Workforce | Skills

Retaining talent is biggest challenge: Wesfarmers Managing Director

Attracting, recognising and retaining talent in WA is a major challenge, a CEDA audience in Perth has heard from Wesfarmers Managing Director Richard Goyder.

"I've often said that the biggest challenge facing Wesfarmers and therefore I think you could say most businesses, particularly in Western Australia, is attracting, developing and retaining talent," he said.

Mr Goyder said that equality and diversity in the workplace can provide a competitive advantage for attracting talent over other companies.

"I think certainly from a Wesfarmers point of view any competitive advantage we have, has to do with the quality of the people we employ in the organisation," he said.

On the topic of retaining and developing internal talent, Mr Goyder said managers need to recognise the potential in employees better.

"I think we've got to be better at picking talent and having conversations with people, saying you can be more than what you are, you can be more than be in a functional support role," he said.

Mr Goyder also said having more women in senior management roles is important for developing a better business.

"I think that if you are on a leadership team and you don't have diversity around the table, you're missing something really significant," he said.

On the representation of women in the workforce, Mr Goyder said numbers need to increase.

"I absolutely believe in ensuring we get a much bigger representation of gender in business equal to the population of women," he said.

"I think there is a really strong national conversation about this and the debate in my view is well and truly over about the need for women to have strong representation in the workforce, the question now is how we do it."

According to Mr Goyder, chair and CEO commitment to the issue and ensuring there is more than simply a verbal commitment to promoting women in the workforce is important for implementing institutional change.

"We are putting in place a number of things at a group level to ensure that we get some success," he said.

These strategies include collecting and examining data about the company demographics, conducting exit interviews, setting targets and bringing a positive bias to female job applicants.

"We're making it very clear that we want women on short lists for any external firms that bring people and I think most importantly we're really cultivating our development pipeline in the group," he said.

Despite the progress and strategies being implemented by Wesfarmers, Mr Goyder did note there are some short term challenges to having women in senior leadership roles.

"We still don't have enough women in the group to take that next step, so we've got to fix that through development internally, through better recruitment externally," he said.

The Women in Leadership event also included presentations from:

  • Will Neething, Principal Decommissioning Engineer, Sinclair Knight Merz and WA Deputy President, Engineers Australia
  • Holly Ransom, Partnerships Manager, The Foundation for Young Australians
  • Maria Saraceni, Chair, Women's Advisory Council of WA
  • Deidre Willmott, Executive Chairman, Cannings Purple