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Workforce Planning - Components of an effective workforce strategy – key questions and strategic issues

Workplace equity and diversity

There are many important benefits to Council of applying Equal Employment Opportunity; implementing the principles of multiculturalism; and incorporating the social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights across all levels of workforce planning.

These include:
  • maximising the potential recruitment pool available to Council
  • Council’s workforce better reflecting and communicating with the local community it serves
  • better understanding the issues affecting the local community
  • making Council’s programs accessible to the diverse range of local people
  • better achieving the community’s aims as expressed in the Community Strategic Plan.
EEO management plans are required under the Local Government Act 1993 and should form part of the workforce management strategy.

Observing or implementing the principles of multiculturalism is a requirement for councils under the Community Relations Commission and Principles of Multiculturalism Act 2000 and can also be applied effectively to workforce planning in conjunction with EEO targets and strategies.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Section 345 of the Local Government Act sets out the requirements for council EEO management plans and the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 sets out the requirements for reporting on activities to implement Council’s EEO management plan.

Principles of Multiculturalism

The principles of multiculturalism are:

  • having the opportunity to participate in public life
  • making provision for the culture, language and religion of others
  • having the opportunity to participate in relevant activities and programs
  • recognising and promoting as a valuable resource the linguistic and cultural assets in the NSW population.
Implementing the Principles of Multiculturalism Locally, a framework and kit for local councils, was developed by the DLG in conjunction with the Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW and applies to community programs targeting culturally and linguistically diverse members of the community. The principles can equally be applied to the workforce planning process in order to ensure that Council’s workforce reflects the community it serves and provides a conduit for information and understanding of issues between Council and its culturally diverse communities.

Key questions

  • Does Council have an appropriate Human Resource data collection system to enable accurate and efficient analysis of workforce characteristics?
  • What is the demographic profile of your local government area now? How well is this demographic reflected in the profile of council staff?
  • What is the demographic profile of your local government area likely to be in 10 years’ time?
  • Given the current demographic profile of council staff what are the issues that Council will need to manage: Now? In 5 years time? In 10 years time?
  • What strategies does Council have in place to ensure that all sectors of the community are reflected in the composition of its workforce? Have appropriate Key Performance Indicators been set to measure their success? Are the strategies effective?
  • Are fair practices and behaviours displayed in Council’s workforce culture? How do you know? How will Council address any cultural change required?
  • Has Council developed effective strategies and programs to promote equal employment opportunity for, and remove barriers to, the employment and development of members of EEO groups? Have appropriate goals been set and Key Performance Indicators developed to measure their success?
  • Does Council have an ongoing process to review its Human Resources practices to ensure they are free from discrimination?

Strategic issues


A number of initiatives have been developed to increase women’s participation in local government which detail strategies to assist councils broaden their pool of recruitment candidates and retain female staff through providing targeted programs, family-friendly work practices and flexible working conditions.

These initiatives include:

Many other useful guides have been developed which contain strategies to retain and recruit female staff, including Making the Public Sector Work Better for Women 2008-2012 produced by the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet and Flexible work arrangements - a how to guide produced by Equal Employment for Women in the Workplace Agency.

Aboriginal people

Aboriginal communities have a great deal to contribute to the cultural, social and economic development of a community. For this to be achieved effectively it is important that local councils work to achieve reconciliation with Aboriginal Australians and ensure that this potential is realised and developed.

The active participation of Aboriginal people in council affairs as council employees is an effective way of connecting with Aboriginal communities. This provides councils with direct, effective access to specific knowledge and expertise, perspectives and linkages with their communities. Councils as democratic structures also benefit from having membership that reflects the diversity of their communities.

The employment of Aboriginal people by councils is an effective way to demonstrate a commitment to working effectively with Aboriginal communities.

In November 2009 the NSW Government announced a number of measures to increase Aboriginal employment outcomes in line with COAG agreements on Closing the Gap. Key initiatives include:

Local councils are encouraged to consider adopting an Aboriginal employment ratio that reflects the proportion of Aboriginal people living in their areas. Tools are available to assist councils in developing strategies to attract and retain Aboriginal staff. The following links contain more information:

Further information can also be obtained through Aboriginal Affairs NSW on (02) 9219 0700.

A number of funding and other programs are available to councils employing Aboriginal staff and links can be found on the Useful links and DLG resources page.

Engaging with Aboriginal Communities – A resource kit for local government in NSW, developed by the DLG in conjunction with the Local Government and Shires Associations, provides information about employing Aboriginal people and supporting them as employees as well as cultural protocols for engaging with Aboriginal communities. Care should be taken not to assume that Aboriginal council staff represent the views of local Aboriginal communities.

People with disabilities

People with disabilities bring a range of skills, abilities and qualifications to the workplace. Many businesses already employ workers with a disability because it makes good business sense:

  • employing people with a disability can build staff morale, raise management awareness of workplace practices and conditions, and increase customer and staff loyalty.
  • people with a disability can have lower absenteeism and often take less sick leave than other employees
  • people with a disability can have fewer accidents at work - the workers compensation costs for people with a disability can be much lower than the workers compensation costs of other employees
Council may have a Disability Action Plan which could be used to inform the workforce strategy.

Council may need to make work-related adjustments so that job applicants with a disability can compete based on their capabilities and win positions on merit, can use their skills effectively and can contribute fully to a role. Work-related adjustments may include flexible start and finish times, equipment which will allow the worker to perform the duties of the job or flexibility in work arrangements to meet the needs of a worker with a disability. Information is available to assist Council with the process of making any necessary work-related adjustments.

JobAccess is an Australian Government initiative to help employers address staffing issues through employing people with a disability. There is a range of assistance available for employing people with a disability including financial support, free expert advice, information, training and development, toolkits, checklists and step-by-step guides.

Young people

Engagement in employment, education and community life are the foundations of a community’s prosperity as well as ensuring an individual’s wellbeing and sense of belonging. Wider benefits resulting from participation in employment include stronger economic growth, and a more diverse and vibrant community. Young people need to be provided with a range of options and pathways to ensure they are obtaining meaningful skills so that they can participate in work and community life.

As the group most likely to form the labour force that tackles the deficit of skilled workers, young people play a vital role in addressing the current skills shortage. Increasing skills and encouraging training need to occur if the skills shortage is to be addressed and need to be provided in a way that is flexible and relevant to Council and the individual.

Apprenticeships and traineeships are mechanisms by which young people can receive skills and training that lead to a qualification. However, in many vocations the number of apprenticeships needs to increase if the skills shortage is to be adequately addressed.

Further information is available to assist councils in relation to employing young people, particularly in relation to apprenticeships and traineeships. Please also refer to useful links and resources.

Mature age workers

Developing a Mature Age Workforce Program can benefit councils through the retention of valuable knowledge and expertise. It can also broaden the pool of external recruits to fill skill gaps as well as assist in eliminating age-based discrimination. Mature-aged workers are not a homogeneous group and have a range of characteristics including previous work experience, education, gender, ethnicity and geographical location.

Programs developed to meet the needs of mature-aged workers should consider these characteristics. Useful information and guidance about employing and retaining mature aged workers can be found at Mature Workforce Policy and Guidelines, developed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The NSW Government's new SageCentre website is a resource to support public sector leaders to address the risks, challenges and opportunities that an ageing workforce brings. It also contains practical information, latest research, tools and templates to assist in developing effective strategies and solutions to address ageing workforce issues.

The website is a resource for human resource practitioners including workforce planners, line managers with mature staff, and staff interested in work and retirement planning options. The SageCentre website can be of particular value for:

Line managers - to apply flexible work practices in order to retain and recruit key staff;

HR staff - to stay up-to-date on the labour market, case studies, tools, templates and resources to assist them in workforce planning, retention and management to meet the various challenges for an ageing workforce into the future; and

Mature workers - to explore work options and prepare for retirement.

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