Emerging issues and market trends

As the leading provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand, Downer is a people-dependent business. It is therefore imperative that we continue to attract, manage and retain the right people with the right skills. However, there are sizeable challenges.

There is very strong competition for talent in the sectors Downer operates in, mostly in Australia and New Zealand but also in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, there is a strong pipeline of work in the infrastructure sector which relies on technical skill-based trades as well as engineering, project management and commercial skills.

The displacement of employees across multiple industries due to COVID-19 has created an opportunity for Downer to attract people with the right skills into our business. We have moved quickly to provide training opportunities in many areas of the Group, both in Australia and New Zealand.

There remains limited interest in STEM subjects at school and trades for school leavers and this poses continuing challenges for our sectors. This is compounded by the lack of gender diversity in engineering studies, particularly for electrical and mechanical engineers. Addressing this trend will require greater engagement and investment in supporting schools and tertiary education providers to ensure potential talent see these sectors as legitimate and attractive career choices that provide medium-term and long-term prospects.

Today’s employees, and employees of the future, expect more from their employer and co-workers than they did in the past. Downer aims to have a workforce that is diverse, capable and engaged and to achieve this we must continue to operate in accordance with our Purpose, Promise and Pillars while being agile in response to changes in the work environment.

A focus on flexibility

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for businesses to be agile and flexible.

Remote working arrangements introduced due to COVID-19 restrictions could lead to a permanent shift in working patterns. New norms will be established, redefining work life.

With major changes on the horizon, the purpose of workplaces will be reimagined. Office sizes will need to be reviewed, both to respond to the reduction in required space due to remote working arrangements and also to comply with health regulations for those in the office. All organisations will seek to optimise the amount of office space they need.

Virtual meetings and interactions have regularly replaced face-to-face meetings during COVID-19. This has led to a substantial reduction in travel – and to travel and related costs.

Flexible work supports the diversity and wellness of our workforce. Our people have been placing increasing value on a flexible workplace with practices that allow them to better balance their work and personal lives and this has increased during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Now that many of our employees have experienced this flexibility in their work life, we believe they will seek out some degree of flexibility on an ongoing basis.

We will continue to challenge the mindset that flexibility is only available for office-based employees. A number of our operations implemented flexible rosters during COVID-19 while continuing effective operations. Strong leadership and management of KPI deliverables will be crucial to the success of long-term flexible work arrangements.