At Council, we understand that our people are our greatest asset and, with a team of empowered, skilled workers, we can continue to provide the highest quality services to our community. As one of the largest employers in the Toowoomba Region, it is important that staff are well-trained and appropriately resourced to support the organisation. The goal is to have an engaged, customer-focused workforce who deliver high-quality services to our community at all times.
Council’s People and Organisational Development Branch provide leadership and support for all staff matters across the organisation. The branch exists to support our staff, but also remains compliant with industrial instruments including awards and certified agreements.
Council’s approach to delivering a diverse range of services is guided by our core values of integrity, respect, accountability and transparency, collaboration and teamwork, innovation and sustainability.
During 2016-17 Toowoomba Regional Council employed over 1,790 staff across the region in over 200 professions and roles. The number of staff employed at Council has increased from the previous year as a result of major projects within the region including the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, the upgrade of East Creek Culvert at Ruthven Street and the Nass Road detention basin (TEHSP). The workforce is forecast to remain the same throughout 2017-18.
Future-proofing our workforce
Council is committed to providing mutually beneficial opportunities for our staff to further develop their skills through training and professional development that ultimately provides improved services to our community. Council continually provides entry-level opportunities and accelerated career progression pathways, including a range of undergraduate scholarships, internships, cadetships and graduate programs known as the ‘Generator Program’. Council is proud to invest in the next generation of professionals, develop the skills of our staff and promote the professional development of our region.
At the end of the year, Council employed ten graduates, three cadets, five interns and four scholarship interns, predominately in engineering but also in the information communication and technology, human resources and finance areas.
In addition to the Generator Program, Council’s entry level programs include our trainee and apprenticeship offerings. During the 2016-17 year, Council supported twenty apprentices, six existing worker apprentices, thirty-two trainees and three existing worker trainees, as well as numerous work experience students across a variety of branches. By investing in the region’s youth we aim to develop a robust talent pool of skilled professionals for the future.
Council’s Organisational Development Team has continued to focus efforts on introducing initiatives that develop the skills and knowledge of our people to reach their potential in their current and future roles.
The team has also undertaken a review of a number of policies and procedures to ensure these documents align with leading human resource and industry best practice. Of particular note has been the introduction of a revised Parental Leave Policy which now provides eligible female employees access to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. Further, in recognition of the age demographic of our workforce, the organisation has also introduced a Transition to Retirement Policy to provide a framework for eligible employees to reduce their working days and hours and transfer their knowledge to other staff as they transition to retirement.
The year has also been busy with the ongoing implementation of a number of organisational initiatives including:
- diversity and inclusion planning with a focus on gender balance initiatives
- ongoing development of the Capability Framework to align with the organisation’s strategic objectives
- supporting our managers to implement succession planning initiatives across Council.
Gender in the workplace
Council strives to build an organisational culture that supports gender equality and continuously seeks opportunities to build and sustain a fair workplace by involving staff, engaging leaders and involving both women and men in initiatives designed to attract and retain women in our workforce. Attracting women to non-traditional roles, including field-based operations and other trade related positions remains a key focus of Council. The graph to the right indicates the gender breakdown of staff.
Council’s staff turnover for the last 12 months has been between 9% and 10% which is a reasonable rate for local government, with attrition expected to remain at this rate for the next few financial years. The chart below gives an indication of the length of service and age of our workforce.
During 2016-17, the Talent Acquisition and Retention team implemented new e-recruitment software for all recruitment activities which provides increased efficiencies, identification and selection of the best candidate and a focus on optimal candidate experience.
In addition, the team have reviewed Council’s overall recruitment and selection strategy and implemented a new Recruitment and Selection Policy and Procedure including training approximately 400 staff. This new strategy aligns with industry best practice, meets the needs of our workforce capacity and aids in the attraction of a highly skilled workforce.
Council continues to utilise a diverse range of assessment tools, including psychometric assessments, practical tasks and behavioural and situational interviewing into our employment strategy. This ensures Council is employing a workforce capable of delivering high quality service to our customers.
Learning and development
Council is committed to developing a workforce that is equipped to do the job at hand whilst encouraging staff to work towards their future career aspirations. The Learning and Development Team support staff at all levels to achieve the necessary training and professional development to maintain their knowledge and skills in line with industry best practice. A highlight from 2016-17 was winning the Large Employer of the Year in the Queensland regional training awards for the Darling Downs region and progressing to the State Awards. This was achieved by hard work and dedication of our staff coordinating and delivering a broad range of training events in classroom based learning and out in the field at the work sites.
Study assistance offers financial support, study leave and flexible working arrangements for employees undertaking vocational or higher education in order to achieve a qualification. Professional development is also available to staff wishing to enhance their knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to their current work or future roles. Opportunities include attending conferences and other training and facilitated learning opportunities. The Council workforce is very diverse group of people with numerous qualifications.
Our passion for safety
A strong safety culture exists within Council, with staff encouraged to protect themselves, their colleagues, contractors and the broader community. Our 2017 Workplace Health and Safety Policy Statement, ‘Toowoomba Regional Council is committed to a workplace free from harm by placing the health and safety of workers and persons ahead of all other considerations,’ is the foundation of an enviable corporate safety culture and is the focus of our efforts in continually improving our safety record.
This statement is embraced throughout the organisation and the results are evident with fewer staff sustaining significant injuries, resulting in ‘best in class’ workers’ compensation premiums.
The continued efforts of the Safety Team and increased attention to safety by management have resulted in a further increase in the level of safety compliance, as measured against the Australian Safety Standard AS/NZS 4801:2001 following audits undertaken by an external independent auditor.
Driving safety leadership
Although Council has an ongoing priority to safety, a significant challenge for the organisation is the development of safety leadership, particularly within our group of small team supervisors. This has been addressed by the introduction of a day-long safety training program for work crew supervisors, with safety leadership as a feature. This program has been well received and will continue to be refined and delivered. Additionally, Council delivers regular, day-long tailored training for our Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) in recognition of their commitment as our safety champions.
Investing in employee health
Council is committed to fostering an organisational culture that encourages staff to make choices that support a healthy lifestyle, enabling a high level of service delivery for our community. To maintain a healthy, energetic and sustainable workforce, we continue to invest in our people by retaining our successful health programs and introducing a range of new health and wellness initiatives. In 2016-17 we provided the following initiatives to our staff:
- Free general health and fitness checks
- Subsidised skin cancer checks
- Free influenza vaccinations
- ‘Smoke-Free TRC’ joint venture with Queensland Health offering free counselling and nicotine replacement therapy
- Prostate awareness campaign in conjunction with Man Up! Australia
- Mental health awareness
- Free mental health support through our employee counselling service
Supporting workers’ rehabilitation
Council has increased commitment to supporting injured workers through the implementation of a number of initiatives. Activities include information road shows, meeting injured workers at medical facilities to assist them with completing their workers’ compensation documentation and frequent contact and support during their rehabilitation and return to work phases. These activities have enabled a continuing trend of improvements to our workers’ compensation record.
Workplace and Industrial Relations
The Workplace and Industrial Relations Team continues to provide advice, guidance and support to management, supervisors and staff in relation to human resource and industrial relations matters. This includes advice on the interpretation of awards, certified agreements and other employment-related legislation, performance management, resolution of conflict and grievances, workplace investigations and workplace bullying and harassment.
Throughout the 2016-17 year, the Workplace and Industrial Relations team implemented proactive strategies to manage complex workplace relations and human resource matters. These strategies included:
- Identifying trends in cases managed and providing targeted training and coaching programs to supervisors and staff
- Reviewing and promoting the ‘Contact Officer’ network to support employees who may be experiencing harassment, discrimination or equity issues in the workplace
- Reviewing and promoting the ‘Communication Champions’ network to assist with dissemination of information during the award modernisation process and negotiations of a new certified agreement
- Facilitating staff information sessions and establishing communication strategies to increase overall staff awareness regarding the award modernisation process and the commencement of negotiations for a new certified agreement
This approach resulted in a significant decrease in active workplace relations cases.
The Workplace and Industrial Relations team continues to work closely to support management and staff to address people management issues, promote Council’s core values and behaviours and foster a positive employment relationship.