The Friday SMB wrap-up: The week in review

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The end of the week is upon us again, so we’re taking a look back at the most important small business headlines from the past five days. This week, research found females are opening businesses at twice the rate of men, the National Business Names Registation Service launched and retail sales dipped.

Time-wasting staff cost employers $40b each year

Even the most productive Aussie workers waste 12 percent of their time at work each day, as more than 3.5 million workers fall behind the national workforce productivity standard and cost local businesses in excess of $40 billion per year.

The Ernst & Young Productivity Pulse found businesses lose an estimated $41.3 billion every year due to time wasted by employees, with a third falling below the national productivity average. The survey of 2,500 employees found economic instability was less likely to affect productive workers, though employees who are unhappy with their jobs or feel insecure in their role are seeing sliding productivity as a result of the uncertain economic environment.

Women opening businesses at twice the rate of men

Women are becoming key influencers in non-traditional industries such as building, construction, and agriculture, according to new research released in the lead up to the 2012 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

The research, released by the Commonwealth Bank, found the top industry sectors in which women are more likely to control the financial aspect of the business include retail trade, construction, agriculture, and forestry and fishing.

“Women are increasingly taking the lead in business, whether it be through their own commercial ventures or within the sector. That’s testament to the drive and innovation they bring to the business community,” awards ambassador Kate McKenzie said.

Aussie employees happy with work/life balance

Local employees are working harder than they were two years ago but are now happier at work, new research has revealed.

The Regus Work/Life Balance Index found that although almost 60 percent of Australians are working longer, many believe their work/life balance has improved since the global economic crisis.

“Australian firms are acknowledging the need for work-life practices to produce happier and more productive staff,” Regus regional vice president William Willems said.

New MBA masterclass series aims to grow Indigenous businesses

A new series of masterclasses for Aboriginal business owners are launching next month at the Melbourne Business School.

The MURRA series, which means ‘fish net’ in the Woi Wurrung language, will equip participants aiming to grow their businesses with skills from the School’s MBA program.

“Strong Aboriginal businesses create more employment opportunities for Aboriginal communities, and help develop a broader, more independent economic base for these communities,” project director Michelle Evans said.

SMBs still failing to measure social media ROI

SMBs are continuing to up their level of investment in social media, but many are failing to measure the return on this investment, according to new research.

Small businesses are spending an average of $3410 on their social media activities, up from $2050 last year, and 13 percent more small businesses are using social media than last year. Despite these climbing numbers, many businesses are still not measuring the return on investment (ROI), says a report by Yellow Pages and the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA).

National Business Names Register launches

A service allowing businesses to nationally register their names in a single online process has kicked off, removing costs of up to thousands of dollars and eliminating wasted time spent registering names with various states and territories.

The National Business Names Registration Service will mean businesses no longer need to fill out a multitude of forms and pay a number of fees – many over $1,000 – to register their name in every state and territory they trade in.

Under the new service, businesses need to take part in a single online registration process and pay a single fee – $30 for one year or $70 for three years.

Retail sales fall indicates slowdown in growth, experts say

Despite multiple months of positive retail trade figures this year, a key retail body is tipping that retail growth is likely to slow after the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported turnover fell by 0.2 percent in April.

Following a 1.1 percent rise in March 2012, the latest figure has been described as disappointing for retailers who were hoping for a slight boost over the Easter holiday period.

“The monthly decline shows consumers might have had more time up their sleeves in April but sadly no cash in their pockets,” Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said.

Talent shortage making it tough for employers to fill jobs

A nationwide talent shortage means half of all employers are finding it difficult to fill vacant positions, with skilled trade workers ranking as the most sought after employee group.

The situation has slightly improved since last year, falling from 54 percent to 50 percent, according to ManpowerGroup’s annual Talent Shortage Survey. Despite this fall, the Australian shortage is still well above the global average of 34 percent and above the Asia Pacific average of 45 percent. Out of 41 countries, Japan ranked first for talent shortages with Australia ranking fourth.

Skilled trade workers, engineers and sales representatives have consistently topped the local skills shortage list of professions since 2006, and according to ManpowerGroup managing director Lincoln Crawley the lack of skilled trade workers is an ongoing problem that’s threatening Australia’s economy.

Tax break loss may force foreign professionals abroad

The career choices of international professionals working in Australia may be affected by the Government’s decision to abolish the Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA).

A survey, conducted by Robert Walters, questioned over 300 professionals to discover how the changes will affect their decisions.

“The reaction of the removal of their LAFHA benefits for some international professionals might be to look elsewhere for higher remuneration, or pressure current employers for a pay increase,” said Sinead Hourigan, Brisbane director of Robert Walters.