Conduct a strategic workforce planning exercise

There is no single approach or common model when it comes to strategic workforce planning, and nor is it an exact science. Depending on the size, capability mix and risk appetite of your agency, you may need to undertake a complex planning exercise, or just identify the key risks now and in the future. The specific questions and workforce challenges your agency is trying to solve will require different approaches.

Some useful best practice guides include (note costs):

  • Australian Standard in Workforce Planning AS 5620:2015
  • ISO Standard in Human Capital Reporting ISO 30414:2019
  • ISO Standard in Knowledge Management ISO 30401:2018
  • ISO TC260 Employee Engagement/ Diversity and Inclusion Standards in development

However, no matter how large or small a workforce planning exercise is, it is important to think broadly and purposefully as a process of enquiry rather than following a rigid structure. This will help make a start.

Critical success factors

  • Maintain clear focus on the business and its needs
  • Establish internal and external partnerships - involve stakeholders early in the process
  • Build flexibility into the process leading to more effective and tailored solutions
  • Focus on critical data and emerging trends (you do not need to assess with complete certainty, but you do need a sense of the bigger picture)
  • Solve problems, don't just build a process
  • Favour solutions with the greatest impact
  • Remember that a workforce plan is not an end product - planning must be ongoing
  • Ensure there is a clear line of sight to other strategic agendas (e.g. strategic plans, and business plans).

Best practice suggestions


  • The plan is publicly available on the website
  • All key stakeholders have had input into the plan
  • Robust reporting, monitoring and evaluation processes are in place and public


  • Scenario planning and futures forecasting is used to examine possible needs
  • Future service delivery models and contestability are considered
  • Workforce metrics are used in a focused and strategic way
  • Focused analysis of supply and demand workforce issues
  • Lead and lag indicators are used effectively

Environmental scanning

  • Understands vocational education and training (VET) and Higher Education pathways
  • Evidence based approach including workforce metrics and staff surveys
  • Benchmarking against other public sector and like industries
  • Analyses external and internal labour markets
  • Alignment with relevant national priorities and international best practices


  • Builds diversity and inclusion
  • Understands early careers pathways and issues
  • Builds capability and supports learning
  • Understands future capability needs and gaps
  • Promotes mobility
  • Supports engagement and retention strategies
  • Appreciates the capability and capacity of the contingent workforce
  • Clear Employee Value Proposition
  • Consideration of sector-wide workforce issues and broader stewardship


  • Embeds values
  • Promotes high performance culture and improves productivity
  • Encourages innovation
  • Ensure best organisational and workforce design and structure
  • Common language and approach for workforce activities
  • Identifies improvements in technology, systems and processes
  • Understands broad infrastructure needs

Change management and transitions

  • Takes account of the changing environment
  • Is agile and able to be amended to suit emerging needs
  • Is seen as a continuous improvement process