This guidance is intended to assist agencies and/or sectors to develop a Workforce Strategy that supports achievement of their organisational direction and business strategy. The guidance recognises that most agencies already have well defined business strategies and plans. The intent is to provide an opportunity for agencies to ensure that they have considered the workforce requirements arising out of their business strategies and plans and not to duplicate existing work.

Many agencies will have already undertaken much of this thinking, and will have the information in various forms. This guidance does not intend for work to be repeated, but rather that existing workforce related strategies are consolidated and key drivers highlighted. We recognise that agencies will be in different stages of undertaking this work and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. The guidance is not intended to be used as a template.

It is expected that the guidance will be developed further based on feedback from agencies following the first round of strategy development.

Documenting a Workforce Strategy will meet Cabinet’s expectations that all agencies will produce an ‘organisational development plan’ to accompany and support their Four-Year Budget Plans (CAB Min (11) 24/5A refers).


The State sector’s workforce is its single most valuable resource, as well as its single biggest cost, accounting for up to 70% of State sector agencies’ funding.

Recent events have raised the focus on workforce strategy development, including:

  • The current and medium term fiscal and economic environment means that if agencies are to deliver their business strategies within decreasing baselines significant changes will be required. Incremental change to business as usual is not likely to be sufficient – transformational change is needed.
  • In June 2011, resulting from a general lack of confidence that agencies had real plans for how they were going to get to their stated future shape, Cabinet agreed that agencies should produce an ‘organisational development plan’ to accompany and support their Four-Year Budget Plans (CAB Min (11) 24/5A refers).
  • The 10 Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) reviews that have been completed have found that there is much room for improvement in the People Development and Strategic Leadership areas.

This guidance is for development of a Workforce Strategy and provides an overall framework that agencies can use. The framework is presented as a series of questions to be addressed and should not be used as a template.

What is the purpose of developing a Workforce Strategy?

A Workforce Strategy is a core component of an agency’s business strategy and change agenda. The purpose is to assist agencies to plan for the workforce needed to deliver better results, now and in the future, for New Zealanders and the Government of the day.

There is an expectation that agencies will produce a Workforce Strategy that shows alignment between business priorities, projected results and a planned approach to managing the people aspects of their business in the medium-long term.

What should the Workforce Strategy include?

Workforce Strategies should articulate (in summary) the business change agencies are seeking and a desired future state. The strategy should show how agencies intend to manage the workforce implications of the required business change and proposed actions to achieve the change within allocated funding, linked to agencies’ Four Year Budget Plans.

Who is the audience for the Workforce Strategy?

Aside from the agency itself as primary audience, the initial audience for Workforce Strategies is the State Services Commission (SSC) and other central agencies. SSC will consider the strategy and work with you to confirm and provide advice to Ministers.

Agencies may be asked to meet with Ministers. Where this is the case, SSC will work with you to assist presentation of key elements of your agency's Workforce Strategy.

SSC will also maintain an overview of strategies across sectors and years to monitor trends.

What are the principles underpinning Workforce Strategy development?

The following principles should guide agencies workforce strategy development:

  • Business strategies, priorities and operating models should drive and shape the Workforce Strategy
  • The Workforce Strategy should reflect and inform an agency's planned approach to change including business and workforce innovation, productivity and initiatives around workforce flexibility
  • Workforce Strategies should take into account the whole organisation; its overall business strategy and its total environment
  • 4 Strategies should take into account relevant wider Government settings including the Government’s economic and fiscal strategy and change initiatives
  • Workforce Strategies should support sustainable public services and reflect best practice public management e.g. best sourcing strategies; flexible workforce etc
  • Workforce Strategy timeframes may vary across agencies but should be for a minimum of four years
  • The Workforce Strategy should complement and not repeat work that agencies have already done
  • Development of Workforce Strategies should be an agency-wide conversation led by senior leaders, and involving key managers and staff supported by strategic planning and human resource functions.

How does the Workforce Strategy fit with other organisational strategies and plans?

The agency’s existing business strategy and operating model will drive its Workforce Strategy. We suggest that agencies summarise and highlight key business drivers with workforce implications and use these to frame their Workforce Strategy.

Where agencies have a range of business areas it is likely that they will:

  • need to identify current state within each business unit

  • then identify what change is proposed in each area

  • then build up a picture of the whole.

A Workforce Strategy represents an agency's view of its workforce approach at a point in time. It is anticipated that agencies will develop their Workforce Strategies in an iterative process over a number of years. After the development of their initial Workforce Strategy, agencies will likely integrate their workforce strategy development into their overall business planning in future years.
View this attached diagram (PDF file) to see how agency strategy, planning and budget documents relate to each other.

What are the benefits in this for agencies?

A Workforce Strategy will add value to agencies by:

  • Confirming that the workforce requirements of their business have been considered and planned for, and are achievable

  • Providing agencies with a ‘whole of organisation’ view of their workforce needs for the future

  • Assisting agencies to identify potential gaps in their planning

  • Providing agencies with another means of communicating the future to staff

  • Aligning with the Four-Year Budget Plan which could assist in supporting a case for shifting funding from lower value activity

  • Aligning with the PIF process so that improvements in Workforce Strategies lead to better outcomes in the PIF lines of enquiry and vice versa

  • Providing a mechanism for communicating to Ministers the strategy that agencies are using to respond to workforce pressures in an environment of constrained funding.

What are the benefits in this for the system as a whole?

  • Increasing the potential for improving the overall workforce capability in the system, through brokering and linking across agencies as this work is undertaken.

  • Fostering engagement across agencies for a cross-system view.

  • As Workforce Strategies are developed across agencies opportunities may emerge to develop a broader understanding of and possible response to cross-sector and whole of system workforce issues.

What are the possible challenges?

Agencies may also need to resolve some challenging issues to ensure that they get the most benefit from this work. This may include:

  • Clearly articulating current and desired future state, and how to get there

  • Finding the time to develop a Workforce Strategy amongst many competing priorities

  • Encouraging conversations and decisions about future business priorities

  • Ensuring that the Workforce Strategy is integrated and reflects a whole of agency approach

  • Considering the implications of an agency’s own workforce strategy approach for other agencies within a sector

  • Managing the expectations of Ministers and other key stakeholders.

What is the broader picture?

Agencies should consider and comment on how their Workforce Strategy connects with other activity, for example:

  • Better Public Services

  • Four-year Budget Plans

  • Performance Improvement Framework (PIF)

  • Better Administration and Support Services (BASS)

  • Scott Review of Policy Advice

  • Other sector specific activity.

Agencies should also highlight potential workforce linkages within or across sectors (for example, future opportunities to consider workforce requirements jointly where there are like skills).

The SSC Workforce Strategy Team has a role in exploring such linkages as part of the system-wide overview that may emerge from agencies’ Workforce Strategies.

What support is available?

A Framework and supporting questions follow to assist agencies to develop their Workforce Strategy.

We recognise that many agencies have already done significant thinking about their business and workforce capacity and capability requirements. The Framework aims to assist agencies to consider the range of questions relevant to a developing workforce strategy. For example, agencies are not expected to repeat work around their business strategy and planning but should reflect in their workforce strategy key aspects that are relevant to thinking through their workforce approach.

Those agencies that have been asked to take a sector approach to workforce strategy development should apply the framework questions from a sector-wide perspective.

The SSC Workforce Strategy Team is keen to support agencies where this would assist. Please contact your agency’s key contact in the SSC Workforce Strategy Team.


See the Framework attached here as a PDF file



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