Based on last years numbers and economic conditions, we will be short of 89 teachers (or doctors or town-planners) in 2008.
Australia, Melbourne (PRWEB) August 16, 2007
Is the Ageing Workforce Really a Problem ?
According to recent press, the West Australian Government is 78 teachers short of staffing targets leaving schoolchildren with no teachers to attend them. A reactive campaign to bring some of the 8,000 registered teachers back into the classroom has now started. As Australian Baby Boomers retire over the next few years, acute shortages of the most highly skilled and valuable workers will become more prevalent. PeopleStreme Human Capital has developed Workforce Planning Software to fill the gap left by organisations who have focussed mainly on benchmarking and high level measures to assess future workforce needs.
In the Health sector, the Australian Government's 'Districts of Workforce Shortage' is aligned with State and Territory Governments 'Area of Need' or 'Unmet Area of Need' in order to deal with a lack of suitably qualified medical staff. "Rather than scrambling to refill positions once the person has actually left the organisation, pro-active planning means that successors can be trained or recruited with more than just a few weeks notice" said Lyle Potgieter, CEO of PeopleStreme Human Capital. In managing the workforce shortage the Government still uses a high level approach described as "a doctor to population ratio based on recent Medicare billing statistics".
Visibility of Australian workforce shortages has significantly increased in recent months as the Victorian State Government posts the Small Business Victoria Newsletter to Victorian households. The Newsletter quotes a 2005 Workforce Tomorrow Report saying "by 2012 a national shortfall of 195,000 workers is predicted".
The trend is expected to become worse as Baby Boomers retire over the next few years. Workers in many Government Departments already have an average age much higher than the majority of the Australian workforce. In fact, a search of "ageing workforce" at the Australian Bureau of Statistics website reveals an impressive array of high level reports on this problem.
What is Wrong with the Traditional Workforce Planning Approach ?
Despite the known shortages in workforces across Australia, organisations are still having trouble dealing with the issue. Many organisations have conducted high level Workforce Planning and benchmarking. They know that their workforce is ageing according to their own high level reporting but struggle beyond the point of acknowledgment that this is happening. The most basic planning technique is to collate statistics on the workforce, such as age, length of service and other demographics. However, the workforce plan usually stops at a high level forecast of shortages and an acknowledgement that a problem really exists.
Fortunately new Workforce Planning technology is available to overcome this lack of planning detail. Workforce planners can now get visibility on the retirement intentions of each and every employee. Shortages of key staff often result in very lengthy replacement times. Even more time is needed for the new employee to become as proficient in the role as the retiree. Without advance notice, key roles are remaining vacant, resulting in service delivery issues affecting many organisations. In addition to retirement data, new Workforce Planning technology can assess the current - not historical - statistical probability that an individual will resign from an organisation. This means that vacancies created by retirement and other resignations of the most skilled workers can be pro-actively managed.
Detractors might suggest that privacy implications prevent effective identification of the most at-risk employees. This is a naive view given that managers must have strong visibility of their team's growth path or retirement plan, as the case may be, in order to manage their own outcomes and resources effectively.
"The problem of workforce planning for an ageing workforce is usually delegated to the HR department but really belongs with each manager and supervisor." said Potgieter. It is the managers and supervisors who are struggling with the consequences of accelerated retirements and who usually have to deal with problems such as:
1. Breaking continuity of service
2. Reputation impact for the organisation
3. Much higher cost to replace key workers resulting from a reactive approach
4. Program and project breakdowns resulting from a loss of organisational knowledge and experience
According to Potgieter, "Workforce Planning is not just a matter of collating demographics and acknowledging a problem. Rather it is a process of working actively with managers to define a strategy in each department where there is a known workforce shortage." Managers and supervisors deal with ageing workers in their teams every single day. It is a small step to determine which aged workers are considering a retirement and when they will leave.
Existing workforce planning techniques are very high level. For example, it's not unusual to hear something like "Based on last years numbers and economic conditions, we will be short of 89 teachers (or doctors or town-planners) in 2008." Being pro-active means that organisations need to go further than this and define which schools, which departments and which individuals. This helps improve visibility on staff replacement priorities and also with the development of plans for retaining talented employees whilst replacements are found. This is the part most organisations struggle with. Few organisations have visibility on individual employee intentions and, therefore, the business can only react after the resignation or retirement event.
Manager and Supervisor participation is critical in this process because they a) Feel the Pain of retirements in their own team and b) are best positioned to pro-actively plan for replacement workers by asking current team members when they intend to retire. But managers and supervisors need tools such as PreopleStreme's Workforce Planning module, to help them report and collate retirement information about individual team members. This makes the process easier for supervisors and managers and also provides the organisation with a top-down view of retirement hot-spots throughout the workforce. i.e. what has to be done first and what areas can wait.
As with water shortages, the impact of an ageing population can no longer be ignored. Once organisations start having delivery issues, there has to be urgent action. The economy has reached the point that unfilled positions are growing fast and organisations are experiencing service delivery issues. The time for action has arrived. Detailed workforce planning that is granular and specific will provide proper visibility and help manage the issue, whilst gross high level benchmarking will not.