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Leadership Behaviours for Workforce Planning

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Why leaders are central to the success of workforce planning

Leadership behaviours for successful workforce planning

There are four leadership behaviours that are key to successful workforce planning – empowering staff, being optimistic, providing supportive leadership and creating a learning environment.

Facilitative Leadership is the optimal style for workforce planning. A facilitative leader takes a democratic approach leading staff through a process where they agree on an outcome and assume responsibility for implementing it.

Want to learn more, read on.

The role of leadership in workforce planning

Watch the video to understand the effect that leadership can have on the workforce planning process, and the key things that need to do to ensure that it is a success.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 6 – How to Cope with Tough Times

And watch the previous video here:

Part 4 – The SACS Model of Workforce Planning

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

Leadership styles for effective workforce planning

Hi, Andrew from SACS, and welcome to video number five in our six-video series on workforce planning for the new normal.

What we’ve covered so far, we’ve given you a definition of the new normal, we’ve given you definition of workforce planning, we’ve talked about the importance of strategy and role clarity.

We’ve talked about the SACS model of workforce planning where we gave you some really practical tips on how to undertake workforce planning.

And in this video, we’ll be talking about leadership of workforce planning.

In the final video, we’ll be talking about the type of person who might be able to cope with the new normal because resilience is going to be part of the demands of the new normal.

In this video, we’re going to be talking particularly about leadership of workforce planning.


Why? Leadership of workforce planning is absolutely crucial to its success.

If you do your workforce planning process well, people will be highly engaged.

And so engagement is the characteristic, it’s a positive psychological characteristic where people are committed to something, they try hard, they like it, they get involved in that, and they will support it.

And so a contemporary definition of engagement is this definition from Bakker and Demerouti in 2011 where they identified that there are three characteristics that seem to be present in many studies across the world of engagement.

So Bakker and Demerouti are organisational psychologists, and they were looking into the measurement of this thing called engagement.

And in effect, they unified science’s perspective on what engagement is. And they said that it has three characteristics.

The first is vigour. In other words, people are highly engaged in their work when they bring energy to their work. They like to get to work. They’ve got a sense of anticipation about getting to work. So that’s characteristic number one of highly engaged employees.

Characteristic number two is dedication and commitment.

When people are highly dedicated to their work, that’s another sign of engagement.

They take their work as being serious, they try hard to get better at it, and they bring a sense of commitment to what they do.

And a third characteristic is a sense of flow, a sense of engrossment in their work.

In other words, they come to work, they get absorbed into their work, and happily engrossed is the term that’s often used. And this, the markers of this are things like I’m sitting there doing my job, either working from home or in the office or whatever, I look up at the clock and three hours have gone by and I didn’t even notice.

So that’s indication of a kind of a flow state. A guy called Csikszentmihalyi discovered this going back a couple of decades ago. And it proves to be a fantastic predictor of things like wellbeing.

People who get into flow states more often are happier and less depressed than those who don’t. But it also works at the work group level.

So vigour, energy, dedication, commitment, and flow, or an absorption kind of an effect where you get absorbed into your work.

If you’re lucky enough to have those three things, this is a great predictor of what you’re likely to be getting out of your work.

This is an area where engagement, as defined by these three things defines human happiness and wellbeing because people, when they have high levels of engagement, tend to be happier and more committed to the organisation that they work for, and they love what they do, and they recommend it to other people.

So those internal benefits include things like reduced staff turnover and increased productivity, but there are also external benefits.

When staff are highly engaged in this way, they tend to end up with better profitability for the organisation, better growth for the organisation, higher levels of customer satisfaction.

The benefits of engagement for workforce planning

So there are internal and external benefits of engagement.

If you’re going to run a workforce planning process, this reflect on the degree to which people are likely to support the workforce planning process. And we are going to suggest that you should lead workforce planning in such a way that people are engaged in it.

This is for a couple of reasons.

One is that if you trigger a workforce planning process, you have to expect and understand that there will be people who will be nervous about what that means for me.

You know, organisational restructures are sometimes part of a workforce planning process because that’s an important enabler of workforce productivity.

If the structure is wrong, that makes the workforce less successful. Organisational structure reviews are difficult for one very significant reason.

Some people get power, and some people lose power in a restructure.

Now, if you get a power change, that makes people very nervous.

If you cause the process to be run in such a way that people are highly engaged, you will get less resistance, but also people will be more enthusiastic about what the results are.

And as well as that, they will contribute to their implementation rather than fighting you every inch of the way. Vigour, dedication, and absorption.

Research study by SACS and Deakin university

This is the result (refer to video) of a very big study that SACS undertook with Deakin University, going back about five six years ago now.

But what we did is we measured the levels of engagement.

We used an internationally recognised tool to measure the levels of engagement of about 2,700 people across Australia and New Zealand.

But we also measured leader behaviours that people had observed around.

We measured a bunch of them, and 10 proved to be really predictive of the levels of engagement of staff.

So the concept is, the way my immediate leader behaves, not the chief executive, the immediate leader to whom I report, the behaviour of that person has a big impact on my levels of engagement.

They also have a big impact on the people around me.

So their behaviours affect the behaviours of the people around me, and that, in concert, has a big effect on my levels of engagement.

And so I’m going to focus on four leader behaviours that prove to be very important for this process.

Autonomous decision making

And the first of them (refer to video) is that leaders who encourage autonomous decision making, and by the way, these are predictors, so this shows that this was the single best predictor of levels of engagement from these 2,700 staff.

Levels of empowerment, in other words, encourages autonomous decision-making, proved to be the single best predictor of whether people will be likely to be engaged in anything.

So what does that say about workforce planning? Well, you have to get people involved.

If you do this with a group of five experts in head office, don’t expect that it’s going to run smoothly in the implementation, or that people are even likely to believe in it.

So when we run workforce planning projects, we run focus groups, we run engagement processes, we run activities, we get people together, and who will tell us how to improve certain things.

Empowerment is an incredibly effective way of causing people to be engaged.

The reason I say this is that many organisations tend to do these things almost exclusively top-down.

If you do it that way, expect it to be less successful.

Optimism & positivity

The second thing is optimism and positivity.

Now, when you start doing this, as I mentioned earlier, some people will become nervous.

Leaders have to be optimistic about where this is leading us.

I know that there’s a purpose to this, and that’s important for the corporate level to make sure that all leaders are aware of, and are kept up-to-date with what’s going on in this workforce planning project, but then they should be optimistic.

Yes, this is leading this to a better future.

I believe that this is going to cause you, as staff, and me, to have high levels of wellbeing, but I also believe that it’s going to pay off in terms of satisfaction of our customers, productivity of the organisation, profit, commercial sustainability, those kinds of things.

Negative pessimistic leaders are not willingly followed by people.

That’s why leadership evolved, so that the people following a leader had something to look forward to.

So that’s the second leadership behaviour, which is crucial.

Supportive leadership

Third, leaders have to be supportive.

So supportiveness might be about at an individual and a group level to say, “Well, look, the reason we’re doing this is to try to create a better future.

I want to know what will make this more successful for you.” And then supporting people and being kind to them during this process.

Understanding if they’re a little bit nervous.

Being open to discussions about, well, how do I fit into this.

Being authentic with people.

Telling them when you can tell ’em. And when you don’t know, saying, “Look, I don’t know. This is yet to be resolved.”

That kind of all authentic conversation can be very important in keeping people highly engaged, and making sure that they feel that they’re part of the process, and they’re supported during the process.

Create a learning environment

And finally, of the big four behaviours that drive engagement is creating a learning environment.

How do leaders create a learning environment? Well, actually, the best way of doing it is to get people involved.

If you give people a theoretical lecture on workforce planning, it’s highly unlikely that that’s going to have much of an impact from a positive point of view.

What is likely to have an impact is where you actually get people involved in the workforce planning process, you tell them what part of the process, their activities contribute to.

And you give them a chance to really have a say about what should be done in this area or how things should be improved.

Now, I believe in this for a couple of reasons.

One is that it causes people more engagement.

But secondly, look, we’re not the experts that can come up with every idea, particularly in an organisation.

The staff know a lot about the organisation and they can often contribute really clever and creative ideas.

So leading as a facilitator can be very important in this process.

So as you’re planning your workforce planning project, think of these four leadership behaviours. Empowering people, being optimistic and positive, causing people to feel supportive, and finally, making sure that they’re so involved that they’re going to learn from the process.

Another benefit of the learning exercise is that when you subsequently roll out the workforce plan, you’ve got a group of employees who understand what it’s all about, and will develop skills in workforce planning so they can contribute ongoing.

Top-down leadership

Leadership, leadership can be very top-down or it can be very facilitative.

Now, we’ve got a diagram here (refer to video) that shows you three options of leadership. And of course, this is a simplification.

We all know that it’s not really three things. It’s a continuum with infinite number of points.

So at this end, I am a top-down leader, and I am going to tell you everything that you need to do, and I am going to afford you no input whatsoever.

At this end, you are going to make every decision. I, as a leader are going to make sure that you make all the decisions, and I will never tell you what to do.

Now, of course, neither of those is perfectly correct.

A good leader has the capacity to transit from one point to another depending on where the needs are.

But we, in this diagram summarised three key points (refer to video). So this is where you are being the boss. This is top-down leadership. And top-down leadership is crucial.

You can’t be a leader if you can’t tell a person or a group, “This is what we need to do in this situation. The board has decided. The good Lord on high has decided, whatever. This is something that we have to do. This bit’s not negotiable.”

That’s good leadership.

Consultative leadership

There are also times when you need to consult people.

So a consultative leader is somebody who retains the decision, but goes out and asks staff, “Bill, what do you think? “Mary, what do you think? “Jane, what do you think?” “John, what do you think?” I then go back to my office as a consultative leader, and I think about what they’ve had to say, and then I decide. “Okay, we’re going to do X.”

Now, consultation, people have often been disappointed in consultation because if you don’t do exactly what an individual has told you you should do, they’d think that you’ve just being a top-down leader.

And not only that, they may even think that you’ve been insincere.

You were pretending to consult them where you really had your mind made up all the time. So those characteristics are the characteristics from consultation, but it is true to say, just like there are times when it’s necessary to be a top-down leader, there are also times where it’s necessary to be a consultant.

Facilitative leadership

And the third component, and the bit that’s most really done is where you act as a facilitator.

And a facilitated leader is somebody who leads staff through a process. They are here, five of them in a room, and this may be a physical room, or it could be a Zoom room, or a Teams room, but the leader leads a process where he would state a challenge or an opportunity to the staff.

He would probably split them into groups, splitting them into small groups to think is a really valuable way of running such a facilitation.

And the skills that the leader demonstrates, and not the skills of telling or of consulting, they’re the skills of facilitating individuals to form groups to work together on solutions.

And a truly facilitative leader is in fact somebody who will decide the ultimate outcome by virtue of democracy.

The majority of people want this, so that’s what’s going to happen.

And by the way, that is far better than seeking consensus. The facilitative leader doesn’t seek consensus.

True consensus is really achieved when you’re dealing with sensitive, or difficult, or contentious issues.

A facilitative leader is somebody who uses a democracy kind of approach. People are told upfront, “Okay this is the issue that we are going to discuss today. And before we get into the conversation, let me tell you we’re going to decide on a majority basis. 51% wins this debate.”

And so people then have their say, they describe their solutions, they’re split up into small group to come up with ideas, but ultimately, the group votes.

And then the facilitating leader facilitates a process where members of that facilitating group then assume responsibility for implementing whatever it is that has been decided.

That’s the optimum version of facilitative leadership.

Now, when you do that, your levels of engagement are optimum.

Does that mean that you should undertake facilitative leadership all the time? Well, of course not. There are times when you should tell people you have to do this. There are times when you should ask their opinion. But there are also times when you should run a facilitation process.

And when we look at leadership styles across Australia or New Zealand, in fact, the research indicates across the whole Western world, facilitative leadership is the rarest form of leadership. And it’s used too little.

In engagement in workforce planning, it’s a idea to be very facilitative.

Four key behaviours leading to engagement

Think of the four key behaviours that we described earlier as leading to engagement.

Number one is empowerment.

Well, facilitative leadership is of course, highly empowering.

The second was about being optimistic and positive.

Don’t you think that behaviourally, if I’m causing my staff to decide something, isn’t that, of its intrinsic nature, optimistic? Am I not showing them I believe that they will come up with good solutions, which is the ultimate in optimism in the team’s eyes.

The third thing, will people learn from this process? Well, of course they will. Doing this will cause them to be much more engaged in what the issue is.

And finally, is it supportive? Well, once more, it’s very supportive because you are empowering people. You are demonstrating that you trust them and that you believe in them. That’s about as supportive as it gets.

These are the videos that we’ve covered so far, and we’ve just finished on the topic of leadership of workforce planning.

The next video will be what type of person copes with challenging times? Everything we know about the new normal is that it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require a lot of flexibility, a lot of work, a lot of skills development. People will be facing situations which will be much more ambiguous than they would’ve been let’s say a decade or two ago.

Join me for the next video to find out what kind of person copes well with the new normal.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about workforce planning for the new normal:

Part 6 – How to Cope with Tough Times

And watch the previous video here:

Part 4 – The SACS Model of Workforce Planning

And if you’d like some help with Workforce Planning for your organisation, contact us about our SACS Model of Workforce Planning.

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