Page 4 - Australian Defence Magazine August 2018
P. 4

People power
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DEFENCE is a space used to dealing with com- plex issues or complex programs often over long periods of time. The high technology platforms that the ADF operates and the associated train- ing burden that accompanies them are not strangers to those in our community. Complex- ity in all its forms is normal for us.
But perhaps a form of complexity we’re not used to dealing with particularly well is one of workforce. Before you take umbrage at that as- sertion, whether you be in Defence or in defence industry, let’s look at a few points first.
Simple factors of supply and demand for the current workforce are a good place to start. The supply of suitably qualified candidates for any given job varies depending on a range of factors that face any sector in the economy; qualifica- tions, location (including willingness or lack thereof to move to a different location), and ex- perience. Defence has the added dimension (or burden) of security clearances.
Many skills are transferable between indus- tries but some are not. There are not many Elec- tronic Warfare specialists working in the oil and gas or banking sectors I imagine. That’s not to say those skills cannot be learned by people outside the traditional Defence community but the interest combined with an ability in learning them is also a factor.
In today’s talent-based economy, the workforce itself is arguably the most important tangible asset of many organisations. Various people in senior leadership positions will frequently declare that workforce planning and data- driven decision- making is a top priority for their organisations. How many times have you heard ‘people are our most important asset’, or a variation thereof?
Despite this, the workforce is often not care- fully planned, measured or optimised and many organisations are not sufficiently aware of the current or future workforce and business risks that will limit execution of a strategy - in our case the delivery of the Integrated Investment Program - and then the running of those capa- bilities once delivered.
While it is difficult to understand this appar- ent gap between intent and execution, it is likely that the lack of consistent objectives regarding the outputs of workforce planning and a lack of consistent process by which organisations con- duct workforce planning are primary contribu- tors to the disparity. In essence, which people do
we need where and when? How do we measure that and then manage it effectively?
Expectation management is also a major issue here. The 1,000 people employed at the begin- ning of a shipbuilding program are not the same 1,000 people at the end of it. Not all engineers are created equal.
The task of implementing workforce planning is often daunting because it can be so difficult to define. The movement and measurement of human capital is much harder to measure than capital equipment. People have a nasty habit of being . . . well, people.
While workforce planning presents many challenges, it provides significant value to or- ganisations that invest in it and execute it well. Workforce planning is a systematic, fully inte- grated organisational process that involves pro- actively planning ahead to avoid talent surpluses or shortages. It is based on the premise that an organisation can be staffed more efficiently if it forecasts its talent needs as well as the actual supply of talent that is or will be available.
If a company is more efficient, it can avoid the need for layoffs or panic hiring. Workforce planning might be more accurately called talent planning because it integrates the forecasting el- ements of each of the HR functions that relate to talent–recruiting, retention, redeployment, and leadership and employee development.
What is the Defence community doing to market itself to the next generation of STEM- enabled workers? The Workforce Behind the De- fence Force campaign has been good at highlight- ing the art of the possible but I do wonder how much mainstream influence it has had.
STEM-centric engagement programs with a Defence flavour exist in pockets of excel- lence (ADM’s STEM and Defence summit will highlight a few this month) but there is no single point of reference for the raft of programs that are out there to engage and support young minds or even older minds looking for a change. With that in mind, I’m very much looking for- ward to reading the Defence STEM Strategy when it is released later this year.
As I’ve said before in numerous forums, De- fence does some cool stuff. There are opportuni- ties in Defence that you will not find anywhere else. But we in Defence and defence industry need to do better at explaining our value propo- sition to the next generation of the Defence community workforce.
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