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3. Initiation and planning

Initiation

People to consult

People to consult 

Executive (to establish what critical job roles are in your organisation)

Documents to produce

Documents to produce

Documents to produce
Workforce planning business case (if required)

Examples
Appendix A of the ‘Workforce planning explained’ module gives more information, including a benefits management framework that can help you produce a business case for workforce planning, if required.

Initiating workforce planning involves:

  • determining your level of readiness to undertake workforce planning
  • determining who is responsible for workforce planning
  • obtaining approval and buy-in from management and/or the Executive
  • linking workforce planning to the business and financial planning cycle.

Level of readiness

Table 1 is designed to help you understand your organisation’s level of readiness to undertake or progress workforce planning, and to help you determine where to start. The aim is to help you choose to what level of detail you should conduct workforce planning and to help set expectations for your workforce plan. The self-assessment is indicative only, and the fit-for-purpose rule should be applied throughout your workforce planning process.

Table 1. Workforce planning readiness assessment questions and implications
Question Yes No Ideas if answer is No
Strategic and business planning
Do you have a strategic/corporate plan? Use your strategic plan, in conjunction with other documents, to determine the future workforce demand of your organisation. Without a strategic plan, it will be more difficult to obtain a cohesive perspective of future workforce demand.

You might consider using structured questioning (structured interview technique) with key business managers, to get a sense of future workforce demand.

However, a recommendation flowing from the development of your workforce plan might be to develop a strategic plan as a next step.

Do you have any business and/or organisational plans? Use your business plan to understand where your organisation is headed (particularly in the shorter term), to determine your workforce needs. Without a business plan (especially if no strategic plan exists), you will find it difficult to determine future workforce needs. This will result in less confidence in the accuracy of your workforce plan.

You might again consider using structured questioning (structured interview technique) with key business managers to get a sense of future workforce demand.

However, a recommendation flowing from the development of your workforce plan might be to develop business plans as a next step.

Is workforce planning part of your business and financial planning process? Make sure you understand the timings and dependencies of workforce planning within the business and financial planning processes of your organisation. Identify who is responsible for the business and financial planning processes and clarify how best to align workforce planning with the business and financial planning cycle. There are two suggested time points in a financial year to have strategic workforce conversations in Australian Government: during the preparation of the next financial year’s Budget (February to April) and during the mid-year review (September to November).
Workforce planning
Do you have a workforce plan?

Review your plan thoroughly, understand how it can be improved (what works and what doesn’t), and take the opportunity to mature your plan further.

Do you have a workforce plan? 

The workforce plan you’re about to develop will be a first iteration and you will benefit from keeping it relatively simple.

You may find that your first workforce plan is based almost entirely on qualitative information, making the gap analysis relative rather than exact (words and trends rather than precise numbers).

However, a recommendation flowing from the development of your first workforce plan might be to develop the data required as a next step.

Is your workforce plan regularly consulted (that is, is it being used as a basis for your workforce policies)? Talk to those who use the plan to obtain an understanding of whether it is effective and how it could be improved. Find out why the workforce plan is not being used. Is it unrealistic? Is it not applicable? Is it hard to understand? Are managers unaware of its existence?
Use this information to improve the next iteration of your workforce plan.
Ensure that your workforce plan and recommended HR strategies are clearly aligned to business outcomes, to ensure it is relevant to the Executive and line managers.
Were key stakeholders consulted for your workforce plan? Obtain a list of the key stakeholders consulted in the previous process and revise the list as needed. A lack of stakeholder consultation can result in low buy-in and low relevance of your workforce plan. Ensure that business representatives are directly involved in the development of your workforce plan as this helps gain their ownership of workforce planning as a business planning tool.
Is there executive support to undertake workforce planning? Even if you have executive buy-in, you should still actively engage stakeholders down the line so they retain the sense of ownership of the plan. An imperative to comply does not necessarily equate to engagement. Workforce planning will be more difficult and less complete without executive buy-in. You will need to build a business case for workforce planning (refer to Appendix A of the ‘Workforce planning explained’ module for guidance).
Do the skills and capabilities needed for workforce planning exist in your organisation? Make sure the employees with these skills and capabilities are available for workforce planning.

Can the skills and capabilities be developed in-house?

If not, can you collaborate with other areas of your agency or department, or another agency or department, to access shared skills and capabilities?

You will need to source employees with:

  • knowledge of agency and government business and financial planning processes and timings
  • knowledge of organisational business outcomes
  • analytical skills
  • project management skills
  • relationship management skills
  • knowledge of HR policy.
Workforce planning elements
Is your workforce currently divided into job families, job functions, job roles or similar?

If job families are widely accepted, they will provide a good foundation for workforce planning.

If they aren’t, find out why.

If it’s due to lack of communication, create a document to communicate the segmentation structure within your organisation.

If it’s due to inappropriate segmentation, revise the segmentation structure or use a simpler one.

You can still undertake workforce planning using a qualitative approach, by identifying broad skills required to deliver business outcomes, such as:

  • project management
  • procurement and contracting
  • supply chain logistics
  • business analysis.

However, your ability to identify workforce risks and appropriate mitigation strategies will be difficult.

For the first iteration of your workforce plan, consider using a simple job family structure. However, the less detailed the job family structure, the less detailed and precise the HR strategies will be in your workforce plan.

In your organisation, do you have the knowledge necessary to attach numbers (full-time equivalent (FTE) and/or headcount) to specific job families, job functions, job roles or similar? If this holds true for current demand and supply as well as future demand and supply, you will be able to express your workforce gaps in terms of numbers (quantitatively). You won’t be able to produce a workforce plan that puts reliable numbers against workforce gaps and tells you exactly how many people to recruit and when.

You might consider:

  • using numbers drawn from qualitative questions asked of business representatives
  • evaluating your supply, demand and gaps qualitatively, and using comparative words such as high, medium, low, increase and decrease.
Do you understand the changing environment and how it impacts on your workforce (that is, changing technology, government priorities, changing legislation)? This information will form the basis for your future workforce demand forecasting. You will have difficulty forming a basis for your future workforce demand forecasting.

You might consider a structured questioning (structured interview technique) approach to consult managers who have an understanding of this, noting that the less certain the information, the less accurate the forecast.

Refer to Table 2 in the ‘Demand analysis’ module for examples of external drivers.

Data collection
Is standard workforce demographic and trend information regularly collected in your organisation? Make sure you know who to obtain this data from. It is also important you understand exactly what data is available and what isn’t.

If you’re workforce planning at the agency or department level, demographic information will give you an interesting insight into your workforce, while trend information will help you understand your future workforce supply.

Trend information is considered more important to workforce planning.

There are a number of data sources that might assist you to establish trend data, such as:

  • your HR Information System
  • the Australian Public Service Employee Database
  • the last three Statistical Bulletins published by the Australian Public Service Commission.

Refer to the ‘Supply analysis’ module for more information on analysing internal workforce supply.

Some data sets you need to focus on are:

  • retirements
  • resignations
  • recruitment
  • length of service.

Refer to Table 3 in the ‘Supply analysis’ module for examples of workforce trends.

Is there are a regular skills and capabilities audit in your organisation? Workforce supply should be defined in terms of these skills and capabilities, and the audit will form the basis for analysing your current workforce supply. You will have difficulty defining and analysing your current workforce supply in terms of skills and capabilities using a quantitative approach.

You can still develop a workforce plan using a qualitative approach.

However, a recommendation flowing from the development of your first workforce plan might be to undertake a skills and capabilities audit as a next step.

Who is responsible?

Who should be doing the workforce planning?

One of the biggest mistakes is to assume that workforce planning is an exercise isolated to HR. While HR may own the policy, framework and expertise, workforce planning is ultimately a management responsibility and HR needs to encourage the business to own it.

HR may lead your agency or department’s workforce planning activity, working in partnership with business leaders, senior executive, director-level employees and other managers to understand the business requirements and workforce required to deliver these outcomes. This is particularly important for aligning with your agency or department’s overall business direction and gaining buy-in from the Executive and senior management.

In practice (depending on the size of the agency or department and the HR area), different people may undertake different components of workforce planning, such as:

  • environmental scanning
  • sourcing business and financial data
  • analysing data
  • consulting stakeholders
  • facilitating conversations to source information about the current and future capability of the workforce
  • project management of implementing the workforce planning process
  • providing oversight and support.

Who should be responsible for the implementation of the workforce plan?

Ultimately, the agency or department head is the owner and sponsor of your organisation’s strategic workforce plan, while the organisation’s key decision makers and business managers, working in partnership with HR, are responsible for developing and implementing your workforce plan. For example, the division head is responsible for providing the business context and priorities for workforce planning in their division, and owns the strategies and action plans to deliver the workforce they require.

Approval and buy-in

Obtaining buy-in from the senior leadership group is essential to the long-term success of workforce planning. If you don’t have this, it’s worth developing a business case that considers the organisational benefits from workforce planning and the risks of not undertaking workforce planning. Appendix A of the ‘Workforce planning explained’ module has more information, including a benefits management framework that may help with this step.

Linking workforce planning to the business and financial planning cycle

Ideally, workforce planning should be integrated into the organisation’s overall business planning and financial processes, and be linked to the appropriate strategic and business plan objectives. It should also consider the government’s budget cycle and form part of your organisation’s budget planning. Because business planning processes vary across the APS, you’ll need to incorporate workforce planning to best suit your organisation’s circumstances and financial forecast periods.

As guidance, the priority setting and Budget decision processes for government usually occur between September each year and the following May, while the spending and reporting activities are ongoing throughout the cycle.

Estimates are updated by agencies and departments, in consultation with the Department of Finance and Deregulation, three times a year in:

  • October, as the basis for the preparation of the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook
  • early February, to provide the government with up-to-date estimates before the Budget deliberations of the Expenditure Review Committee
  • April, as the basis for preparing the annual Budget.

Within this framework, there are two suggested points in a financial year to have strategic workforce conversations: the first starting in early February through to the end of March, during the preparation of the next financial year’s Budget; and during the mid-year review period (September to November).

 

Planning for workforce planning


Templates

  1. Project plan,
  2. Stakeholder engagement plan,
  3. Project risk assessment

Documents to produce

Project plan, Stakeholder engagement plan, Project risk assessment


People to consult

Executive (to establish what the critical job roles are in your organisation)


The initial implementation of workforce planning should be planned and undertaken as a project. Following implementation, your workforce planning should become part of the normal business and financial planning process. However, it will require ongoing planning to support the review and maintenance of the plan, to ensure continued alignment of the plan to the delivery of a workforce to support business outcomes. The key to successful workforce planning is to be clear from the onset about the following:

  • objective
  • resources required (people, systems, travel and budget)
  • scope of the workforce planning activity
  • time frame it will take to implement the workforce plan
  • stakeholder engagement
  • risks.

Objective

In one or two sentences, you should be able to state the objective of workforce planning in your organisation. The objective should answer the question: ‘What do you want workforce planning to achieve in your organisation?’

Resources (people, systems and budget)

Your resource needs will depend on the size and level of your organisation. They will also depend on your organisation’s readiness to undertake workforce planning (Table 1). For example, if your organisation is not collecting workforce data and doesn’t have a skills and capabilities audit, extra resources may be required. Once you’ve determined your resource needs, you will need to assess how to obtain these resources.


Key questions: Resources

  • What are the skills and capabilities you require to undertake workforce planning?
  • How many employees with these skills and capabilities do you have available?
  • Are your employees full time or part time?
  • What is your FTE requirement for undertaking workforce planning?
  • Can the FTEs commit to workforce planning in the long term?
  • Do the FTEs have the capacity to undertake workforce planning?
  • What is the budget for workforce planning?
  • What other items need to be costed in (data and information collection and management systems, survey costs and travel)?

Scope

Workforce planning can vary in its scope so you need to understand this at the start. You need to determine two aspects of scope:

  • organisational level
  • workforce segments

Organisational level

This refers to the level within the organisational structure (that is, whether the workforce plan is being developed at unit, section, branch, division, group, or agency or department level). At this stage, you probably already have a level in mind, so you need to ask yourself the following question.


Key question: Organisational level

Does it make sense to develop a workforce plan at this level? If the organisation for which you’re developing a workforce plan is very small, requires similar capabilities to other areas in your agency or department, or has close interdependencies to other work groups within your agency or department, it may be worth reconsidering whether workforce planning should include these areas as well.


Workforce segments

A workforce segment can refer to a specific job family, job function or job role within your organisation. Ideally, the total workforce should be analysed, as analysing only some segments won’t paint a complete picture of your workforce. If you’re only focusing on one element of the workforce, bottlenecks may occur elsewhere in which case solving problems for one element won’t have the desired impact. Also, by not considering other complementary elements of the workforce, you may not understand the impact of your resultant workforce plan on them or how they may affect your workforce plan. 

However, if it’s not possible to analyse the total workforce due to resource or other constraints, you should identify the critical job roles within your agency or department and prioritise these in your workforce planning. Most agencies and departments should already be identifying critical job roles, so make sure you consult with the relevant people before you start this task.


Information: Critical job roles

Critical job roles are roles that are key to the functions of your organisation. Often, critical job roles require a long lead time to develop the required skills, and have a disproportionate effect on the organisation if left vacant. However, critical job roles may also include roles your organisation relies upon to deliver day-to-day services to clients, or roles which account for the largest number of staff (that is, critical mass). These may be roles for which there have been a high number of vacancies and which may also have been difficult to fill due to market demand. Identifying the critical job roles at this stage will also help you assess the criticality of workforce gaps later on in the process.


Time frame

The forecast period covered by the workforce plan, and the level of granularity by which you will describe and segment your workforce will determine the length of time required to develop the plan and the project implementation time frame. The ideal forecast period for your workforce plan will depend on your organisation and you should specify a forecast period that is appropriate for your workforce planning purposes.

Stakeholder engagement

Effective stakeholder engagement is key to the success of workforce planning. This means involving stakeholders from the start, managing their expectations and understanding what you wish to achieve through consultations.

There are three levels of stakeholder consultation:

  • awareness—for example, simply imparting information
  • involvement—for example, to influence the stakeholders’ thinking and actions, such as to get buy-in to pre-empt adverse reactions
  • commitment—for example, targeting stakeholders to achieve their full cooperation and obtain their input and contribution into the planning process.

Who you need to consult will depend on the size and level of your organisation. All employees should be made aware of the workforce planning process, its objective, forecast period and how it will affect their day-to-day work. Consulting employees and keeping them informed is also important because the workforce plan will affect them, and some may think that workforce planning will lead to downsizing and employees being laid off. Managers and employees who are required to provide input into the process should be engaged more so they understand the process and can provide you with honest and timely information.

It is advisable to develop a stakeholder engagement plan. Template 2 provides an example of how you may do so.


Key questions: Stakeholder engagement

  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • What is their level of involvement or interest in workforce planning?
  • To what extent should you consult them (consider their awareness, involvement and commitment)?
  • What is the best way to engage key stakeholders?
  • What questions should you ask to obtain the information you need from them?
  • How often and when should you engage with them?
  • What is the risk of not engaging them? What is their level of involvement or interest in workforce planning?
  • To what extent should you consult them (consider their awareness, involvement and commitment)?
  • What is the best way to engage the stakeholders?
  • What questions should you ask to obtain the information you need from them?
  • How often should you engage with them?
  • What is the risk of not engaging them?

Ideas: Stakeholder engagement

  • Key internal stakeholders may include the Board, the executive group, senior managers and employees. On an awareness level, all employees may be engaged, however when it comes to involving employees in the workforce planning process, you may engage employee nominees or representatives rather than all employees.
  • Key external stakeholders may include universities, training providers, professional associations and industry groups. This will depend on the existing links between your agency or department and external bodies, as well as on the type of skills your agency or department requires and whether these are hard to obtain.

Risks

You will need to identify the project risks associated with undertaking workforce planning and develop strategies to mitigate these risks. If your organisation doesn’t have a risk management framework, Template 3 provides a suggested structure for developing one. The risk assessment document should be consulted throughout the workforce planning process and changes recorded and mitigation strategies updated.


Section outputs

After considering the information and suggested outputs in this section, you should be able to start your workforce planning as you would have developed a:

  • Project plan
  • Stakeholder engagement plan
  • Project risk management plan

Workforce plan. The information in these documents will inform the ‘Introduction’ section of your workforce plan. Refer to Appendix B of the ‘Workforce planning explained’ module.