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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.
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