This area of the website includes strategic questions grouped into five different focus areas to be considered when developing a workforce strategy. They are interlinked and should be considered as a comprehensive whole, rather than a series of options.
Key questions and strategic issues
Analysis of workforce requirements
Council Strategic Planning
- Does Council have agreed service levels?
- Is Council’s workforce able to meet current service delivery levels? Why/Why not?
- What are the likely changes to Council’s workforce demographic in the short- and medium-term future?
- Is workforce driven by the Community Strategic Plan and Council’s Delivery Program?
- Are Council’s EEO objectives and strategies integrated with the Community Strategic Plan and Delivery Program?
- What are the priorities as identified in the Community Strategic Plan that will affect Council’s service delivery in 4 or 8 years’ time? How is Council planning to address these priorities? What will be the impact on staff of Council’s plan to address these priorities?
- What changes will be needed to the make up of Council’s existing workforce and structure to meet emerging priorities and objectives?
- What plans are in place for an ageing workforce?
- What will be the skills and other attributes that council staff will need in 10 years, based on the Community Strategic Plan objectives?
- What changes will be needed to existing job roles and position descriptions to deliver Council’s Delivery Program?
- What technological advances are emerging that will impact on council operations in the short and long term?
Industry and Professional Trends
- What are the key roles and skills sets that are difficult for council to recruit and/or retain?
- What are the current industry and professional trends within the local government sector that will impact on Council’s workforce structure and composition, now and in the future (eg development of specialist areas and technologies such as geographical information systems)?
Workforce demand and supply
- Does Council have an effective data collection system allowing it to understand changes in its workforce profile in relation to supply and demand trends?
- What level of employee turnover is expected? In what areas? When is the turnover expected to occur?
- What job categories and positions will become critical areas of shortage in the future based on Council’s Delivery Program?
- What job categories and positions are likely to be in surplus in the future? How will this be managed?
- What retraining is proposed for the ageing workforce, particularly outdoor workers?
- When are skill categories and positions likely to become critical areas and to what extent?
- What will be the impact of the gap between the surplus and shortage of skills and positions?
- What changes are needed to existing Human Resources strategies to manage this variance?
- Has Council identified key position and skills areas where business succession planning is critical to achieving important strategic objectives? Are there strategies in place to address the supply and demand issues arising from this?
- What role can apprenticeships and traineeships play in addressing workforce demand and supply issues?
Investment in development
Developing and up-skilling existing employees can be more efficient and cost-effective than attempting to attract highly qualified candidates from outside who may be less likely to stay with the organisation or in the area. Individual staff development programs built into Council’s performance management system can be used to encourage staff retention as well as filling skills gaps.
There are a number of creative strategies available to address labour retention issues to benefit Council. Examining the wider issues affecting individual employees and their families can strengthen the ties between employees and the local community and enable Council to retain valuable skills and lower Human Resources costs. Other incentives can include providing career development opportunities, training and flexible family-friendly work practices.
Business succession planning
Business succession planning is the consideration of current and future organisational capability and staffing needs, and strategies to ensure that these can be met. This is a major issue for some councils with an ageing workforce, intensified by the need to attract and retain younger workers who are seen to be mobile by nature. Business succession planning focuses on identified critical roles, specifically the skills make that role critical, and seeks to ensure there is current and future capacity for these to be filled with appropriately skilled in-house staff. Business succession planning should include reviewing processes to determine if there are more effective ways to deliver services and train staff accordingly. It is also important to implement staff development strategies aimed at staff having the skills to deliver the Community Strategic Plan and Council’s Delivery Program goals, to ensure a generous flow of candidates to fill senior roles as they become vacant.
Promoting local government as employer of choice
Poor community perceptions and lack of community understanding of the role of local government may need to be addressed through outreach programs targeted at students, residents, EEO groups and businesses. Promoting flexible and family-friendly work practices as well as other initiatives such as scholarship programs, graduate development programs, apprenticeships and traineeships can also be used to market local government as an employer of choice. Any program developed needs to demonstrate to potential employees the career paths available.
Non-traditional labour pools
Non-traditional labour pools can include women, indigenous people, carers, single parents and migrants. Initiatives relating to these groups can be found in workplace equity and diversity. Councils may consider developing recruitment strategies which encourage these groups to apply for positions with Council and so widening the applicant pool from which councils are able to recruit. This can be particularly valuable in areas where councils are having difficulty attracting potential employees. In relation to skilled migrants, regional skilled migration programs can be developed in conjunction with local Chambers of Commerce to target specific local skills shortages.
The Local Government Act 1993 requires councils to adopt an organisation structure which is appropriate to the needs of each council area and to identify senior staff positions within that structure. The organisation structure may be re-determined by Council from time to time, however, it must be re-determined within twelve months following any ordinary election of the Council. Council’s workforce structure needs to be appropriately configured so that operations can meet the long-term goals and objectives of the Community Strategic Plan and Delivery Program – the right people in the right places with the right skills doing the right jobs. Involving the staff in the development of the elements of the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework will ensure that there is good communication and co-operation between Council’s business units. This is essential if efficient and effective services are to be delivered – silo work structures should be avoided.
- Are the ways Council delivers its services correctly structured now? Are people in the right places, doing the right things with the right skills
- What are the likely changes to Council’s operations in 4 and 8 years’ time that will impact on workplace structure as a result of the Community Strategic Plan and Council’s Delivery Program? What does Council need to do to address these changes?
- What systems are in place to assist Council’s workforce to understand how their work contributes to achieving the Community Strategic Plan and Council’s Delivery Program objectives (eg business performance system/learning and development program)? Are they effective? What improvements are needed?
- How will Council deliver business improvement through people? Are Council’s managers effective in leading, managing and developing people?
- Do Council’s business units communicate with each other and work together effectively? How do you know?
- Is a system in place to design jobs in ways that meet Council’s strategic objectives and statutory obligations (eg EEO)?
- Have existing position descriptions been reviewed to ensure that essential requirements are not creating barriers to the employment of people from under-represented groups in the workforce who are able to do the job?
- Are all positions made available for part-time work or job share unless there is a good reason why they cannot be?
Technology, Process and Systems
- What will be the impact of new technologies on Council’s workforce?
- Are Council’s staff prepared for and able to manage new technologies effectively?
- What will be the effect of new technologies on the location and numbers of staff?
- Is a system in place to support and manage staff whose role is significantly changed by the adoption of new technologies?
- Does Council have an effective process to identify and resolve workplace issues arising from these changes? Is the role of key stakeholders (including unions, management and professional associations) in these processes clear?
- What are the workforce issues that Council has in common with other councils?
- Are there opportunities to address these issues jointly? What is the best way to do this?
It is important to have a documented, transparent process for engaging with key stakeholders in relation to workforce structure issues that is clearly communicated and able to stand up to scrutiny. This will assist in any change management process required to realign the workforce structure.
Job description and evaluation
Following a documented, transparent model for developing and evaluating job descriptions will reduce the risk of perceptions of unfair or inconsistent recruitment practices. This will include removing any unnecessary barriers in job descriptions where requirements have been set unnecessarily high and discriminate against people with fewer qualifications and less time in the workplace.
Council should have an embedded formal communication process between all business unit managers to reduce double-handling, duplication or unexpected redundancy of inter-related services.
Managing structural change
A change management process may need to be developed to facilitate any change in workforce structure identified in the workforce planning process.
Negotiation of job redesign and job enrichmentThe negotiation of job re-design or enrichment needs to include the position holder as a participant in a clearly documented and transparent process.
Planning for unknowns/risk management
The purpose of risk management is to minimise the impact of risks to Council’s operations. It is prudent to develop or review Council’s risk management process to identify risks to operations earlier and put controls in place to minimise those risks and maximise the likelihood of success. The risk management process should form part of the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Council’s workforce strategy.
Workplace equity and diversity
There are many important benefits to Council of applying Equal Employment Opportunity; implementing the principles of multiculturalism; and incorporating the social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights across all levels of workforce planning.
- maximising the potential recruitment pool available to Council
- Council’s workforce better reflecting and communicating with the local community it serves
- better understanding the issues affecting the local community
- making Council’s programs accessible to the diverse range of local people
- better achieving the community’s aims as expressed in the Community Strategic Plan.
EEO management plans are required under the Local Government Act 1993 and should form part of the workforce management strategy.
Observing or implementing the principles of multiculturalism is a requirement for councils under the Community Relations Commission and Principles of Multiculturalism Act 2000 and can also be applied effectively to workforce planning in conjunction with EEO targets and strategies.
Equal Employment Opportunity
Section 345 of the Local Government Act sets out the requirements for council EEO management plans and the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 sets out the requirements for reporting on activities to implement Council’s EEO management plan.
Principles of Multiculturalism
The principles of multiculturalism are:
- having the opportunity to participate in public life
- making provision for the culture, language and religion of others
- having the opportunity to participate in relevant activities and programs
- recognising and promoting as a valuable resource the linguistic and cultural assets in the NSW population.
Implementing the Principles of Multiculturalism Locally, a framework and kit for local councils, was developed by the DLG in conjunction with the Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW and applies to community programs targeting culturally and linguistically diverse members of the community. The principles can equally be applied to the workforce planning process in order to ensure that Council’s workforce reflects the community it serves and provides a conduit for information and understanding of issues between Council and its culturally diverse communities.
The key principles which underpin the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW include:
- not being under any financial or other obligation to any individual or organisation that might reasonably be thought to influence the performance of council duties.
- a duty to promote and support the key principles by leadership and example and to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the council
- a duty to make decisions in the public interest
- making decisions on merit and in accordance with statutory obligations when carrying out public business. This includes the making of appointments, awarding of contracts or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits
- fairness to all; impartial assessment; merit selection in recruitment and in purchase and sale of Council’s resources; considering only relevant matters
- accountability to the public for decisions and actions, considering issues on their merits and taking into account the views of others. This includes recording reasons for decisions, submitting to scrutiny, keeping proper records and establishing audit trails
- a duty to be as open as possible about decisions and actions, giving reasons for decisions and restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands. This includes recording, giving and revealing reasons for decisions; revealing other avenues available to a client or business and, when authorised, offering all information and communicating clearly
- a duty to act honestly, including declaring private interests relating to public duties and taking steps to resolve any conflicts arising in such a way that protects the public interest. This includes obeying the law, following the letter and spirit of policies and procedures, observing Council’s code of conduct, fully disclosing actual or potential conflict of interests and exercising any conferred power strictly for the purpose for which the power was conferred
- treating others with respect at all times.
- How well do executives and managers understand their industrial relations obligations in relation to the Local Government Act and relevant (State) Awards?
- How well do employees understand their responsibilities and entitlements?
- How does the community perceive council employees? How is this perception measured?
- How effectively do council employees manage the potential for conflicts of interest that arise?
- How effective are council processes in resolving conflicts that arise within the workplace? Conflicts that arise between council employees and the public?
- How does your council evaluate employee job satisfaction?
- Does Council have clearly documented recruitment policies and practices which are regularly reviewed to ensure they are merit-based and free from discrimination?
- Has Council developed a comprehensive set of effective workplace policies which are clearly communicated to and consistently followed by all staff?
- Does Council have in place a review program of workplace policies which includes engagement with key stakeholders?
Workplace governance and capability
It is important to have clear, documented and transparent internal policies and procedures which are easily accessible by all staff, regularly reviewed and consistently followed. Human Resources staff also need to be engaged with setting Council’s strategic direction, including participating in the developing the Community Strategic Plan and Delivery Program. This involvement will help to ensure that the long-term goals and commitments in the Community Strategic Plan and Council’s Delivery Program are realistic in terms of the long-term availability of appropriately skilled staff to meet those goals and commitments.
Recruitment processes should include the appropriate composition of selection committees trained in merit selection and EEO to ensure that recruitment decisions can stand up to scrutiny and reduce the risk of negative perceptions of an unfair process.
It is important that councils have open and transparent decision-making consultative structures which include union representatives.
Grievance management (internal disputes)
It is important that councils have an internal grievance management policy and process which have been developed in conjunction with staff, are easily accessible and ensure that the privacy of all parties involved is protected.
Employee support and development
- How effective are Council’s current employee development programs in equipping employees to meet Council’s strategic objectives?
- What are the critical skills areas Council needs to address in 4 and 8 years’ time? Is there a strategy in place to provide existing employees with the opportunity to develop these skills?
- Is Council’s employee performance management system linked to its learning and development system? How effective is this?
- Does Council have an effective strategy to induct new staff? Is this linked to Council’s strategic direction?
- What strategies does Council have in place to reduce unnecessary staff turnover? Do these strategies address the particular needs of EEO target group members and mature age employees?
- Are exit interviews undertaken and their findings discussed and acted on?
- Do Council’s business succession planning strategies provide opportunities to all employees to develop and attain individual career objectives?
Managing and recognising performance – the framework and mechanism that aligns individual, business unit and Council objectives. An important element of the Integrated Planning and Reporting process is identifying and implementing assessment methods for determining whether objectives are being achieved.
Learning and development – the process of identifying development needs at business unit and individual levels, and providing programs to develop skills and knowledge to deliver the community’s objectives. This includes mentoring programs, leadership development, apprenticeships and traineeships.
Business succession planning – establishes a merit-based process that recruits a flow of employees, develops their skills and abilities, and prepares them for advancement, all while retaining them to ensure a return on the organisation’s training investment. Business succession planning can protect against the loss of corporate knowledge in the current climate of an ageing workforce nearing large-scale retirement. Business succession planning is separate from individual career planning, which is linked to learning and development.
Workforce culture – having a workforce culture that embraces work/life balance and engages with employees in policy development and decision-making will assist in developing a healthy organisation that performs well through staff loyalty. It will also minimise recruitment costs through lowering staff turnover rates.
Development of professional/collegial networks – these relationships can assist Council with skills sharing and peer support and can include Regional Organisations of Councils, Strategic Alliances or special interest groups such as the Local Government Aboriginal Network, and LGMA’s Human Resources Special Interest Group.
Rewards and recognition – where rewards or recognition are offered to council employees as incentives, it is important that a clear and transparent policy and process be developed with selection criteria which ensure integrity and fairness.
Flexible working arrangements – offering flexible working arrangements such as family-friendly work practices will promote a positive and healthy organisational culture, encouraging staff loyalty and improving retention rates.
Employee Assistance Program – a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental and general psychological well-being of all employees and includes services for immediate family members. The aim is to provide preventive and proactive interventions for the early detection, identification and/or resolution of both work and personal problems that may adversely affect performance and well-being, including coping with change. Providing an independent EAP for staff is now common practice for many councils.