• Marni Poropat, Director at Accenture. (Supplied)
    Marni Poropat, Director at Accenture. (Supplied)

So the “great resignation” Australia was braced for didn’t materialise. Instead, rather than quitting in droves, around half of workers made a change to their employment arrangements since the start of the pandemic – moving roles, switching industries or reducing their hours.

A key lesson for employers has been that, increasingly, what matters is getting the job done – not the location, specific hours, digital or physical way work takes place.

For defence organisations, new hybrid models – blending virtualised working with people coming together physically when needed – provide exciting opportunities to attract the talent and new skills that are in such high demand.

The good news is there’s a direct route into a massive, as yet untapped talent pool that would dearly love to take advantage of these new hybrid working models.

I’m talking about “hidden workers”. Thousands of people that want to work and possess skills that defence organisations need. It’s an incredibly diverse group of people. But they all have one thing in common: they want to work, or work more. So who are hidden workers and how can defence organisations start to access this talent pool?

Who are hidden workers?

This is a diverse group of individuals, spanning caregivers, veterans and military spouses, immigrants, refugees and people without traditional qualifications. Also included are those with physical disabilities, mental health challenges, and from less-advantaged populations.

Most hidden workers are eager to find work or increase their working hours. Many have skills that are in high demand.

Why are they hidden?

Accenture partnered with Harvard Business School’s Project "Managing the Future of Work" to find out more about what’s keeping these workers hidden.

Each individual’s story will be unique but our research shows that they tend to fall into one of three employment narratives. They’re either:

o   “Missing hours”, working one or more part-time jobs but wanting to work full-time

o   “Missing from work”, unemployed for a long time but still seeking employment, or

o   “Missing from the workforce”, currently not working or actively seeking employment, but could be working under the right circumstances.

Time for a change of mindset

So what’s getting in the way of these people finding (more) work?

A number of hurdles on the route to employment exclude hidden workers. Among them: excessively specific job descriptions, inflexible working practices, and difficult job application processes.

And across every industry, there’s a common issue: rigid recruitment processes that are designed to screen candidates out. In defence organisations, where national security is the overriding concern, it’s understandable that screening processes should be more stringent than most. However in some instances, this could be limiting access to the skills defence organisations need and access to jobs for people that desperately want them. 

Evolving this will require a new mindset that can find ways to screen suitable candidates in, rather than excluding them. Meeting the needs of each and every individual candidate in a way in which everyone can feel included – no matter the reason why they haven’t been considered for a role in the past.

Tailoring candidate experiences

Let’s consider what that means. Whether it’s parents looking for a way back into the workforce after leave, veterans, military spouses, people with physical disabilities, or candidates who would be brilliant in a particular role but are alienated by the whole application/interview process, defence organisations now have an opportunity to rethink the candidate experience from their perspective.

An example is the physical side of defence. Traditionally, recruits to armed forces around the world have had to pass various fitness tests before being admitted. In many countries, they still do, regardless of the role they’ll be occupying within the service.

This limits access to desperately needed specialist skills, in cyber defence for example, where fitness is not a prerequisite for getting the job done well. 

An opportunity hiding in plain sight

Bringing hidden workers into employment provides a real boost. Our research shows that organisations hiring hidden workers benefit from improved potential, performance and employee engagement. 

Across all sectors, organisations that hire hidden workers are 36% less likely to face talent and skills shortages than organisations that don’t. And they outperform their peers on six key criteria: attitude and work ethic, productivity, quality of work, engagement, attendance and innovation.

The future of work for defence organisations is taking shape – hybrid, tech-enabled and experience-led. And hidden workers can have a vital part to play.


comments powered by Disqus