Is Australia Lagging Behind in Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP)?

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This is a post by a guest blogger invited by the CWL to contribute to our site.

Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) is one of the ‘hottest’ issues in HR today. Many organisations are striving to more effectively manage their most vital intangible asset (their people), and typically the highest cost item in their budget.

But are Australian based organisations lagging behind in SWP?

Based on our recent surveying of 60 significant Australian organisations on the state of their workforce strategy development and people management practices, many organisations are delusional about their SWP claims!

More recently we then did a follow up survey (using the same Workforce Strategy Audit Survey consisting of 9 sections and 64 items) of 50 UK based organisations (in conjunction with the Corporate Research Forum), so the two groups of survey findings make for some interesting international comparisons.

Overall, the UK based organisations were a little more advanced in the development of their SWP and people management practices. They are what I would term at the “Emerging Stage” of SWP whereas the Australian organisations are more at a “Rudimentary Stage”.

We identified common deficits from both survey groups, these being:

  • The strategic component missing in their SWP approach (just stamping the word “strategic” onto workforce planing doesn’t equate with SWP);
  • Adopting a piecemeal approach to SWP (e.g., omitting consideration of the contingent workforce);
  • Workforce segmentation approaches failing to come to grips with undertsanding role characteristics and role differentiation (i.e., ‘make’ v’s ‘buy’ roles);
  • Adopting a ‘one size fits all’ mentality to developing Employee Value Propositions (EVPS), and competency and appraisal assessment forms;
  • A reactive orientation to managing the workforce (e.g., lack of succession planning, forecasting recruitment and risk focus);
  • Struggles with HR data and analysis;
  • Sub-optimal outcomes being achieved from the implementation of SWP.


In summary many organisations were locked into obsolete or limiting mindsets and models in addressing the compexities and challenges of workforce management in the contemporary workplace. There is scope for some considerable improvement!

AWS will be running a series of 1 day master class national workshops in May and June, 2015 entitled “Strategic Workforce Planning: Applications of Latest Research”. For further information, go to

One Response to “Is Australia Lagging Behind in Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP)?”

  1. Jon Windust

    Colin, This is really interesting – I’d be fascinated to see the underlying research.

    In any case, I’m not surprised by the results. We did some work late last benchmarking the number of ASX100 companies that mentioned the key risks of people and talent “acquisition and retention” in their annual reports. See here

    In summary
    > 50% of the ASX100 completely ignored people as a key business risk, and
    > only 20% of the ASX100 mentioned talent acquisition and retention as a key business risk.

    There’s a long, long way to go for real boardroom awareness of these issues.


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