Chapter 6 - Workforce planning and strategy

Over the past 10 years the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission), the Management Advisory Committee1 and the Australian National Audit Office2 have published a number of reports on the state of workforce planning in the Australian Public Service (APS). The Commission, through successive State of the Service reports, has also identified differing levels of workforce planning maturity and uptake across the APS. Most recently, the capability reviews undertaken by the Commission have reported that while workforce planning is operating very well in some agencies, in others business and workforce resourcing decisions are not supported by formal or effective workforce planning processes.

Over the last two years, the Commission, in partnership with 70 agencies, completed a project that delivered the key components of an APS-wide workforce planning framework in terms of tools, processes and training. This work sought to re-position workforce planning as a business-focused planning process that agencies could use to re-shape their workforce and manage workforce-related risks. The framework's focus was on ensuring agencies have the workforce they need to deliver government outcomes in an affordable way.

Progress in implementing the framework has been slow due to the low level of workforce planning capability in the APS. Providing a consistent framework and training in workforce planning has been central in addressing this deficit. More than 140 APS employees, representing 43 agencies, participated in two-day workforce planning courses conducted by the Commission between February 2012 and May 2013. Additionally, the Commission is responding to demand for the course to be tailored to meet the needs of specific agencies.

For example, 40 APS employees in the Department of Defence recently participated in tailored training. As the underlying capability in workforce planning grows it is expected that agencies will be better able to align their workforce to deliver their business agenda.

This chapter describes the current state of workforce planning in the APS and examines progress in developing capability across the APS. It discusses workforce planning challenges, including the changing shape of the APS and skills shortages. It concludes by outlining a number of strategies designed to mitigate APS workforce risks.


1 Management Advisory Committee, Organisational Renewal, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2003).

2 Australian National Audit Office, Workforce Planning, Performance Audit Report no.55, 2004–05, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2005).