Councils are required to undertake workforce planning to support the achievement of the Delivery Program. The Workforce Management Strategy is also a four-year plan, addressing the human resources required to achieve the activities identified in the Delivery Program.

A council’s workforce planning should consider what people, with what skills, experience and expertise are required to implement the Delivery Program. It provides an opportunity every four years to plan adjustments to the workforce to meet changing priorities and take into account new technologies.

The Workforce Management Strategy should address issues such as:

  • an ageing workforce
  • succession planning
  • how to provide opportunities to create and retain positions for local young people
  • incentives and other programs that will support the council to be an employer of choice
  • learning and development
  • performance management
  • recruitment strategies to fill skills gaps
  • workforce diversity.

The ‘Resourcing Strategy’ chapter of the Integrated Planning and Reporting Handbook provides further information and good practice examples.

Key Information

  • About Workforce Planning

    The Integrated Planning and Reporting framework encourages councils to draw together their various plans, to understand how they interact and to get the maximum leverage from their efforts by planning holistically for the future.

    The Community Strategic Plan provides a vehicle for expressing long-term community aspirations, and Council develops a 4 year Delivery Program to specify which parts of the Community Strategic Plan that Council aims to deliver in its current 4 year term. However, these will not be achieved without sufficient resources – time, money, assets and people – to actually carry them out.

    An effective workforce strategy aims to provide Council with the people best able to inform its strategic direction, develop innovative approaches to complex issues and deliver appropriate services consistently, effectively and efficiently.

    This website is designed to give a general outline of the workforce planning process. A series of strategic questions are presented for workforce planners to address in order to produce an effective workforce strategy that ensures the right people are available to deliver the Community Strategic Plan and Council’s Delivery Program. The plan will ensure that Council’s workforce is appropriate, productive, skilled and diverse.

    The Delivery Program is a statement of commitment to the community from each newly elected Council about actions to be undertaken to meet the community’s strategic goals. It is designed as the single point of reference for all activities undertaken by Council during each term of office. Workforce planning is needed to ensure that the workforce resources are in place and well managed to deliver the Delivery Program as an important part of resourcing Council’s commitment, together with long term financial planning and asset management planning.

    By approaching workforce planning in a strategic way a number of aims and statutory requirements can be addressed in a single process to ensure that all aspects of Council’s operations are appropriate and effective. These include EEO management planning and practising the principles of multiculturalism so that Council’s workforce reflects the diversity of the community.

    The benefits of ensuring a diverse workforce include better local representation, improved communication and better understanding of the issues affecting local communities. A diverse workforce also maximises the pool of workers from which to address the issues facing councils such as skills shortages, ageing workforce and business succession planning, as well as invigorating local communities and economies.

    Strategic issues to consider in a local government context and incorporate into the workforce strategy which are dealt with on this website, include the analysis of Council’s workforce requirements based on the commitments in the Community Strategic Plan and Delivery Program, developing an appropriate workforce structure to meet those objectives, workplace equity and diversity as a tool to benefit Council, strengthening Council’s workplace governance, and supporting and developing council staff.

  • Developing a workforce strategy - the steps to take

    Step 1. Scoping the development of the strategy

    Workforce planning needs to incorporate a whole-of-council strategy of at least 4 years’ duration and aim to provide to workforce needed to deliver Council’s Delivery Program. Scoping the development of the workforce strategy should include:

    • analysis of each element of the Delivery Program by each manager to determine the current and future workforce needed to deliver the Delivery Program and the objectives in the Community Strategic Plan, including managing partners
    • details of how key stakeholders, including Council’s consultative committee, employee representatives (eg OH&S representatives, women’s representatives and union representatives) and management, are going to be engaged throughout the workforce planning process
    • key performance indicators and timetables for implementation
    • a review of the strategy.

    Workforce planning should not be considered solely the role of Human Resources and needs to be driven by all executives, managers and supervisors. Workforce planning issues should be driven by the Delivery Program, as well as used to inform the development of each Delivery Program.

    Step 2. Analysing the current workforce and identifying gaps

    Compile appropriate data to identify current workforce issues that require action, including business succession planning. Identify Council’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to:

    • how well service needs are currently being met
    • whether corporate objectives are met by the current workforce structure
    • logistical considerations such as matching appropriate staff numbers and skills in different areas of council operations.

    Analyse current workforce characteristics against community profile information to assess whether Council’s workforce reflects the demographic characteristics of the community it serves. Identify areas where skills shortages exist, where business succession planning is needed and whether EEO requirements and objectives are currently being met.

    Engaging with staff as well as managers when analysing current workforce issues will assist in identifying the widest range of issues requiring action and will lay a strong foundation for successful change management. Staff should be involved in developing the elements of the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework to improve Council’s performance through people understanding their role in the big picture and having been involved in setting objectives and targets.

    Key questions set out in analysis of workforce requirements can assist further with carrying out this step. Information gathered in response to the key questions should also be used in the development of the Community Strategic Plan and Council’s Delivery Program to ensure that the medium- and long-term objectives are realistic.

    Step 3. Forecasting workforce requirements and identifying gaps

    Compile labour demand information based on the Community Strategic Plan and Delivery Program. Identify internal and external changes and developments that Council is likely to face in the future in order to meet the community’s long term objectives. Include the resources Council will need to develop, monitor and maintain partnerships to deliver parts of the Community Strategic Plan that will be delivered by partners other than Council.

    This step includes developing an appropriate workforce operational structure, identifying the skills required to meet the Delivery Program and considering emerging technologies.

    Engaging with staff representatives when developing an appropriate workforce structure for Council will benefit the change management process and improve ownership of the workforce strategy.

    This information can then be used to identify a future demand/supply gap in terms of Council’s workforce. Involve managers in the identification of future issues and the development of strategies to address them.

    Step 4. Developing strategies to fill identified gaps

    Develop strategies designed to enable Council to achieve its future workforce needs identified in Steps 2 and 3 above. Include documented strategies that will result in the desired changes to Council’s workforce profile, together with appropriate key performance indicators and timeframes. Strategies should include change management.

    Engaging with staff in the development of strategies and Key Performance Indicators to fill workforce gaps will help to ensure their effectiveness and will assist in securing the workforce strategy’s success.

    Councils may also wish to plan together through their Regional Organisations of Councils where they operate in the same labour market.

    This is the best opportunity to look at strategies to fill gaps which can also meet EEO objectives and fulfil Council’s obligation to implement the principles of multiculturalism in conducting its affairs.

    Apprenticeships and traineeships can be used to benefit Council to fill supply and demand gaps.

    Key questions and strategic issues set out in Workplace equity and diversity, Workplace governance and Employee support and development can assist further with carrying out this step.

    Step 5. Implementing a workforce strategy

    The introduction of new workforce planning strategies will require decisions to be made at strategic and operational levels. Responsibility for implementing the workforce strategy needs to be clear, with built-in reporting mechanisms.

    Ensure the General Manager the leadership and emphasise council-wide ownership of the strategy’s implementation by ensuring directors and line managers have clear responsibilities, and that communication strategies are in place so that all staff are engaged in the process, can understand the benefits of the workforce strategy and can provide feedback.

    Step 6. Monitoring and evaluating a workforce strategy

    Establish a regular monitoring and evaluation process which includes criteria to:

    • measure the effectiveness of any strategy that is implemented
    • determine the success or otherwise of strategies and key performance indicators
    • incorporate recommendations into the workforce planning cycle.

    An effective monitoring and evaluation process will include addressing feedback provided by key stakeholders as part of the implementation process. Monitoring and evaluating a workforce strategy can assist further with carrying out this step.

  • Monitoring and Evaluating a workforce strategy

    It is important to regularly monitor and evaluate Council’s workforce strategy to ensure it is appropriate to workforce needs, determine to what extent the strategy is assisting Council to meet the objectives in the Community Strategic Plan for which it is responsible, to deliver Council’s Delivery Program, and establish whether it needs to be updated. The monitoring and evaluation process should also include reviewing and amending strategies where objectives are not being achieved or where changes affect the set objectives or strategies that have been developed.It is important to plan for and allocate resources for monitoring and evaluation as part of the development of Council’s workforce strategy. This is to ensure that relevant data will be available and adequate resources are allocated to collecting and analysing this data.

    Monitoring and evaluation should:

    • be based on performance measures identified in the strategy
    • include engagement with internal and external stakeholders
    • provide recommendations and timeframes for improving the strategy
    • include a risk management process to provide flexibility for possible internal or external developments, as well as strategic interventions to address them.

    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.

  • Workforce Planning - Related legislation and policy
  • Workforce Planning - Useful links and resources

    Workforce planning

    • 2010 Census of Local Government Employees – Report on Findings – a report on the results of the inaugural Census of Local Government staff which includes a local government staff profile and examples of good practice by councils to increase staff diversity.
    • Workforce Planning: A Guide (Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2003) – a comprehensive guide to the planning and preparation of a workforce strategy, including a workforce plan template
    • NSW Public Sector Workforce Strategy 2008-2012 (Department of Premier and Cabinet) – a straightforward document which includes useful strategic questions, directions and ways of measuring success that can easily be applied to a local government context
    • 2008 Workforce Planning Handbook (Standards Australia) – this is available for purchase from SAI Global
    • Critical Skills Investment Fund – $200 million Australian Government co-funding for industry partnerships to undertake projects that provide training and employment opportunities in critical industry sectors, including local government, to increase the supply of skilled labour through training and upskilling.
    • NSW Public Sector ITAB – a not-for-profit industry association supported by the NSW Department of Education and Communities which is the recognised advisory body on vocational education and training for the public sector, including local government in NSW. Its goal is to develop skills and build capability in the government workforce.

    Equity and diversity

    Division of Local Government – includes information and resources to assist councils attract and retain diverse staff including the Promoting Diversity webpage and the 2010 Local Government Staff Census – Report on Findings (Division of Local Government, 2011) – a report on the results of the inaugural Census of Local Government staff which includes local government staff profile and examples of good practice by councils to increase staff diversity.

    Department of Employment , Education and Workplace Relations – a central location for information about Australian Government education and workplace related websites. Also includes funding programs and information for employing people with disability and mature age workers, as well as resources for developing and managing a workforce strategy and introducing family-friendly work arrangements.

    Flexible Working – (Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2011) – a website with information about flexible work practices in the public sector, including flexible working options, finding solutions to manage work/life role challenges, examples and case studies, the benefits of flexible working, how to set up flexible work practices, how to make it work and tools and templates.

    Aboriginal people


    Cultural diversity

    • Implementing the Principles of Multiculturalism Locally – A planning framework for councils (Division of Local Government and Community Relations Commission for a multicultural NSW, 2008)
    • Developing staff in a diverse workplace (Department of Premier and Cabinet) – includes information on providing fair and accessible training and development programs and mentoring, including good practice examples

    Mature age workers

    • Mature Workforce Policy and Guidelines (NSW Premier’s Department, 1998) – information about preparing a Mature Workforce Program to recruit and retain the valuable knowledge and expertise held by mature aged workers
    • SageCentre (Department of Human Services – Ageing, Disability and Home Care, 2010) – information and resources for line managers, HR officers and workforce planners as well as mature age workers to support public sector leaders to address the risks, challenges and opportunities that the ageing of the workforce brings. The site also contains practical information, latest research, tools and templates to assist in developing effective strategies and solutions to address ageing workforce issues.

    Young people

    People with a disability

    • JobAccess – Australian Government website with information and funding assistance for employing people with a disability
    • EmployABILITY (Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2011) – a website with a strategy to increase the employment of people with a disability in the NSW public sector by 2013. The site includes strategies for valuing and retaining employees with a disability, improving their recruitment experience and measuring/reporting improvements in this area.

    Workplace governance

    • Guidelines for the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW (Division of Local Government, 2008) – interpreting standards in the Model Code, including suggestions for enhancing Council’s Code of Conduct.
    • NSW Office of Industrial Relations – publications to assist understanding of rights and obligations under NSW industrial legislation including:
      • Introducing Workplace Flexibility
      • Enterprise Bargaining in NSW: Enhancing productivity, innovation and equity
      • Managing Performance
      • Workplace Policies and Procedures
    • Workplace guidelines – includes sample policies and guidelines for managers, supervisors and non-supervisory staff and grievance procedure guidelines.
    • Harassment and bullying – Australian Government website with information about what harassment and bullying are and what to do about them.
    • Discrimination, Affirmative Action and EEO factsheet – information from the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
    • Corruption prevention publications (Independent Commission Against Corruption) for public sector managers and employees, including Corruption Risk Management tip sheet, Use and Misuse of Public Sector Resources tip sheets for employees and managers.
    • Occupational Health & Safety – law and policy (SafeWork NSW)

    Skills shortages

    • Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA) – workforce development resources and strategies including addressing skills shortages, increasing the employment of women in local government and regional skills projects
    • Planning Institute Australia – includes information about local government careers in planning
    • Government Skills Australia – industry skills council which provides training resources specific to government administration, services and operations
    • Critical Skills Investment Fund – $200 million Australian Government co-funding for industry partnerships to undertake projects that provide training and employment opportunities in critical industry sectors, including local government, to increase the supply of skilled labour through training and upskilling.
    • NSW Public Sector ITAB – a not-for-profit industry association supported by the NSW Department of Education and Communities which is the recognised advisory body on vocational education and training for the public sector, including local government in NSW. Its goal is to develop skills and build capability in the government workforce.