly, though, the issue of the company paying for the Christmas party boiled down to one thing: staff morale

Again and again, respondents were adamant that the “return on investment” was something companies could not ignore:

– “Employers receive massive returns re staff morale for a relatively small outlay.”

– “This is a gift that doesn’t cost a company much, but is hugely valued by employees. More to the point, if it isn’t funded, the employer loses much more respect from staff than the little monetary saving achieved.”

– “The Christmas function is a way in which a Company thanks their staff, where titles are dropped and people are people. Staff members look forward to this event all year and as many companies do not give bonuses, a party is a way to reward hard work.”

– “It is an opportunity for the employer to show openly how much they value their employees. I don’t think any employer wants to be labelled a ‘scrooge’“.  

So, morale is the moral of the story. Employers take note! Can you afford not to lay on some cheese and bickies and a slab of beer for your cherished workers this Christmas?

Have you ever been offered a great job with a company which required staff to wear a really bad uniform? Did you still take the job? Tell us in our latest online poll and stay tuned for the results in next week’s ChallengeBlog post …


Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …


This week’s blog post is by guest blogger, Carmen Mackrill, Challenge Consulting’s People Services Consultant …

I had the pleasure of travelling to Brisbane last week to attend the 9th Industrial/Organisational Psychology Conference 2011.

Walking across the Victoria Bridge on the way to the Conference and Exhibition Centre, it was hard to imagine that only 6 months ago, parts of Brisbane were completely under water!

Now, despite the complications caused by the volcanic smoke affecting air travel in and around Australia, with true Aussie ‘can-do’ spirit the conference organisers remained undeterred and the conference went ahead as planned. And what a worthwhile event to attend!

The principal focus throughout the conference “connecting people”.

Following last week’s blog post by my colleague Tiffany Whitby on women in the workplace, here I will share my thoughts and impressions of a particularly interesting keynote address on “managing stereotypes in the workplace”, presented by Michigan State University’s Professor Ann Marie Ryan.

But first, just how prevalent is stereotyping in the workplace?

Our latest online poll asked: “Have you ever experienced stereotyping in the workplace?”

Alarmingly, 75% of respondents answered “yes”.

This is backed up by Angela Priestly in a recent article from the Women & Leadership in Australia e-newsletter*: “stereotyping in the workplace (especially in the legal profession) is ever prevalent and diversity programmes have the tendency to focus on numbers rather than on the wider issue of diversity.”

In her conference presentation, Professor Ryan reiterated that whilst organisations should have certain strategies in place to counteract or manage stereotypes in the workplace, employees also use their own strategies to protect themselves and their identity from being stereotyped against. Specifically, individuals make a conscious decision to either express something about themselves or not, to counter the perceived effects of stereotyping.

According to Professor Ryan, individuals use the following strategies:

1. Concealing their identity (i.e. concealing an aspect of themselves that they perceive will be open to stereotype)

2. Acknowledging their identity and putting it out there

3. Avoiding discussion of or acknowledgment of their identity

4. Disidentifying with a perceived stereotype

5. Disconfirming e.g. counter stereotyping

6. Educating others and advocating for their identity

Professor Ryan emphasised that individuals are most satisfied when they celebrate all aspects of themselves, rather than masking an aspect that they perceive could be stereotyped against. She also referred to a study done by Vignoles et al 2006**, who suggested that individuals “… are motivated to maintain or enhance feelings of self-esteem, continuity, distinctiveness, belonging, efficacy and meaning in their identities”.


The hard reality is that cost of being stereotyped against because of some aspect of your identity can be high. Advice to both individuals seeking a job or an incumbent job holder on strategies for managing their identity will obviously vary, as their motivation for impression management will differ according to the situation that they are faced with.

Managers should be aware of the different strategies that individuals adopt to prevent stereotyping, and work with the wider organisation in fulfilling its responsibility to minimise stigmatisation through implementing policies to encourage diversity, diversity training, targeted recruitment efforts, and most importantly creating an organisational culture that embraces the uniqueness of all employees and allows them to bring the strengths of their true identity to the team.

In the end, those organisations that do breed a culture of high stigmatisation will be the biggest losers, whilst organisations that embrace diversity will ensure success for themselves and their employees.


* A. Priestly (2010). Diversity: Far from female only. Women & Leadership Australia eNewsletter, May

** Vignoles, V.L., Regalia, C., Manzi, C., Golledge, J., Scabini, E. (2006). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 90(2), 308-333.

Disclaimer: The Fair Work Ombudsman can help people who believe they have been subject to unlawful discrimination in relation to their employment. The Fair Work Ombudsman investigates allegations of unlawful workplace discrimination and may initiate litigation against a national system employer for contravening the Fair Work Act 2009. For more information contact: Fair Work Infoline: 13 13 94 or review the fact sheet


Our Guest Blogger this week is Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess

Challenge Consulting recently facilitated a discussion forum to explore the purpose, value, and practice of performance reviews with a group of Division Managers, Human Resources Managers, Executive Managers, and Business Owners. Our participants began with a view of performance reviews that was decidedly beige, consistent with our recent poll result (68% of respondents rated their performance appraisal as a waste of time), and Samuel Cuthbert’s famous slamming of the performance appraisal.

So why are organisations implementing performance reviews? Our participants described many strategic aims of their annual process, including:

• motivating employees and to help them grow professionally

• developing individual goals to support organisational strategy

• creating an organisational culture of high performance

• helping employees understand their role

• calculating bonuses

• developing training and development plans

• informing succession planning, and

• predicting salary growth. 

With such strategic aims of performance reviews, why are they still seen as a waste of time? Or as Fetzer (2008) put it so nicely – “a review is looked upon as onerous and bureaucratic procedure that wastes time because little, if any, productiveness is achieved during one. It is performed solely as a requirement of the organisation to have a box checked as ‘completed’ and then forgotten for another year.” *

Can the performance review be resurrected to produce the strategic organisational aims it aspires to OR will it remain to be seen as a bureaucratic procedure that wastes time and causes demotivation and low productivity? The consensus across our group was that there was a place for a performance review, but it had to have a clear, measurable purpose, part of a larger performance management process (and not just a once a year check box), and add value at all levels. (Challenge Consulting can help with the implementation of strategic performance review process through our in-house professional development Performance Management Workshops.)

But what about you? As you are about to enter performance review season and sit down with your manager – how can you ensure this process is not a waste of your time? Tiffany Whitby, Challenge Consulting Consultant, recently attended a seminar with Lois Frankel (author of “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” and associated publications) – where she recommended 6 weeks before your performance review to write a summary of your key achievements since your last review and email your manager saying something along the lines of “I know how busy you are and, since I have a performance review coming up, I have put together a list of my achievements since our last review”. (Tiffany will be sharing more of her insights from this seminar in next week’s blog post …)

Last year, I had the opportunity to present at the “Reinvent Your Career Expo” on how to use your performance review to help your career. The performance review can be used as an opportunity to help you manage your career, when you actively participate in the performance review process:

• there is higher consistency between your manager’s and your appraisal of your performance.**

• you are more likely to feel like you have had an active voice and more satisfied with the outcome of your performance appraisal.***

To be an active participant in the appraisal process, prepare for your meeting by considering:

• your key achievements (i.e. feedback you received, KPIs you achieved, new processes that you developed / implemented, or awards you received etc.)

• aspects of your role that you have performed best (i.e. tasks people always ask you for help with, tasks you finish fastest, or that you do without thinking about) – what projects would you like to be involved in the next period of time?

• aspects of your role that you would like to do better (i.e. tasks you need help completing or tasks you tend to put off) – what could help you perform these aspects of your task better – tools / training / change in role?

• What feedback do you want to give your manager to help you to be able to better perform your role?

• Be involved in the goal setting / developmental plan process – what skills do you want to develop in your career?

• Between reviews, bring out your record of your review to review your success towards the plan you made for yourself.


* Fetzer, J. (2008). Building a professional career: Improving the performance review. Biological and Environmental Reference Materials (BERM 11).

** Williams, J. R. & Johnson, M. A. (2000), Self-Supervisor Agreement: The Influence of Feedback Seeking on the Relationship Between Self and Supervisor Ratings of Performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30: 275–292. 

*** Cawley, B.D., Keeping, L. M. & Levy, P. E. (1998). Participation in the performance appraisal process and employee reactions: A meta-analytic review of field investigations. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 83(4), Aug 1998, 615-633.