Tuesday, 30 Aug 2022  |  Reading time:  10 mins  | Read online

Workforce planning

This week, we’re exploring the levers available to local government to identify and address workforce needs, helping to meet strategic goals.

For local government, workforce planning means identifying the current and future workforce needs your organisation or community may have, and implementing solutions in line with achieving missions, visions or strategic plans.

Workforce planning can encompass actions such as recruitment, retention, training and development, succession planning, and forming strategic partnerships. Whereas operational planning typically focuses on the next 3-12 months, strategic workforce planning typically spans from 3-5 years.

In many countries, the local government sector is already experiencing long-term workforce challenges. These stem from issues such as:

·  An ageing workforce, especially in key technical professions
·  Difficulty in recruiting and retaining key staff  
·  Competition from the private sector in certain occupations, especially on remuneration.
·  Unsuitability and/or inaccessibility of training for local government staff

Effective workforce planning and development is essential for local government to ensure they have the capacity and capability to deliver services to communities and meet future challenges. At the same time, local councils are significant employers and play an important role in their local economies. While the powers and responsibilities of local government differ across the globe, councils often have a formal role in economic development and supporting employment/skills in their jurisdictions.

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This week's featured content

Local government workforce & capability planning

By Kerry Ferguson, LGIU Associate

This brand new LGIU research paper provides an overview of international practice on workforce strategies and initiatives that can build capacity and tackle workforce challenges in local government across the globe.

After providing key context on common workforce issues and challenges, this paper considers the importance of workforce planning in local government, highlighting various types of initiatives that can be used to tackle skills and capacity issues through a series of case studies.

Some of the key findings were:

  • Despite the different national contexts in which local councils operate, there is a good deal of common ground and therefore it is useful to look at international workforce planning practice.
  • Successful strategic workplace planning requires sustained organisational commitment and ‘buy in’: councils vary in the degree to which they have developed and implemented workforce plans, with smaller councils often facing HR capacity challenges and competing pressures resulting in less focus on strategic workforce planning.
  • Capacity building support for local government workforce planning from national/state governments and sector bodies can be valuable but should avoid being prescriptive: the most effective support programmes take account of local differences and levels of ‘maturity’ in workforce planning.

    For more lessons, tips, and case studies from this paper, be sure to check out the full report by clicking the button below!

LGIU Global Local Highlights


The State of the Australian workforce – Skills gaps & future needs
This briefing highlights some of the key labour market issues facing Australia, along several themes. It explores both the broad spectrum of economic and productivity challenges affecting the country well as a narrower look at how solutions might be understood in a more localised context.
Click here to read this briefing.

How cities are leading in efforts to advance workers’ rights
Guest bloggers LiJia Gong and Terri Gerstein outline their recent findings on how local governments in the US are supporting their own workforce and enforcing workers' rights in their communities. Click here to read this article.

The local government officer – is it time for a change?
Local government is facing substantial challenges, leading to an increased need for its workforce to change and adapt. The skills and experience needed will be broader than the technical expertise that has historically stood many in good stead. The briefing examines what skills local government officers need now and are likely to need in the future. Click here to read this briefing.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

USA: Houston partnership to strategically expand talent pipeline for in-demand roles

The Greater Houston Partnership has established UpSKill Houston as an industry-led partnership of employers, trade associations, education, government and non-profit/community organisations. The partnership focuses on improving skills and attraction for technical careers in sectors considered the drivers of the region’s economy, including construction and petrochemicals. Activities include programmes to introduce women to construction, partnering with schools for pre-apprenticeship programmes, and raising awareness of vital middle-skill (more than high school diploma but less than four-year degree) job opportunities.

Talent Forward

Canada: Territorial government recognised as top employer in country thanks to recruitment and retaining strategy

The Government of Yukon, Canada, has since 2014 been recognised as a Top 100 Employer in the country. This has been achieved in part by a strategy designed to attract and retain good talent. This strategy includes several innovative workplace measures, including referral and retention bonuses for some positions, allowances and travel subsidies for remote community workers, and tuition subsidies for courses related and indirectly related to an employee’s role. The government also recognises the importance of its digital recruitment process – making strides to ensure high quality design and usability on its recruitment website via UX and service design techniques, which in turn have increased the quantity and quality of applicants. 
Canada’s Top Employers 2022 / Government of Yukon People Plan 2019-2023

UK: Scottish roads collaboration project tackles labour shortages

The Scottish Improvement Service for councils have seen success with their Roads Collaboration Project. Running for almost a decade, the project brings together the 32 Scottish roads authorities and Transport Scotland to deliver a well-maintained road network. Its workforce planning strand enables roads authorities to work with education providers and industry bodies such to address labour shortages, taking actions such as running short courses for roads management, outreach to schools, and a shared approach to delivering training to roads staff. 

Improvement Service

Policy & Resources

Toolkit: Workforce planning – the essentials 
This toolkit aimed at Western Australian local governments provides a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow guide to the key questions and stages of getting started with a workforce planning strategy, including practice examples, tips and checklists.

Report: The role of local government in protecting workers’ rights
This report by the Economic Policy Institute (US) provides an overview of some of the most noteworthy ways in which localities have taken action on behalf of working people in recent years. You can also read a special guest blog for LGIU by the authors here.

Report: Local government industry skills forecast
This 2019 report by the Local Government Industry Reference Committee (Australia) forecasts future skill requirements for the sector, taking stock of issues likely to arise from current and predicted skills mismatches as well as potential opportunities. 

Best Practices: Workforce of the Future: Strategies to Manage Change
To learn more about the change management approaches that are most effective, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (USA) reviewed literature and interviewed HR leaders from local and state governments to identify best practices. This report details the study’s findings. 

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we’ll take a look at how councils can take advantage of new technologies to better engage with communities.

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