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5 Managing workforce risks

A further key consideration of strategic workforce analysis and reporting is managing identified workforce risks to delivery of business outcomes and outputs. This encompasses a number of considerations, such as:

  • Identifying strategy and initiative options to address workforce risks,
  • Setting aspirational targets,
  • Benchmarking, and
  • Measuring, evaluating and adjusting.

If your organisation has mature workforce planning in place, the strategy options for addressing workforce risks are likely to have been identified and implemented as part of that process. However, based on the ongoing identification of emerging workforce risks (through strategic workforce analysis and reporting), existing strategies may need to be adjusted (or ceased), and new ones implemented.

Identifying strategy and initiative options to address workforce risks

Regular monitoring of workforce data informs workforce plans, enabling them to be adjusted and reviewed on an ongoing basis. Strategy development and implementation will be most effective if you explore the success likelihood of all options, and the limitations and costs in relation to the expected benefit. This will enable you to better engage with, and gain support and commitment from the appropriate key business stakeholders. It is helpful to ensure that each strategy and initiative has associated targets aligned to them, so that you can report on their outcomes, and monitor and adjust as appropriate.


If strategic workforce reporting indicates that staff exits are particularly high in an occupational grouping that is critical to business delivery, this enables strategies to be targeted appropriately at that occupational grouping. This ensures resources are invested where they are needed most, and will have the most impact.

By monitoring staff exits on a regular basis, you will be in a position to report on whether there has been a return on your investment of resources. That is, you will be able to provide evidence that indicates whether the strategies targeted at the occupational grouping are succeeding.

Setting aspirational targets

You might consider setting aspirational targets to indicate the desired state of the workforce that will enable the organisation to effectively deliver its business outcomes and outputs. These targets are ideally set within the context of the organisation, in isolation from other organisations. Consultation with, and endorsement from key business stakeholders will be invaluable in this process, given their intimate knowledge of the business and the workforce required.

Targets should be set so that they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound)—see Appendix B for further explanation.


An organisation may set its target for staff exits at a rate that it considers will ensure:

  • sufficient retention of corporate knowledge,
  • allow for a level renewal and refreshment of capability, and
  • maintain costs associated with replacing staff at an acceptable and affordable level.

However, if staff exits are particularly high in a business division that is critical to business delivery, the critical target will not be the target rate for the organisation, but for the business division itself.


You may also consider benchmarking against similar organisations, to gauge the organisation’s performance within a broader context. Comparison against similar organisations can be a means by which improvements in performance are sought, and best practice is ensured. Benchmarking can be undertaken internally (against other cross sections or divisions of the organisation) and externally (against other APS organisations or private sector companies). In either case, for effective comparison to be drawn, you must ensure that the definitions and calculations associated with your organisation’s metrics are the same as those used by the organisation you are benchmarking against.

Benchmarking will be most effective if you identify those organisations that produce similar outputs, have similar constraints, and similar workforce requirements. For example, it may not be realistic for a call centre function to benchmark itself against APS-wide metrics, however benchmarking against similar occupations will be more relevant. Even for similar occupations, the context may be quite different. For example, call centres in a public service context might be quite different to call centres in a private sector context. While benchmarking can be useful, it will very rarely if ever provide direct comparison between identical metrics in identical contexts.

Benchmarking workforce metrics may assist you to communicate your key messages more effectively, by drawing attention to similar organisations and highlighting strengths that provide opportunities for development within your own organisation. It also provides an opportunity to draw from the experiences of, and lessons learned by other organisations you identify as benchmark exemplars.

Measuring, evaluating and adjusting

For workforce reporting to be valuable and credible, it needs to tell your key business stakeholders how the organisation’s workforce is performing in line with expected outcomes and aspirational targets. Workforce data supports this evaluation process as it can be used to measure the effectiveness of strategies, and determine whether there are any adjustments required.

Performance against targets should be monitored regularly to ensure that strategies and initiatives are succeeding. It is a good idea to provide ongoing progress reports to your key business stakeholders to ensure there are no surprises, and adjustments can be made as required.

When assessing the quality of the data, the ABS Data Quality Framework may be a useful resource, it can be found at the following link: http://www.nss.gov.au/dataquality/resources.jsp.

Adapted from the definition in a Guide to People Metrics 2010, The State of the Services Authority, 3 Treasury Place, Melbourne.

Refer to Appendix A for a definition of FTE (Full time equivalent) as referred to throughout this document.

Refer to Appendix A for a definition of Total FTE as referred to throughout this document.

Refer to Appendix A for a definition of Average Staffing Level (ASL) as referred to throughout this document.

The Australian Public Service Employment Database Internet Interface (APSEDII) is a useful resource to assist with benchmarking against other APS organisations. The APSEDii provides querying capability on a database of staff employed within the APS under the authority of the Public Service Act 1999 and can be accessed through the APSC website.

Last reviewed: 
7 June 2018