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Agency assessment of workforce planning capability

The 2013 State of the Service agency survey (agency survey) asked agencies how the demands on their agency head and executive team had changed over the previous three years. Thirty-nine per cent of agencies reported that demands in relation to workforce planning had greatly increased, with a further 49% reporting a slight increase.5 When asked how these demands may change over the next 12 months, 29% of agencies reported they anticipated substantial increases, with another 59% reporting they expect a slight increase in demand. Workforce planning should be seen as a dynamic component of business planning—a tool agencies can use to adjust and adapt to a changing business environment. These results suggest that the majority of APS agencies see the need to closely manage workforce structure and composition as a growing issue.

In 2013, the maturity of the APS workforce planning capability was assessed through a five-level maturity model.6 This model is described in more detail in Chapter 10. In short, agencies were asked to assess their current workforce planning capability and the level they needed to be at to achieve their business goals within the next three years.

Figure 6.1 shows reported agency differences between current and required workforce planning capability for 2012–13. Each radial line represents one APS agency's current and required workforce planning capability level.

Figure 6.1 Current and required workforce planning capability by agency, 2012–13

Source: Agency survey


In 2011, 18 agencies (covering 7% of the workforce) assessed they were at a maturity level that would enable them to achieve agency goals in the next three years. In 2013, 11 agencies (covering 11% of the APS workforce) made the same assessment. Most agencies this year (58, covering 80% of the APS workforce) reported they needed to be one or two levels above their current position, an improvement from 2011 where 70 agencies (covering 91% of the workforce) made the same assessment. The remaining 10 agencies this year reported they needed to be three to four levels above their current position. This finding provides insight into the body of work required by agencies and the APS collectively to improve workforce planning capability. In most cases where agencies identified the need for improvement, they were indicating a shift from general acceptance of workforce planning as an important part of business planning to an approach where the agency has a strategic view of the workforce as a core part of human resource planning and the activity is a central input to business planning. This significant shift in focus and capability will not be easily achieved.

After a dramatic increase in the proportion of agencies with a documented workforce plan—from 27% in 2010–11 to 40% in 2011–12—the past 12 months has shown a marginal improvement. Forty-two per cent of agencies reported having a documented workforce plan in 2012–13.

Figure 6.2 shows the development status of agency workforce plans.

Figure 6.2 Status of APS agencies' workforce plans, 2012–13

Source: Agency survey


Interestingly, of the agencies with a workforce plan, 33% reported it was their first documented workforce plan. A number of agencies that reported they had documented workforce plans in 2011–12, reported they are developing one in 2012–13. This could indicate that as agencies reposition to meet changing business needs, their underlying workforce plan needs to be reviewed. It could also indicate the lack of maturity in current agency workforce plans with forecasting and scenario-building aspects of these plans the least developed across the APS. Consequently, when business changes occur, the plans are not adapted but instead re-written to accommodate new circumstances. A workforce plan is a dynamic document that is intimately linked to an agency's business agenda. Consequently, it requires constant attention to ensure the business risks posed by the workforce are appropriately anticipated and managed.

The different levels of workforce planning sophistication can also be understood through the length of the forecast period covered by a typical workforce plan. Generally, there are two levels of planning:

  • an operational workforce plan—usually covers the next 12 to 18 months and should align with the timeframe of an agency's business-planning cycle
  • a strategic workforce plan—usually covers a three to five-year forecast period, with many agencies focusing on a four-year period aligned to Portfolio Budget Statements (strategic workforce plans may also include scenario planning).

In 2012–13, of the agencies that reported they had a workforce plan, 38% reported their plan covered one to two years, 35% reported three years and 28% reported four or more years.

Workforce planning at both strategic and operational levels requires assessing current and future business requirements and identifying the workforce needed to deliver business outcomes (demand) against how workforce capability and capacity needs are to be sustained (supply), internally and externally. The assessment should also include identifying workforce gaps and risks and the strategies to mitigate those risks.

Managing the consequent changes to the workforce arising from changes in business direction requires close integration between workforce planning and business-planning processes.

This year, 56% of agencies reported that workforce planning was integrated into their business-planning cycles. Eighty per cent of agencies reported that workforce risks are routinely included in their risk management planning.

The APS agencies that reported they had documented workforce plans in 2012–13 were asked to indicate the type of assessments they made in formulating their plans. Table 6.1 shows that of the agencies with a documented workforce plan, the weakest area of development was in assessing future workforce affordability and scenario planning. These assessments are among the most technically difficult components of workforce planning and again reinforce the current level of capability in the APS. They are also among the more important components of workforce planning information, as they are essential to informing management decisions about what actions are needed to ensure the agency has the right workforce balance to meet agency business outcomes.

Table 6.1 APS agency assessments of workforce demand and supply, 2012–13
Assessments made within workforce plans % of workforce plans
Source: Agency survey
Internal and external business drivers that could impact on future workforce required 88
Current workforce required in terms of capacity and capability 88
Current business deliverables the agency is required to deliver 84
Strategies or initiatives to address key workforce gaps 83
Current workforce supply in terms of capacity and capability 77
Future workforce required in terms of capacity and capability 71
Critical job roles 71
Current workforce gaps in terms of capacity and capability 71
Future workforce supply in terms of capacity and capability 62
Future workforce gaps in terms of capacity and capability 55
Current and future availability of external supply 55
Other workforce risks 50
Future workforce affordability 48
Alternative future business scenarios that will vary in their likely impact on future workforce required 35


5 To reduce the administrative burden on small agencies, those with less than 100 employees were not asked questions relating to agency capability. As a result, reported responses were from 79 agencies.

6 A maturity model is a set of structured levels describing how well an agency's practices and processes can reliably and sustainably produce required outcomes. The five maturity levels for the agency capabilities are defined in Appendix 6.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018