New and Successful Ways To Recruit and Retain Workers

By Sophie Richards on 08 June 2022

Chess pieces and shadow
  • ​Recruitment and retention strategies must change to reflect the new candidate short market

  • Organisations waiting for ‘unicorn’ candidates will find their recruitment strategy unsuccessful

  • Embracing alternative methods has had good results for some defence industry organisations

Australian defence industry is in the grip of an ongoing talent shortage crisis. Record unemployment rates combined with slow skilled migration have left the defence industry in the uncomfortable position of having to compete with adjacent industries for the workers it needs.

Through Kinexus market research we know that defence industry needs to grow by 8.8% in 2022. That’s over 3,700 vacancies that need to be filled.

Considering this, combined with other challenging factors like security clearance and ITAR requirements, I wouldn’t blame you if you threw your hands up in despair.

At the recent Indo Pacific conference in Sydney, Kinexus consultants had numerous conversations with defence industry employers along the lines of, ‘where can we find the unicorns?’

If you’re looking for a silver bullet solution to the current defence industry talent shortage, I have good and bad news for you.

The bad news – there is no silver bullet.

The good news – there are new recruitment methods being implemented with significant success. True, it’s early days. But new and innovative approaches are delivering positive recruitment and retention outcomes.


New recruitment approaches

It’s a common experience, shared across hiring managers industry wide, that a candidate presenting as an 80% match to the job role specifications, even a 70% match, just isn’t available.

In this instance, it’s time to consider alternative ways of bringing someone suitable into the role. This might be through alternative sourcing methods or through an exploration of what the perfect candidate really looks like.

Role re-discovery

Embracing a shift towards vocational qualifications and alternative experience will help broaden the search for talent. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the desired outcomes here?

  • What does our client really need?

  • Are there alternative ways we could achieve this that we haven’t considered?

By getting back to basics and engaging in a re-discovery process, your ideal team might go from consisting of five software engineers and two systems administrators, to one senior and one mid-level software engineer with a team of supporting systems administrators.

Re-discovery, at a project or individual level, can be transformative in broadening access to available skill sets.

Alternative candidate sources

It’s also worth asking yourself:

  • Where else can workers be found that we haven’t considered yet?

  • Would a worker from an adjacent industry be able to do the role, if given adequate training and support?

  • Could an ADF veteran fulfil this role after completing a short training course?

Some defence industry organisations have found great success in integrating adjacent industry workers with well aligned skill sets. Industries like commercial airlines, automotive or financial services often produce talent well suited to defence industry roles.

This does come with challenges. Cultural differences, security clearance or citizenship requirements, and customer push back, must be addressed prior to onboarding workers from well-aligned industries to ensure the process is smooth and the worker reaches their full potential. Proactively educating the Defence customer on candidate availability and your upskilling and integration program has helped some organisations overcome these challenges.

Tapping into the talent you already have within the business is also an excellent solution. Finding ways to provide internal talent with access to upskilling programs is an effective way to broaden the talent pool and grow engagement with current staff.

There are industry bodies working tirelessly to connect industry employers to training providers and additional sources of talent. One example is the National Shipbuilding College (NSC) who have their own job portal and provide consultations to jobseekers who have expressed an interest in working in shipbuilding. Get to know your local industry body and understand how they can help you.



Looking after the workers within your organisation is of paramount importance at all times, and particularly in the current climate. This applies both to new hires and established staff.

It’s important to remember that retention and engagement strategies might need to be tailored for each generation and could look different for permanent and contract teams.

Research shows that Generation X is more individualistic whereas millennials are more open to the idea of teamwork and collaboration. For workers in Generation Z, a greater personalisation in how they move along their career journey will be of most importance.

For more information on the nuances of employee value proposition across the generations, you can take a look at our 2021 blog.

Advanced onboarding strategies have proved powerful in the integration of adjacent industry workers or those who have been out of the workforce for some time. It’s vital to make those workers feel welcome, comfortable, and poised to succeed in their new work environment.

Having a robust onboarding process and implementing buddy systems has proved successful within defence industry organisations. If you have a new hire with little defence industry experience, buddy them up with a defence industry old-timer. In this way, you facilitate the transfer of industry knowledge, as well as providing a support system for the new hire.



Overall, those defence industry organisations faring best in this challenging environment are those accepting manageable talent risk by approaching their recruitment and retention policies and procedures differently.

Embrace the shift towards hiring based on behaviours or potential, rather than experience or qualifications, and tailor your processes to match. In this way the unicorns, while no less elusive, might seem less vital to business success.

About Kinexus

Kinexus supports defence industry nationally, both through permanent and contract recruitment, and through providing workforce insights, market mapping and other HR services. Looking for work and interested in exploring opportunities in defence industry? Get in touch with our team or take a look at our open vacancies.

Kinexus Melbourne has moved!

We’ve left our long term office on Collins St and have moved to Level 2, 8 Market St, Melbourne VIC 3000. To get in touch with our Melbourne team call 03 9982 0300.

Photo by George Becker:

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