Workforce and diversity planning
Planning for capability and capacity requirements enables the development of a workforce that is well equipped to meet current and future challenges. In the public sector, these challenges include addressing skills shortages; recruitment and retention in regional areas; succession planning and knowledge management for an ageing workforce; and increasing workplace diversity.
Recent budget initiatives are impacting on workforce planning, with entities required to determine how they can contribute to the target of 1000 voluntary severances across the sector and manage expenses in line with the cap on salary expense growth.1 There is a need to find increased productivity gains from the existing workforce, which is in addition to the pressures experienced by the sector during the tight labour market conditions of recent years.
Part of the Public Sector Commissioner's role is to plan for the future management and operation of the sector (s. 21A(c) of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (PSM Act)). This role is shared with chief executives of public sector bodies (s. 29(1)(c) of the PSM Act). Chief executives and the WA Government are developing new mechanisms to deal with the changing operating environment, including enhanced redeployment arrangements, which provide for involuntary redundancy as a measure of last resort.
This chapter describes the state of workforce planning in the public sector and the strategies being undertaken to increase diversity, develop leaders and otherwise prepare for future capability requirements.
The evidence suggests the public sector is committed to planning for future workforce needs – almost all of the sector's employees are reportedly covered by workforce and diversity plans, and entities indicate they are developing and implementing strategies to avoid future skills gaps. There is a strong focus on increasing the capability of the sector through reported investment in professional development and entry-level training programs.
As described in Workforce and diversity planning - A guide for agencies, planning for future workforce requirements involves making informed decisions about business practices, which are aligned to organisational goals and community needs, and developing strategies to build and maintain a skilled, flexible and sustainable workforce.
Workforce and diversity planning in the sector is guided by legislative requirements in the PSM Act and the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (EO Act), and other strategies and agreements such as:
- Skilling WA - A workforce development plan for Western Australia2
- Strategic directions for the public sector workforce 2009-2014
- National partnership agreement on Indigenous economic participation3
The Commissioner's Circular 2013-04: Equal employment opportunity management plans and workforce planning in the public sector encourages entities to develop and implement an integrated workforce and diversity plan. As of September 2013, 85% of public sector bodies had a workforce plan and 63% had integrated their workforce and diversity plans. Equal employment opportunity (EEO) management plans are discussed later in this chapter.
Similar to last year, almost all employees (96%) work in an entity with a workforce plan. This is an excellent achievement and, as such, the focus is moving towards implementation of plans, and evaluation to address key workforce risks. The Public Sector Commission's provides a range of guides, best practice examples and templates on relevant topics such as recruitment, capability development and succession planning.
The following case study highlights some of the initiatives Western Australia Police (WA Police) has developed as part of the implementation of its workforce plan.
Planning and development for a more responsive police service
WA Police successfully launched its first workforce and diversity action plan in 2012/13. A new strategic human resources team was established, enabling a more holistic approach to identifying key workforce issues, driving workforce planning initiatives and overseeing the progress of the plan. Regular dialogue with senior leadership was maintained to deliver strategies, and best practice methodologies were shared through ongoing interjurisdictional collaboration.
Key achievements for 2012/13
- A priority placement policy was developed, which has achieved significant reductions in vacancies for hard to fill positions. The policy gives priority consideration to officers who commit to working in targeted positions when applying for future regional opportunities.
- Following identification of a service improvement opportunity to meet the needs of diverse groups, a pilot was scheduled to engage community liaison officers to work within Aboriginal and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This is anticipated to provide a more culturally responsive service and improve partnerships with, and employment opportunities for, diverse groups.
- A review revealed a business case to provide additional support for the management of ill or injured employees with restricted operational capacity. This resulted in a pilot program and human resources business partnership to implement new management guidelines and support managers.
- Professional and academic programs were provided to maintain WA Police's reputation as an industry leader in building leadership and technical capacity. Seventy-four per cent of commissioned officers attained, or were completing, postgraduate qualifications. There was an increasing appetite for tertiary training, with 211 academic opportunities offered across specialisations in 2012.
- A comprehensive review of the WA Police's performance management framework and substandard performance management process was commenced to contribute to a more efficient and productive workforce.
- In response to New recruits in the WA Police4, the recruiting branch structure was revised, a new recruitment process was developed, and a review of police recruit selection criteria was undertaken. This included a new selection methodology tailored to law enforcement positions to better predict job performance.
- Police numbers were maintained through refreshed advertising and an overseas recruitment campaign.
Risks to the public sector workforce
In a new item in the (AAS) this year, public sector bodies were asked to nominate the workforce risks facing their organisation in the next five years. As shown in Figure 6.1, the most nominated risks were addressing capability gaps due to a changing operating environment (51%), loss of corporate knowledge due to retirement (45%), and recruiting and retaining appropriately skilled staff (41%).
Figure 6.1 Workforce risks facing entities in the next five years, 2013
Click on the image to enlarge
Note: Entities chose five items from a list of 19 possible options.
While there are some workforce risks that are common to all entities, sophisticated use of workforce data enables entities to better identify staffing challenges and potential skills shortages. Data quality has a significant impact on the ability to model current and future workforce requirements.
Addressing and preventing skills shortages
The changing employment climate, with increasing unemployment rates, has resulted in an increase in the number of applicants for advertised public sector roles. In 2012/13, there was an average of 17 applicants per closed job advertisement, compared to 11 in 2011/12.5 As a result, it may be becoming easier to recruit and retain skilled employees.
Nevertheless, prioritising recruitment, retention and development initiatives in areas of potential skills shortages remains a key focus to ensure public sector bodies continue to effectively deliver services.
In a new AAS item this year, entities were asked which strategies they used in 2012/13 to help address or prevent skills shortages. Figure 6.2 shows most entities reported investing in professional development of the existing workforce (85%) and using retention strategies, such as flexible working arrangements (74%).
Figure 6.2 Strategies used by entities to address or prevent skills shortages, 2012/13
Click on the image to enlarge
Flexible working arrangements include practices such as flexi leave, purchased leave, study breaks, job sharing and compressed working weeks. Access to these arrangements can significantly improve work/life balance, increase morale and help to retain valued employees.
Creating a flexible SES workforce provides suggestions for developing and implementing a flexible work practices program for senior staff. This guide may be helpful when considering flexible working arrangements for other employees.
Entry-level employment programs
Entry-level employment programs, such as graduate and traineeship programs, enable employers to build a pool of skilled and qualified young people.
In the AAS, public sector bodies reported conducting the following training programs in at least part of their organisation during 2012/13:
- traineeship program (48%, compared with 44% in the previous year)
- graduate program (26%, the same as last year)
- cadetship program (15%, compared with 14% last year)
- apprenticeship program (8%, compared with 5% last year).
The Commission is committed to the promotion and development of employment-based training opportunities across the sector and released the Employment-based training strategy 2013-2015 to review the state of training, barriers to participation, and initiatives to increase access. The strategy outlines Commission programs and provides information for public sector bodies that may wish to develop their own programs.
The Commission conducts several traineeship programs for individuals under 25 years who wish to acquire or improve administration skills, and prepare for a career in the public sector. These include the , and . Entities can also access candidates for Level 1 and 2 administrative positions from the . Program participants may be suitable to fill existing or projected skills gaps.
Graduate programs - A guide for agencies provides practical advice to assist in the development of graduate programs. Public sector bodies can also enrol their graduate employees, or other employees who have recently completed a university degree, in the Commission's , which provides a whole-of-government perspective on the political, legislative and operational environment.
Strategies to prevent skills shortages are especially important in the regions. There is a higher separation rate of permanent employees in regional areas (8.8%) compared to the metropolitan area (7.2%), with the highest rates of separation occurring in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions (11.8% and 13.7% respectively).6 There are also significantly fewer applicants per position in all regional areas than in the Perth metropolitan area (apart from the South West region).7
Key contributors to attraction and retention in the regions include availability of affordable housing, quality of infrastructure (such as transport and communications), accessibility of health care and availability of education and training.8
The Department of Training and Workforce Development (DTWD) has developed a series of regional workforce development plans that highlight specific challenges to recruitment, retention and capability development in each region. The following case study provides more information about the plans and their development.
Regional workforce development plans
Recognising the importance of, and unique challenges faced by, WA's regional workforce, DTWD has developed a series of regional workforce development plans. The suite of plans identifies the priority issues of the Great Southern, Wheatbelt, South West, Pilbara, Goldfields-Esperance, and Mid West workforces, and provides strategies to address them.
Through regional alliances comprising state government, local government, industry, community stakeholders and the local state training providers, the regional workforce development plans consider information gathered from sub-regional forums and consultations alongside theoretical research and analysis. The plans also consider regional and sub-regional priority occupations that are critical for the success of the key industries in the area, or that are in high demand, to inform discussions on education and training requirements.
For example, due to the rapid economic growth experienced in the Goldfields-Esperance region, and the impact of a transient workforce, the region suffers from a significant shortage of affordable housing. Therefore, a key focus of the Goldfields-Esperance workforce development plan 2013-2016 is to address the housing shortage and in turn, attract young people to, and retain mature workers in, the region.
Each of the regional workforce development plans concludes with proposed solutions to improve workforce planning, recruitment and retention in the regions, in areas such as training development and delivery, policy development and implementation, workforce monitoring, and resourcing. Through region-specific priorities, DTWD encourages regional ownership while developing customised workforce development initiatives.
In 2012, the Commission was successful in securing Royalties for regions (R4R) funding from the Department of Regional Development and Lands9 to build capacity in regional entities through the provision of workforce planning, development and employment initiatives.
As part of these initiatives, the Commission has expanded the Government and Aboriginal traineeship programs to include regional areas of WA. In 2012/13, the Commission conducted information sessions across the state to promote the programs and develop a pool of candidates. Twenty-three Indigenous trainees have commenced, or are due to complete, their training in a regional area in 2013.
Government traineeship program - A guide for agencies in the regions provides information for entities about employing trainees in regional locations.
Leading in the regions
The Commission recently completed a regional leadership study across the sector as part of the R4R initiatives, and found there are several nuances which make regional leadership unique from metropolitan leadership. For example, regional leaders:
- are the face of their entity within their local community
- are impacted by geographic isolation and distance from Perth
- need to interpret policy to fit within their regional context
- require greater generalist management skills
- have more autonomy and often greater responsibility for decisions
- need to manage cultural considerations relevant to their region
- do not always have access to resources such as information technology, mobile reception and people.
Regional public sector leaders are not seeking a centrally delivered leadership program. Instead, they wish to develop stronger connections within and across regions, learn from other leaders who understand regional issues, and share stories of successful policy in practice.
Opportunities for city and country employees to share knowledge, experiences and understanding should be encouraged to support better policy development and service delivery.
As discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, public sector leaders play a crucial role in driving change, encouraging innovation, improving performance and accountability, and delivering quality services, while maintaining high standards of integrity. Effective leadership improves productivity and helps ensure that strategic priorities continue to be progressed during times of change in the sector.
Generally, respondents to the 2013 (EPS) indicated their supervisors effectively manage employees (74%, same as the previous year) and there is good communication between senior managers and employees (65%, compared with 67% last year). The development of future leaders is essential to maintain these high standards of leadership.
There were 510 members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) in the public sector in June 2013 (compared to 479 in the previous year).10 These leaders were predominantly male (70.8%) and had a median age of 53.6 years. As 16.3% of them were aged 60 years and over, and the average retirement age of SES employees over the last five years was 61.4 years, the identification and retention of potential leaders has become more important to ensure there is sufficient 'bench strength' to replace those in senior positions.
Public sector bodies have identified the loss of corporate knowledge due to retirement as a significant workforce risk they are facing over the next five years (seen previously in Figure 6.1). Many highly skilled employees will consider retirement in the next few years, highlighting the business imperative to identify critical positions and develop capability in future candidates for these roles. may help to identify the required skills and knowledge for key roles.
Entities are using mentoring programs, acting opportunities, job shadowing and training sessions to enable the transfer of information and increase opportunities for hands-on learning.11 A guide to managing knowledge: Turning information into capability provides information about developing and implementing knowledge management plans.
Leadership development supports succession and knowledge management by increasing the number of employees who are skilled and ready for opportunities to move into leadership positions.
Entity-based initiatives, where possible, allow programs to be tailored to specific development needs, and ensure that development aligns with strategic priorities and goals. In a new AAS item this year, 67% of very small and small entities reported having no tailored executive development program in place, compared to 12% of large and very large entities.
The following case study highlights the approach taken by the Commissioner of Main Roads to develop a customised leadership development program.
Leading at all levels
Main Roads has a strong history of leadership development at all levels, which is reflected in its 'Inspiring leadership strategy' and eight guiding leadership principles.
The agency's 2020 corporate strategic plan prioritises leadership capability for delivering the strategic agenda, and this has been identified as a key driver for increasing organisational productivity through employee engagement. In light of this, leadership development strategies were implemented in 2013, including the launch of two leadership programs. These customised programs were targeted at Level 7 and above, and 50 current and potential leaders were selected to participate. Employees from the Department of Transport also participated in the programs with the aim of strengthening relationships between agency leaders, and improving collaboration.
The aim of the leadership programs is to achieve positive behavioural changes in the participants' leadership style and foster an engaged and high performing work culture.
Participants are encouraged to reflect on their own leadership qualities, identify admirable leadership traits in others, and learn how to inspire and influence others. They are required to identify innovative ways to deliver the priorities of their agency's strategic plan and explore the leadership challenges present in their work environment. Participants work as a team, project managing and delivering individual elements of the areas of focus, such as creating value and ensuring future capability.
The programs are being assessed against an evaluation framework, in terms of impact on human capital and productivity, through individual performance agreements and other evaluation mechanisms. Preliminary assessments have returned positive feedback, with participants indicating a greater understanding of, and commitment to, leadership; greater self-awareness; and practical application of course content within their roles.
The Commission offers leadership development programs to improve leadership capability across mid-level to senior positions, such as the and partnerships with the , such as the Executive Master of Public Administration and Executive Fellows programs. These programs maximise leadership potential and support whole-of-government thinking.
The Commission also partners with ANZSOG to target senior executives and human resources practitioners through the 'Applied learning program'. The program develops the capability of existing and emerging leaders by providing opportunities to learn from successful national and international speakers, share ideas and build networks. Three of these events were conducted in regional locations as part of the R4R initiatives in 2012/13.
Diversity planning forms an important part of workforce planning and the Government remains committed to diversity as a key workforce initiative.
Employee perceptions of workplace culture
Diversity planning promotes an inclusive workplace culture and equal opportunities for all employees. Most employees (80%) who responded to the 2013 EPS agreed their entity is committed to building such a culture (compared to 76% in 2012). Figure 6.3 shows that WA is similar to some other jurisdictions in this regard.
Figure 6.3 Interjurisdictional perceptions on entity commitment to a diverse workforce, 2011 to 2013
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Note: Question wording and response scales may vary slightly between jurisdictions. Non-responses and neutral responses have been removed from this chart. All jurisdictions except Victoria and New South Wales allowed employees to respond 'Neither agree nor disagree'.
EEO management plans
Section 145(1) of the EO Act requires all public authorities to prepare and implement an EEO management plan to ensure an inclusive workplace culture, and equal opportunities for all employees.
An integrated workforce and diversity plan assists entities to effectively achieve EEO and workforce planning outcomes relevant to their business, as well as streamline planning processes.
In October 2013, Commissioner's Circular 2013-04 was released. This circular encourages public authorities to integrate their EEO management plans with their workforce plans.
Indigenous economic participation
The public sector is well-positioned to contribute to employment outcomes for Aboriginal Australians. Optimising opportunities to engage in public sector employment builds the capability of the sector, and contributes to the economic wellbeing of Aboriginal communities.
WA is a signatory to the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG's) National partnership agreement on Indigenous economic participation (national partnership).12 The national partnership aims to halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade, and to increase Indigenous public sector employment to reflect the working age population. The council has set a national target of 2.6% representation, and WA has committed to reach a target of 3.2% by 2015. In working towards this target, WA is mindful that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has estimated the Indigenous Australian proportion of the working age population to be 2.8%.13
As at 30 June 2013, representation of Indigenous employees in the WA public sector stood at 3.0%, down slightly from the previous year.14 For further information, see Chapter 5.
The Aboriginal employment strategy 2011-2015 reflects WA's commitment to the national partnership. This strategy contains a range of initiatives to improve the representation of Aboriginal Australians in public sector employment.
The Commission has been working with entities to progress a range of strategies to support the employment of Aboriginal Australians. For example, an online Aboriginal cultural confidence module, , has been developed to increase awareness of Aboriginal culture. The Commission is also developing a series of forums as part of the Aboriginal leadership program, in collaboration with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
The Department of Housing has developed an Aboriginal traineeship program as part of its Aboriginal employment strategy. Details of the program are discussed in the following case study.
Aboriginal traineeship program
The Department of Housing is committed to increasing employment opportunities for Aboriginal Australians and having a diverse workforce that is representative of customers and the community. The department's reconciliation action plan and Aboriginal employment strategy have set ambitious targets and identified a number of actions to improve the department's cultural competency.
The department had a 5.6% representation15 of Indigenous employees in June 2013, above the public sector average, highlighting the commitment and success of its initiatives.
In 2012, the Department of Housing's Director General made a commitment to host six Aboriginal trainees under 25 years of age each year, with the offer of a permanent full-time position on completion of the traineeship. After a successful first intake in the metropolitan area, the program was rolled out to the state's regional areas. To facilitate the success of regional placements, regular study groups were arranged through video conferencing. Each trainee had an on-site supervisor, buddy and mentor.
A number of initiatives have been developed to support the trainees as they transition into the workforce. These include:
- a tailored induction package that guides trainees through what they can expect, from first contact with the department to completing the first six months of their traineeship
- opportunities for metropolitan-based trainees to undertake regional travel, and for regional trainees to visit metropolitan areas for work projects
- Aboriginal mentors who guide trainees through issues of work/life balance, are advocates and positive role models, and foster cultural security
- strong support and encouragement for trainee supervisors to attend the Commission's 'Supervising Aboriginal staff' course, supported by an Aboriginal cultural awareness program
- a dedicated traineeship coordinator and traineeship support officer, Kayla Rodd (graduate), is available to support trainees with study and work-related requirements, maintain regular contact and otherwise assist in the induction process.
The program has been very successful, with three graduates accepting permanent employment, as well as two anticipated permanent appointments. Two of the graduates who have accepted full-time employment with the department are Samantha Hedlam-Moffat and Angela Sheppard. Samantha is working as an administration assistant service officer within service delivery support, and Angela is working within capital works planning. Both graduates have reported enjoying the traineeship program and are appreciating the support they are receiving in their new roles.
In 2013, the regions are a focus of the traineeship program, with new trainees in Kununurra, Geraldton, and Broome.
Entity progress towards the national partnership outcomes
To assess public sector progress towards the national partnership outcomes, the 2013 AAS asked entities to nominate strategies they have in place to support the objectives, as shown in Figure 6.4.
Figure 6.4 Entity strategies to support the national partnership objectives, 2012/13
Click on the image to enlarge
Most public sector bodies (78%) reported staff in at least part of the organisation have a contemporary understanding of Aboriginal people and culture, and how this relates to the work of the entity (increased from 66% in the previous year). In addition, most entities (72%) reported actively engaging with Aboriginal clients to better understand their needs (compared to 65% last year).
Almost two-thirds (65%) of public sector bodies indicated they have measurable Aboriginal workforce strategies, or are in the process of developing them (compared with 63% last year).
Continued efforts in implementing these strategies are required over the next two years to meet the target of 3.2%, especially in light of the slight decrease in representation of Indigenous employees in the past year. However, WA is mindful that the ABS has estimated the Indigenous Australian proportion of the working age population to be 2.8%.
The challenge of retaining Indigenous employees in public sector employment is ongoing, as evidenced by the greater proportion of separations than engagements for Indigenous employees (see further information in Chapter 5). This reinforces the need to incorporate appropriate Aboriginal employment strategies into workforce and diversity plans, as well as improve career development opportunities for Aboriginal employees.
Employment for people with disability
The benefits of employment for people with disability, both for them and the broader community, provide a strong business case for targeted investment in this area.16
People with disability (with moderate core activity restriction) are underrepresented in WA's workforce, with a participation rate of 59% compared to 84% for those without disability.17
In August 2013, the Commission partnered with the Disability Services Commission to launch the Disability employment strategy 2013-2015. This strategy aims to improve participation, inclusion and access for people with disability at all levels of employment in the public sector. All entities are encouraged to implement this strategy within their workforce planning and development activities.
As at 30 June 2013, representation of people with disability in the WA public sector stood at 2.6%.18 For further information, see Chapter 5.
The review of the Disability Services Act 1993 has resulted in the requirement for entities to include strategies in disability access and inclusion plans to break down barriers and improve employment opportunities for people with disability.
Traditional public sector recruitment practices can act as barriers to employing people with disability. Inclusive recruitment processes can be administered, using the flexibilities enabled by Commissioner's Instruction No. 2 - Filling a public sector vacancy.
Women in leadership
The representation of women in the SES increased to 29.2% in 2013.19 This is still lower than most other Australian state and territory jurisdictions but is higher than large public companies, with 9.7% of executive management positions in Australia's top 200 companies being held by women.20 For further information on other jurisdictions, see the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment's Annual report 2013.
In response to the need to improve our representation of women in leadership positions, the Commissioner is progressing a project to examine the motivations, beliefs, goals, internal conflict and values of senior women in the public sector in relation to work, and to identify what could encourage and support more women to take on leadership roles. This important project will include the analysis of survey results to gain a greater insight into the leadership journey of senior women and examine ways of sharing the information gathered to a broad audience.
The Commission has also introduced initiatives such as sponsoring an International Women's Day luncheon to celebrate the accomplishments of female leaders.
The public sector is making progress towards planning and developing the workforce for sustainable delivery of services. Most entities report having strategies in place to recruit and retain skilled employees, and increase the diversity and inclusiveness of their workplaces.
Capability gaps represent the biggest workforce risk to the public sector in the coming years. In response to this risk, most entities report investing in professional development, and over half offer entry-level programs, such as traineeships or graduate programs.
Developing the leaders of tomorrow remains a key priority to ensure sufficient 'bench strength' to meet future challenges for the sector.
Most public sector bodies have a workforce plan and almost two-thirds have an integrated workforce and diversity plan. The focus is now on implementing the strategies that have been developed, and continuing to review the plans as government priorities and funding change.
In 2012/13, there was a slight decline in the representation of Indigenous employees. In light of this decrease, improving employment outcomes for this group should remain a key focus through workforce planning initiatives and the Aboriginal employment strategy 2011-2015.
The Commission continues to work with the public sector to develop strategies that will increase diversity and improve the quality of employee data to enable more accurate modelling of future workforce requirements.
1 Department of Treasury 2013, 2013-14 Budget fact sheets: Public sector workforce reform
2 Department of Training and Workforce Development 2010, Skilling WA - A workforce development plan for Western Australia
3 Council of Australian Governments 2009, National partnership agreement on Indigenous economic participation
4 Office of the Auditor General 2012, New recruits in the WA Police
5 Source: Recruitment Advertising Management System
6 Source: HRMOIR workforce data in 2012/13
7 Source: Recruitment Advertising Management System
8 Department of Training and Development 2010, Skilling WA - A workforce development plan for Western Australia
9 As of 1 July 2013, the Department of Regional Development and Lands became the Department of Regional Development, and the Department of Lands was established. The Department of Regional Development is responsible for the R4R program following the changes.
10 Source: HRMOIR workforce data
11 Reported as part of a mid-point review of entity implementation of the Strategic directions for the public sector workforce 2009-2014 workforce strategy.
12 Council of Australian Governments 2009, National partnership agreement on Indigenous economic participation
13 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 2002.0 - Census of population and housing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Indigenous) profile, 2011 third release
14 Source: HRMOIR workforce data
15HRMOIR workforce data
16 Australian Network on Disability 2013, 'Business benefits of hiring people with disability'
17 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010, 'Disability, ageing and carers, Australia: State tables for Western Australia - Table 12', 4430.0 - Disability, ageing and carers, Australia: Summary of findings, 2009
18 Source: HRMOIR workforce data
19 Source: HRMOIR workforce data
20 Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency 2012, 2012 Australian census of women in leadership
Page last updated 26 October 2015