Australia’s future local Government workforce needs

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Workforce planning in Local Government is essential, just like every other business and industry.  Designing a plan that fits the growing needs of the community and the changing workforce helps councils stay relevant.

Identifying skills, tailoring services, generating economic and employment opportunities should be explored to boost future growth – and the vehicle to make this a reality is through a skilled workforce.

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Local Government plays a huge role in our economy – both as an employer and in its influence within which businesses, industries and economies function.

Current workforce issues

There are workforce issues in Local Government that need to be addressed.

From attracting skilled staff and growing their capacity to engaging current employees and managing retention, workforce planning is the answer to a broad range of issues and needs.

When considering strategies attracting staff, there’s a subset of small issues, including:

  • Tapping into apprentices, graduates, work experience or vacation employment
  • Creating positive workplaces for people later in their careers
  • Forming pathways from VET or higher education
  • Workforce participation, diversity and inclusion
  • Recruitment planning and demonstrating best practice.

And there’s retention.  Current issues include on-boarding and orientation, understanding drivers of turnover, phased retirement options, knowledge transfer and management, flexible work arrangements and demonstration of public value.

But we don’t stop here. According to the MAV, issues impacting the local Government workforce also include the ageing population, skills shortages, a relevant Local Government training package and qualifications, employment branding, shared services, and retirement strategies.

Action is being taken to help councils take practical steps to tackle recruitment and retention obstacles.

Next month, London will hold an event for the launch of their report: A new deal for the local Government workforce.  With work cultures in the private sector seemingly ahead of the public space, this report aims to change that.

Featuring useful guidance for councils as to how they can transform their own workforce practices, the report will cover a range of themes, including:

  • What motivates people to choose a career in Local Government and how this varies across regions
  • Skills, experience and qualities increasingly required for the Local Government workforce
  • Emerging solutions to workforce challenges such as performance-related pay.

In Australia, bodies are working together to tackle the problems head on.  Take the new guidelines from the University of Technology Sydney Centre for Local Government as an example which arms Tasmania’s Local Government with a tangible approach to building strategic workforce plans.

Developed as a solution to specific issues facing the state, its regions and the current workforce, as highlighted in the plan, the population in Tasmania is ageing and 32% of Tasmanians are aged over 55 years old, compared to 27% in the rest of Australia.

Current trends indicate that more than one in four Tasmanians will be aged 65 or older by 2050.  This will impact not only services such as aged care and disability service but also on the Tasmanian workforce.

The new guidelines are designed to empower councils at a sub-local level to identify workforce needs and decide how they will be met.  The guidelines cover six steps, similar to the approach designed by Workforce BluePrint and include case studies and various tools.  It aims to empower councils to develop their own plans, via the guidelines and supporting templates.

So, what exactly is needed for Local Governments to build the workforce of tomorrow?

Skills and requirements for local councils

As the world changes, so do councils and new local government employees of tomorrow need to have the following skills:

  • Strategic leadership
  • Report writing
  • Project management
  • Performance management
  • Finance management
  • Cultural awareness
  • Customer service
  • Interpersonal and communication
  • Negotiation
  • Time and workload management
  • Records management
  • Conflict management.

Having a workforce plan can set in motion the things you need to execute to address skill gaps and other issues.  Look at it as a comprehensive plan that combines recruiting, developing, managing, retaining and redeploying your staff.  It will cover strategies such as leveraging technology and automation to improve operations, and reinventing HR to become more strategic and flexible.

The City of Swan is a good example.  They’ve created a 10-year plan outlining the vision for the city, identifying community wellbeing priorities including economic, natural environment, built environment, social and governance.  With one vision in mind, to create a sustainable and capable council, this plan will act as the blueprint to ensure growth and employment access.

A workforce plan can help local government help achieve future growth, in line with community needs.  If you would like to know more about workforce development strategies and how to plan for the future, please contact Wendy Perry via wendy@workforceblueprint.com.au.

November 2016

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