In a year of rapid and widespread change to working arrangements, data-led workforce planning has never been more important. Like many other areas of workforce practice, the bushfires and pandemic have accelerated the use – and demonstrated the value of – sophisticated workforce planning.
With Transport offices and employees spread across the state, the extent of fires caused unprecedented safety concerns for its workforce. In early 2020, the Transport Workforce Analytics team obtained data from the Rural Fire Service on the local government areas impacted by fires during the 2019–20 season. This was a trigger for the Workforce Analytics team starting to use workforce data in new ways, then developing a cluster-wide geographical overview of employee home and work locations. This foundation supported numerous initiatives involving employee welfare and business operations in the weeks that followed.
In March, a new threat emerged – one that would impact the entire workforce and customer base: COVID-19. The Workforce Analytics team was prepared to respond with insight packs about Transport employees and their work and home locations across the state. Tapping into the real-time outbreak information provided via NSW Health, the team developed heatmap dashboards to readily inform the business of at-risk staff members based on their location and work type, to inform and manage business continuity plans. The People and Culture Business Partnering teams also used this information to work with the business and ensure vulnerable employees were safely sent home in accordance with NSW Health orders.
Additional analysis highlighted other workforce management matters such as employees cancelling their planned recreational leave during the pandemic. These insights were provided to the COVID-19 taskforce and used to create support materials throughout the pandemic.
In a matter of days, Transport transitioned 10,000 staff members to working from home, and the need to know more about employees’ wellbeing became more important than ever. The quick provision of employee data was welcomed across the business, although it did bring its own challenges.
“As managers saw the analysis of staff in their division, their interest grew, and they sought more and more information in quicker time frames. It was important to us that even with the heightened concern while operating in a crisis, employee confidentiality was maintained and didn’t get overlooked in the pressure to get information out quickly. One of the achievements I am most proud of this year is the high level of confidentiality that we have maintained, especially because we were operating in a previously unseen crisis.” – Transport employee
The tools developed and analysis generated enabled Transport to create contingency plans for keeping essential services operating, even if entire suburbs or regions were locked down. Where existing skill sets were all located in one region, analysis was undertaken to identify employees elsewhere with the necessary capabilities who could be reassigned if needed to avoid a skills shortage. A COVID-19 Workforce Planning pack was distributed to the business continuity teams, providing guidance on approaches to managing resourcing risks and ensuring uninterrupted services.
Frequent analysis and workforce planning enabled Transport to have a plan for quickly responding to staff shortages and being cognisant of staff members who might require additional support under increasing pressure.
Roles were also evaluated based on criticality and the extent of exposure to multiple people. Transport used this analysis to map roles with the potential to spread COVID-19 throughout the state should an employee be infected, and to identify employees who have the most contact with people.
“The bushfires and COVID-19 demonstrated to the business the value of workforce planning and the need to frequently review contingency plans. While the foundations for data-led workforce planning have been in place for some time, the crises of 2020 have accelerated the business’s dependence on workforce planning as a fundamental pillar of successful operations. And the changes are here to stay.” – Transport employee