Recruiting for the future: Healthcare in focus
By 2055, around 40,000 Australians will be over the age of 100 and the nation’s rapidly growing population is predicted to nudge 40 million. While this may seem like an issue for the future, it’s having a very real impact on Australia’s largest employer today.

The healthcare and medical industry accounts for more than 11% of Australia’s total employment and faces unique challenges. The Federal Government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report shows that health expenditure per person is projected to more than double over the next 40 years and demand for nurses, for example, is expected to far exceed supply. A recent Government report on the health workforce shows a projected shortfall of approximately 85,000 nurses by 2025, and 123,000 by 2030 under current settings.

To meet the challenge, employers are now adopting increasingly creative ways to attract talent.

Demand for candidates

Despite the pressure facing Australia’s healthcare and medical sector, its performance is among the best in the world. In 2014, for example, Australia ranked sixth in the world in terms of healthcare efficiency and was rated seventh in life expectancy.

However, recruitment for in-demand roles remains a challenge. Juliette Boussier, Marketing Manager with health industry recruiter Healthcare Australia, says the increasing demand for healthcare services among the ageing population is a key obstacle for organisations in the industry. She notes that specialist roles within nursing, such as mental health, pediatrics and theatre, are also in high demand. “Healthcare is a candidate-short industry and it looks like it will stay this way for several years unless there are major changes implemented in the education and training system.”

Christine Shaw, Advisor - Talent Acquisition and Services, Workforce and Culture at Barwon Health in Victoria’s second largest city of Geelong, says the retirement of older nurses is another challenge. “There are graduates coming through now but there are also mature-age nurses leaving the workforce and that’s creating a knowledge gap,” she explains. “So we're recruiting lots of graduates but they're not going be up to a specialist level by the time the older workforce retires.”

Rising to the recruitment challenge

Barwon Health is one healthcare organisation that is tackling the recruitment challenge head on. One of the largest and most comprehensive regional health services in Australia, it is also one of Australia's largest regional employers with more than 6,000 workers and remains Victoria’s second-largest provider of teaching to medical students, based on placement activity. Shaw says attracting quality candidates is essential to meeting the health needs of Geelong’s growing population, which is expected to rise close to 35% by 2036.

“We’re already planning for the skills we’ll need in the future because healthcare is  quite a fast-moving environment with advancements in technology.”

Career progression and flexibility are key to Barwon Health’s recruitment strategy. “People want to develop their skills no matter what industry they are in and we’re also finding that more people expect flexibility, so we offer that balance,” says Shaw.

Barwon Health also offers other employee benefits to help attract and retain talent, such as a work wellness program and staff social events. “We also focus on our branding to promote the difference that Barwon Health offers candidates,” adds Shaw.

Recruitment at Barwon Health also benefits from a close partnership Deakin University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery at its Geelong campus. “We offer career pathways through the university,” she explains.

Bringing talent to the regions

While attracting candidates to regional locations can be challenging for employers, Barwon Health has adopted a creative approach to enticing talent to its coastal home. Its annual summer recruitment campaign includes videos and social media posts featuring people who have relocated to Geelong and how the move has benefitted their lifestyle – whether it’s spending time on the beach at nearby Barwon Heads or visiting the coastal town of Torquay.

“We get a great response,” says Shaw. “People registering for job alerts increases over that period and our number of followers on LinkedIn and Facebook also increases considerably over that period.”

Shaw adds that attracting candidates to regional areas is a challenge for most industries but Barwon Health is working to change that. “If you’re not from here, you just don’t know how great it is, so a key part of our recruitment strategy is to promote it,” she explains. “Barwon Health offers great career progression and the Geelong region is very community focused, especially in healthcare, which is another benefit for people passionate about health. We're very lucky in Geelong because we have one regional community to serve and we know that community very well.”