Labour Attraction and Retention in Rural and Remote Queensland Communities

By Becker, Karen; Hyland, Paul et al. | Australasian Journal of Regional Studies, September 2013 | Go to article overview

Labour Attraction and Retention in Rural and Remote Queensland Communities


Becker, Karen, Hyland, Paul, Soosay, Claudine, Australasian Journal of Regional Studies


1. INTRODUCTION

Skills shortages in rural and remote communities impinge on the competitiveness of regions due to the lack of services and amenities available. Many organisations in such regions face challenges in recruiting skilled labour despite the offer of a well-paid, secure job; and this is particularly apparent when a skill set is in short supply. The reasons why a region struggles to attract and retain workers are inherently complex. At a basic level, a skills shortage can be attributed to an overall shortage in supply and excess demand. However in some cases, there may be an excess supply in one region where organisations attract skilled workers through offering higher wages and better conditions, and in doing so, create a skills shortage in surrounding regions. However, it is not possible for all employers in a region to adopt these approaches (Lever and Turok, 1999) and they must therefore identify other strategies to compete for the available supply of labour. Regions can typically consider three separate types of 'in migration' in order to boost supply of workers; urban (or international) migration, inter-regional migration and intra-regional migration (Stimson and Minnery, 1998). Each of these types of migration offers potential benefits and drawbacks, with some more difficult than others to achieve.

The attraction and retention of workers have become key challenges for organisations and communities when competing for skilled labour. Both businesses and communities suffer when there is a lack of skilled and unskilled labour. For employers, their businesses cannot grow, and additional stress is placed on the existing workforce and their families as they attempt to meet the demand placed on their businesses. For the community, people cannot access services such as healthcare, education and childcare that meet their expectations. In rural and remote regions especially, this leads to more people departing the region, placing the sustainability of communities in jeopardy. Therefore, regions may be better able to compete for labour if employers and communities work together to develop approaches to attract and retain workers in rural and remote areas.

Carroll et al. (2009) have reported that regardless of location, three different groups of factors influence an employee's decision to join, leave or remain with an organisation: outside factors (such as relocation with partner, leaving to start a family); internal push factors (such as a lack of contentment with the current job or work); or external pull factors (such as more attractive offers from other organisations). Schoo et al. (2005) identify three key domains that impact upon recruitment and retention in rural and remote regions: individual or personal, organisational, and community issues. Their research focuses on a specific professional group (allied health workers), however, they do not address attraction and retention factors on a wider basis. The current study builds on the research by Carroll et al. (2009) and Schoo et al. (2005) by examining the influence of internal and external factors on attraction and retention of employees in rural and remote communities, and identifying factors that enable regions to compete for skilled labour. Drawing upon these aims, we establish the underlying research question:

   Which organisational, personal and community factors influence
   employee attraction and retention in rural and remote Queensland
   communities?

The following sections provide a discussion of the literature regarding competitiveness of regions, and attraction and retention from the organisational perspective. Some of the previous national and state government policy initiatives, aimed at attracting and retaining workers in rural and remote areas, are also identified. Subsequently, two empirical case studies from Queensland are presented in light of individual, organisational and community factors and their impact on attraction and retention of skilled workers. …

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