13 Feb 2023

Opportunities to overcome your workforce issues

Everyone has workforce issues, but there are strategies you can put in place to ensure your business and industry are prepared now and into the future. RMCG Senior Consultant Deborah Prentice reflects on her learnings in workforce planning and development.

No matter your industry, chances are you have positions you can’t fill, skills you can’t find or aptitudes you know you’ll need for the future growth or maintenance of your business.

At RMCG I have had the chance to work with horticulture industries, local councils and state governments to unravel the puzzle of workforce planning beyond the obvious barriers and fixes, to piece back together the opportunities for now and the future. Although different industries have their unique challenges, there are some similarities to consider.

Here are some things I’ve learnt along the way.

A workforce plan won’t fix your problems, but without it you could miss opportunities

A workforce plan helps you to look at the whole of your organisation, the context it operates in and identify trends so you can target your resources.

From my experience in interviewing and running workshops with managers and staff, it is much more than “just a plan” as the genuine (and it must be genuine!) engagement you conduct whilst developing the plan assists in aligning staff with the organisational vision, creates buy-in and opportunities to hear ideas for solutions.

“Workforce planning needs to be fully integrated with other strategic planning (governance), and the financial plan so that it is properly funded, and so we can achieve our strategic goals stated in the other plans.” – Local government workforce planning workshop attendee

“Some staff are highly specialised and experienced. If they leave, there is no one to step into their shoes. Need to have more depth in teams and be more proactive in workforce planning.” – Local government workforce planning workshop attendee

There is high value in behavioural skills in a tight labour market and times of change

Every industry I speak to has workforce gaps and difficulties in filling certain roles. This can lead to employing people who have lower than expected technical skills – for instance, younger people, or those changing careers etc. In that case, behavioural skills are the top things to look for.

For instance, a recent project with horticulture industries in north-west Victoria highly rated the following behavioural skills:

  • Reliability
  • Willingness to learn and work hard
  • Common sense and problem-solving abilities
  • Being able to ask the right questions.

Two generations of agricultural workers in greenhouse

Diversity and inclusion can open your labour market substantially

The benefits of diversity, providing you have a holistic approach, are well documented.

Make sure you partner with support agencies (disability, cultural, LGBTIQ+, gender) or have your own strategies in place to ensure the opportunities can be realised.

“Couldn’t do it without them… (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) workforce who have a strong work ethic and add value to the business as a whole.” – Agricultural producer

Technology is your friend, but not without a clear plan

We’ve all seen it – a system where the staff have to flex so much to adapt to the technology that its roll out is patchy at best and counter-productive at worst.

Start with the users and test, test, test to make sure it’s helping and not hindering efficiency.

If you’re looking at trialling agtech on a farm, it’s important to take a step back and firstly develop a plan with clear objectives on what problem the technology will aim to solve and how the technology will be used in the business before you start testing any potential solutions.

“Need to have better systems and processes in place and training so (council) are not reliant on individuals to use them and to make it easier for staff to do their jobs.” – Local government workforce planning workshop attendee

People want to be valued

Are your young graduates leaving after a few years? Do you have consistent gaps in environmental health or planning? Are your female staff not progressing at the same rate as male staff?

Think deeply about how you can consistently show staff they are valued as the labour market is tight and recruitment is expensive.

I’m very thankful to my employers for all the support they have given me and plan on staying with them in the future” – Agricultural worker

Office worker in wheelchair

Got a question? Get in touch with us

For more information or to discuss how we could help you manage your workforce challenges, please contact RMCG Senior Consultant Deborah Prentice at or 0412 215 328.

You can find out more about our team’s experience in workforce planning and development.