Advance Survey 2021: Australian expats represent an incredible talent pool, ready to thrive in the post-pandemic era.

In the lead up to releasing the results from the 2021 Survey, hosted a launch event in partnership with Russell Reynolds Associates. The conversation featured Peter L. O’Brien, Managing Director at Russell Reynolds Associates, and Australia’s Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau, Elizabeth Ward, hosted by Advance CEO Johanna Pitman.


This online dialogue was an opportunity to reflect on the results from our most recent survey and compare them with the research Peter and his team have conducted on understanding the many intricacies that come with living and working as a global Australian in today’s day and age.

Australians, both at home and overseas, are known for their tenacity when it comes to pioneering new markets and industries. They are revered for their hard work, their preparedness to take risks and their ability to time and time again, step outside their comfort zone. Because of this, some of the world’s largest and most significant organisations are run by Australians. While a huge amount of these Australians have encountered a variety of challenges in the last few years, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic it is clearer than ever that there is a growing demand for this Australian talent.

To kick things off, Consul General Elizabeth Ward opened with some insight into the expat community in Hong Kong, home to the second largest group of Australian citizens living overseas. She emphasised the huge impact Australians have had not just in the professional world, but on the culture of Hong Kong itself, with facets having an undeniably Aussie flavour to them. These Australians who are living in Hong Kong are not only benefitting from the location and culture, but shaping it. This is the case all over the world, with hundreds of thousands of Aussies shaping international markets, building connections, and becoming experts in various cultural nuances.

As many Australian organisations back home begin to set their sights on expanding globally, the expat community, such as that in Hong Kong, will be more in demand than ever.

Elizabeth Ward, Australian Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau

The Consul General also reflected on the recent increase in Australian passport applications and departure of expats due to the tough zero-Covid requirements.

In his opening remarks, Peter identified international factors such as what is happening in Hong Kong, and the Australian demand for skilled workers as an immense opportunity. While Covid has significantly upended the working world, it has also created avenues that have never before been there for Australia. As the virtual environment has evolved, the physical barrier that used to separate Australia from larger markets has slowly dissipated. With this greater connectivity, Australia, in a sense, is now on a more level playing field with much less of a need to focus on a conservitive, domestic market approach.

Survey results show that there is a huge influx of Australian professionals in senior roles returning to Australia.

If Australian organisations leverage this, our industries have the chance to effectively pivot from their mostly domestic mindset, to one that wants to lead on a global stage.

The problem however, comes with effectively taking advantage of this available talent. While many organisations are realising the potential benefits of this shift, corporate boards are slow to properly utilise the immense talent pool they have at their fingers. This can be especially frustrating for senior professionals who are returning home, and struggling to find jobs that value their talents and the knowledge they have acquired overseas. There may not be one quick solution to this, but in the Q&A section of the launch, Peter did have a few suggestions for Aussies returning home in regards to finding meaningful work you can check them out here.

Watch the recording of the launch event

For a fresh perspective on talent and careers, we are delighted to have Russell Reynolds Associates bring their global leadership expertise to the 2021 Survey. Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory firm. Our 520+ consultants in 47 offices work with public, private and nonprofit organisations across all industries and regions. We help our clients build teams of transformational leaders who can meet today’s challenges and anticipate the digital, economic and political trends that are reshaping the global business environment. From helping boards with their structure, culture and effectiveness to identifying, assessing and defining the best leadership for organisations, our teams bring their decades of expertise to help clients address their most complex leadership issues. We exist to improve the way the world is led.