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Hiring outside the box

The Mornington Peninsula has a workforce of 62,311 people. In the last five years it has grown by +9629 people, but the population has only grown by +5496 people in that time. Businesses are facing staff shortages across most industries. With traditional hiring methods now not always successful, businesses need to think differently when hiring staff. 

With so many other pressure on business, trying to navigate HR issues is sometimes put in the too hard basket. Ironically its the time we don’t spend on changing thing that will end up costing us more. Businesses need to do things differently, need to think outside the box. 

The following information was first presented on 4 June 2024 at the ‘Hiring outside the box’ business breakfast, hosted by Mornington Peninsula Shire with support from Workforce Australia. Panellists included:

Becoming an ’employer of choice’

The panel all agreed that just because you have always done recruitment a particular way, does not mean you should continue that way – particularly if its not reaping results! Successful businesses are agile in redefining roles and responsibilities, deepening their understanding of what their employees value and need, and delivering flexibility and options for current and future staff members. Businesses now need to think about employing staff in a different way; from the job design, to the advertising, selection, the onboarding and culture. Its all important.

So how does a business become an ’employer of choice’? Read on for our top ways to think differently about hiring.



Potential employee perceptions of what an industry does may be quite removed from the reality. Working in a nursery may include the use of robotics or tissue culture. Working in hospitality may include event management or specialist chef skills. There is so much more to each industry than meets the eye, but prospective employees may not know this.

Businesses can mitigate this by engaging with schools and universities to tap into career programs, work experience and student placements. This can help introduce people to your industry – and position it as a desired career option 

Include images and information on your website and social media that shows ‘behind the scenes’ at your business to help people understand the variety of roles that your industry offers.

Think about the purpose of your business. How does it help people, what positive impacts does it make, and how does it contribute to the local community? Your prospective employees want to know.

Top tip: Visit schools to talk about your industry

Inclusive job design can support employees to work in a way that values their differences, leverages their skillset and helps them do their best work.

Common pitfalls include:​

  • Over reliance on past practice
  • Using vague criteria that could lead to discrimination or bias
  • Defaulting to full time work without considering whether flexibility can be built into the position
  • Inadvertent use of gendered language

Factors to consider when (re)designing roles:

  • Variety – greater variety can improve the interest in a job. This could mean adding additional challenges to roles or incorporating new tasks.
  • Responsibility – Employees should feel personally responsible for the work they produce (both the successes and failures) and understand the significance of their work within the broader business.
  • Autonomy – It is best to give employees a degree of flexibility on how, when or where a job is done, within the parameters of the job.
  • Task identity – Employees often gain more satisfaction from undertaking a job from beginning to end.
  • Feedback – Regular feedback, both positive and constructive, helps to develop employees and build motivation.
  • Participation in decision making – People like to participate in decisions that affect them and are more likely to support changes that they have played a part in.
  • Recognition and support – A supportive environment will allow employees to perform at their best. Employee’s value reward and recognition, however this can come in different forms for different employees.
  • Working environment – The working environment should support employees and be free from harassment, discrimination and safety hazards.
  • Minimum requirementsDifferentiate between the tasks that can be learnt on the job, and those that absolutely require some level of qualifications.

​If this is not your area of expertise, get help! There are plenty of HR businesses that can assist you.

There are a lot of motivators other than money. Focus on work-life balance is increasing

A focus on building a positive and inclusive culture reaps rewards. Other ways to increase employee engagement and retention rates include;

  • Employee assistance and training programs – inclusive of areas like financial advice, mental health training and first aid. Access to paid recognised Australian qualifications to improve their skills. And paid study time.
  • Regular wellbeing days –  Giving staff access to paid wellbeing days or RDO’s has proven to increase staff attendance rates and productivity.
  • Employee rewards – make these easily attainable and not just KPI based.
  • Shorten work weeks –  Consider 38 hours over 4 days, 9 day fortnights or shorter weeks. Businesses that have implemented the new 4-day working week have evidence of increased production output and profits.
  • Roster flexibility –  Group together days off, change up your weekends and public holiday​ rosters so all staff have access to time off.
  • Offer training – empower your staff to upskill and put their learnings into practise on the job. Consider what transferable skills you can train your staff in. Work with Chisholm to offer short courses or accredited certificate, diplomas and more. Put in place longer term career pathways for high school students, university graduates and anyone that wants to learn. Traineeships and apprenticeship are only two of the many options available.

Focus on developing a positive culture and adding fun!

Language – Research shows that the language used in job advertisements can influence an individual’s decision to apply for positions.  Intense jargon or stereotypically male language may deter applicants. 

  • Example – words such as competitiveanalytical and objective can be interpreted as masculine words whereas interpersonalsupport, together and connected are perceived as more feminine.

Focus on Soft Skills – a focus on what skills an applicant can bring to the role will open it up to a broader potential pool.

  • Example – remove the “nice to have requirements” such as qualifications or degrees and instead include skills such as communication and ability to work with others.

Benefits to the applicant – focusing on what you as an employer and what your workplace can provide them as an employee.

  • Example – we provide an inclusive and supportive environment with a focus on employee well being and professional development opportunities.

Make the application process simple. Don’t put them off before they even apply.

Biases are most likely to impact hiring decisions. There are steps you can take to recognise and reduce biases.

Accept that you have a bias – while we would like to think we all are open minded and objective, this is not always the case. Decisions are heavily influenced by our background and personal experiences, and we judge candidates subconsciously. Make a conscious effort to override your biases.

Experiment with your advertising – Try different online channels including social media and change the parameters on search engines such as SEEK. Try asking your current staff if they know anyone, put a notice in your window, list jobs through the Chisholm Jobs and Skills Centre, talk to local service providers and other key contacts.

Allow for alternate application methods – such as walk-ins or drop offs. Approach organisations that help employ diverse candidates.

Structured interviews – remove biases by ensuring all candidates are asked the same set of clear and defined questions.

Non-verbal communication – be aware of your own body language. Interpretation can vary across cultures and may sometimes have the opposite meaning than intended.

Listen – Hone your active listening skills with your employees​ and the applicants. Act on what they say and change things for the better!

Research shows that up to 20% of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment.  This significant number has an impact on business costs as well as finding talented staff.

The onboarding process begins before an employee commences, with clear communication times, points of contact and things like parking tips (if relevant).

As well as the onboarding basics, also consider;

  • Accelerated Learning – Create a checklist of activities for new employees to ‘tick off’ on their first day, week and first 90 days at your business. Include a list of people who will be critical to their learning and success on the job and encourage them to contact them. 
  • A Buddy System – the buddy will be a similar classification or role and should be adequately resourced to be a buddy (i.e. they should be given time to undertake the task). Make sure that the buddy is easily accessible to the new employee early in the onboarding process. Formally acknowledge this role and support the buddy to allocate time to fulfil these duties. 
  • Manage Expectations – clear expectations about behaviour and performance will assist with the transition.
  • Gain Feedback – Seeking feedback from employees will help you ensure that the onboarding process is the best it can be for both employees and the business. Feedback questions should focus on the employee’s perceptions.

Who are are your future staff members?

Living through a pandemic has changed the way people feel about work. They want flexibility, meaning,  alignment with their values.

Research shows that a diverse team helps address issues like racism, sexism and other discriminatory points of view, but it also fosters creative thinking and delivers increased innovation to the business. It’s GOOD for business!

If your business is not getting the ‘right people’ applying (or worse still no-one is applying) then its time to re-think your approach. Who else could be the right fit for your business and how can you make your jobs appealing to them?

The 2021 census shows that 51.7% of the Mornington Peninsula residents are female. For non-traditional female roles such as trades and STEM based professions, there can even be programs to help businesses to employ women.

Consider whether you have already decided on a preference for one gender over another when you are advertising roles – and make a conscious effort to change this mindset. Look closely at the mix of staff that you employ and consider how to attain a balance of genders across all levels of roles.

Top tip: Reword your job advertising so that it uses language that doesn’t deter women from applying.

There are 46,625 families on the MP (in a population of 168,948). These are made up of 18,170 couples with children , 6,932 single parent families, and 473 other family compositions. Everyone’s family situation is not the same. Caregiving could be for younger children but equally could be for older parents or other family members.

Think about how your job fits in with family life. What opportunities are there to offer flexibility that would suit those with caregiving roles.

Top tip: Consider splitting a full time role into two part time roles, changing the hours to fit around  family commitments, or rejigging your rosters to enable quality time off.

From 15 years of age onwards, a large number of  youth of the Mornington Peninsula move away. The Mornington Peninsula’s current unemployment rate is lower than other areas, but we have pockets of extremely high youth unemployment. 

Younger people today are looking for different things in a job compared to younger people of previous generations. Businesses need to reimagine what they are offering young people.

Workforce Australia offers free services and resources for employers hiring under-25s.

A strong connection with local schools can help students to understand what your industry offers and why they would work for your business. Organisations such as the FMPLLEN can help connect businesses to schools through industry expos, in school experiences, work experience programs, traineeships and apprenticeships, school based learning programs and more.

Top tip: Create strong connections with your local schools to tap into student workers.

Advertising a role is a chance to reflect on how critical it is for applicants to hold a qualification or have extensive previous experience.

Of the Mornington Peninsulas 168,948 residents, 30,362 hold a bachelor degree or higher as their highest level of education, 15,917 hold an advanced diploma or diploma, 5,693 hold a  Certificate IV, 20,387 have a Certificate III, 19,614 hold only a Year 12 attainment, 9,955 hold Year 11 and 26,963 have attained Year 10 or less.

Your future staff member may NOT have a degree or a qualification.

Top tip: Consider offering on the job training and qualifications to get the team member you want.

Between 2016 and 2021 the Mornington Peninsula saw an increase in residents born in the UK, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, South Africa, Ireland, Greece, USA, and the Philippines. During those five years, 6% of the population arrived from overseas. 

More than a third of Mornington Peninsula residents (62,710) have one or both parents born overseas. Common languages used at home (other than English) include Italian (1493), Greek (1353), German (588), Mandarin (476), Spanish (453).  

Not everyone speaks fluent English, but bilingual team members can be a great asset. Some back of house tasks may not even require fluency in English. Business can design roles and rosters to suit CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) people.

Cultural diversity offers richness of ideas and perspectives. Educate yourself in culturally appropriate practises and ensure that your job advertisements are welcoming of different cultures.

Top tip: Think about how your business could overcome language barriers

Of our 168,948 residents, 92,604 have no long term health conditions. While this is good news, it also means that 76,344 DO have one or more long term health conditions and it is important to consider how your business caters for these people as staff members. Not all disabilities are visible, so consideration of sensory impacts, length of shifts, the physical requirements of tasks are just some of the ways employers can support their employees.

People with a disability can make valuable contributions as employees. JobAccess provides free, expert support in employing people with disability, including employer advice, financial support for workplace adjustments and training.

Top tip: Break up tasks into smaller chunks or make other adaptations to enable multiple staff members to complete them.

It is predicted that by 2026 a third of the Mornington Peninsula’s population will be over 65 years of age.

The perception of what an “older worker” is, is getting younger and younger. People job-seeking after turning 50 have found that less companies are recruiting from that age bracket. A recent report by National Seniors found that those wanting to return to paid work, face barriers of ageism, pension disincentives, inflexible employers, skillsets in need of updating and more. 

This is an opportunity for local employers. Mature age workers bring a wealth of experience. Recruiting them can help address labour shortages, and the Work Bonus gives aged pensioners an incentive to work more hours.

Austrade has more information for tourism businesses, and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations offers more resources, access to subsidies and training on how to go about employing older people. There is also assistance for businesses employing staff wanting to transition careers.

Top tip: Include welcoming language in your job advertisements so that your are not discouraging older people from applying

27.1% of workers travel from outside the peninsula to work (mainly from Frankston or Casey), but even if you live in the region you will probably need to use a car to get to work.

Public transport on the peninsula can be a hindrance to those needing to use it to get to work. Although a number of bus services run along the Port Phillip side of the peninsula, getting across from east to west is far more difficult, and the frequency of services on the Western Port side is an issue.

Employers that can offer transport solutions or are on public transport routes can include this information in their job advertisements. Understanding the public transport options to your business is  important as it may be a simple fix to change shift times so that they align with public transport timetables.

For those staff that are travelling from outside the peninsula, emphasize that they would be travelling against the traffic and will use less petrol than if they were travelling to Melbourne for work.

Top tip: Buddy staff members up with another who has a car and can help out with a lift.


The Mornington Peninsula is home to 1,724 Aboriginal and Torres strait islander people. 

IndigCareers can assist employers to attract and retain Indigenous staff.


Where to find help?

There are a number of organisations that can give businesses advice on how to attract employees, what subsidies are available and what support they can access.

Content created June 2024

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