3. Identify issues and find solutions
Developing strategies and actions is the next step in the workforce planning process. It brings together the analysis, insights and directions revealed in the previous steps.
Workforce strategy development can be considered from either of these following perspectives:
- themes and issues common across the whole business
- themes and issues unique to a specific part of the business.
This step also involves assessing your existing workforce strategies. The workforce gaps you identified in Section 2 through the completion of the following templates will assist in your strategy development:
Template 3 (DOCX, 53KB) Current workforce data and profile
Template 4 (DOCX, 51KB) Workforce supply, future demand and gap analysis
Once the extent of the gaps have been determined and prioritised, effective strategies can be developed and implemented.
Once you have gathered your workforce supply and demand data, you are able to compare this information to provide a picture of the workforce gaps in your business. This process is commonly referred to as a gap analysis.
This step involves identifying current and future gaps in your workforce and the order in which the gaps should be prioritised for action. Depending on the level of workforce risk, not all gaps may need to be actioned.
There are two types of gaps – one is a workforce shortage, the other is a workforce surplus.
Gap analysis involves looking at three types of interdependent gaps. These are:
- Workforce numbers and roles
- Skills gaps
- Demographic profile
Workforce numbers and roles
Workforce numbers and roles can be expressed in terms of headcount or FTEs (full-time equivalents). Both of these are legitimate approaches to considering the workforce, though from a financial perspective, workforce costs are normally referred to as FTEs.
Gaps often indicate an undersupply or oversupply of workers where there is likely to be turnover from resignations, retirements or planned extended leave, e.g. parental leave. Consider roles that are harder to fill, critical roles, or new types of roles that do not currently exist in your workforce or need to be changed to reflect new technologies. It is worthwhile including contractors, casuals and volunteers if your business relies on them to complete work.
Skills gaps include the skills and capabilities needed in the future for your business that you may not currently have. This can be addressed by upskilling existing staff or sourcing staff externally. Skills gaps can be related to technology, trades or other specific technical skills and are often difficult to predict.
The analysis of the current workforce may highlight significant trends that require addressing. These may relate to an ageing workforce or diversity imbalances in roles where the workforce does not reflect the community. It may be important to address these trends if they impact on service delivery, recruitment or retention.
A workforce gap equates to a level of workforce or business risk. Understanding the level of risk and its potential business impact will help determine whether or not to address the gap. The objective of good risk management is to ensure optimal, balanced and sustainable business performance. Your risk management process should be simple and flexible.
Risk assessment looks at the gaps in workforce supply and demand and considers:
- the likelihood of not being able to fill the gap
- the consequence of not being able to fill the gap
- rates the risk as being low, medium, high or severe.
All gaps should be risk assessed against the impact on the business from not addressing them. Conducting a risk assessment using a risk matrix (see below) will assist you in prioritising your workforce strategies and actions.
You have two employees who are likely to leave this year. Mary is a long-term employee who is considering retiring after 15 years of working for your business. Jack has been working with you for two years and is thinking about moving to another town to be closer to his parents as his young family is growing.
Mary’s role is office manager, and she keeps the business running smoothly, booking customer appointments, dealing with suppliers, managing the accounts, and generally keeping everyone on track. She is integral to the running of the business and is supported by Jane, who works four hours a day.
Jack’s role is a labourer. He is good at his job, is a reliable worker and has good customer service skills. He has also been showing some interest in building his skills up to a technician level. You currently have four other labourers in the business as well.
Using the risk matrix, the likelihood of Mary retiring is likely to very likely. The consequence for your business of her retirement is high to severe. This would indicate this is a workforce issue you must have a plan in place for. Mary’s departure would leave a big hole in the business and the impact of her departure could be chaotic.
The likelihood of Jack leaving is possible, but with a moderate consequence for the business. While it would be disappointing to see him go, Jack’s possible departure has less of an impact on the business because you have four other labourers and expect that it will be reasonably easy to replace him.
Workforce planning strategies and actions can be grouped into four key categories:
- develop your existing workforce skills and capability
- attract new employees to address skill gaps
- retain valued employees
- manage the workforce through business change
These categories cover a range of activities to help ensure your workforce matches business requirements into the future. Yearly review of your workforce plan will ensure that the business objectives are still relevant. Strategies can also be adjusted in response to workforce and external trends.
Various resources to support you further in working planning can be located here.
Develop your existing workforce skills and capability
Investing in the training and development of your workforce is a key strategy that can achieve improved productivity outcomes for your business. It can also improve employee job satisfaction and engagement. There are various approaches available to develop the skills of your workforce. These can include on-the-job training, accredited and non-accredited training, mentoring and coaching, as well as attendance at industry events.
When considering training and development options to invest time and resources in, ensure you are clear on the skills and knowledge required for your business into the future. This includes identifying skills gaps, and how and when the skills will be developed. Workforce development activities can include a focus on improving customer service and interpersonal skills, technical skills, or building leadership capability. Information about training programs supported by the Queensland government can be found at www.desbt.qld.gov.au/training/employers.
Ensuring the skills and knowledge of employees remains up to date will allow your business to remain productive and competitive in an ever changing business environment.
Attract new employees to address skill gaps
With increasing competition for skilled employees, attracting the right people is critical for the success of a business. Building, developing and maintaining a positive employer brand and employee experience is an important attraction strategy. A strong positive employer brand indicates that the business is seen as a good place to work. This may include opportunities to develop and learn new skills and career prospects, good leadership, interesting work and good pay.
The employee experience is the alignment between the employer brand and how that translates in actual day-to-day activities. The working environment is increasingly important to people, as they are looking for a workplace where they are valued and treated with respect, have an opportunity to use their current skills and develop new ones, develop good working relationships and have input into how they do their daily work.
There are many ways to connect to potential employees. Preferred web-based recruitment and social media sites are important tools in our current environment to reach out to job seekers. Other strategies include partnering with organisations such as schools, TAFE providers or universities.
Retain valued employees
Replacing valued staff is a costly exercise. Businesses are faced with recruitment costs, as well as lost corporate knowledge, networks and experience. It takes time for new staff to become fully productive.
There are many reasons employees will consider leaving a business. Understanding the factors that influence employee decisions to stay or leave will assist in putting in place strategies and initiatives to keep valued employees. Finding out why people are leaving, what employees are thinking and what they want can be done through staff surveys, exit interviews and regular conversations.
Employees are more likely to stay with a business if they have a working environment where they are respected and valued, have meaningful work, have good relationships with their supervisors and co-workers, and are provided with opportunities to develop their skills. Workplace arrangements such as part-time work, job-sharing and flexible work options can also assist in retaining employees if there is a change in their personal circumstances that needs to be accommodated in the short or long term. Some of these changes can include needing to care for family members, commencing study or wanting to reduce hours as they prepare to retire.
Understanding specific workforce needs will allow the development of strategies and actions that will support the business to keep valued employees.
Managing the workforce through business change
Industry transitions occur across the economy, resulting in changing workforce needs for businesses. From a business perspective, this can include the introduction of new technologies, acquisition or loss of a key contract and subsequent impacts on the supply chain, as well as new competitors entering the market. These changes can result in an increase or decline in demand for products and services.
Responding to change is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. To get the best outcomes for a business and workforce, anticipating and planning for any significant change is important. Once it is clear what the impact and timing of the change will be, planning can commence. Successful change within a business can be achieved through clear communications; engaging staff in discussions on how best to implement and manage the change; identify skilling, upskilling and reskilling requirements; and providing transitional support to those affected by job changes.
If there are negative workforce impacts, managing affected staff in a compassionate, fair and reasonable manner is important. How individuals are treated during these processes will often influence what they say about your business to family and friends. Remember, these family and friends could be your existing or future customers or potential employees. Some of your employees may also be a member of a union. If this is the case, consider engaging with their union to see if there are other short-term alternatives available that will suit both your employee and business needs.
Identify issues and find solutions checklist
identified my workforce gaps and understood the workforce risks
Find out more about workforce gaps.
developed potential solutions for the workforce gaps, considering options such as recruiting, on-the-job training, promoting workers, and increasing working hours.
Find out more about finding solutions.
prioritise what I need to do to ensure my workforce will be ready to meet my business goals.
Refer to Template 6: Workforce action plan on a page (DOCX, 48KB)
You’re ready to move on to the next stage – Implement and monitor