[Greg Williams]

To have the workforce plans and the workforce development plans already thought through was gold really just to have that in place and to be therefore able to make quick decisions about how we grew our workforce and where.

Neumann Contractors is the company that I'm responsible for and Neumann Contractors is part of the Neumann Group based on the Gold Coast.

As with most business entities throughout Australia and during the virus issues, we needed to focus on our workforce strategies.

[Nikki Marra]

Workforce planning and development was to both survive and thrive.

In March last year we had approximately 74 employees and we currently have approximately 116.

They realised the benefits of the workforce planning and that it was going to make their life a lot easier in the long run.

[Greg Williams]

We had to spend the time to concentrate on the strategic planning and thoroughly understand where we needed to be.

[Nikki Marra]

There's been an increase in efficiencies, productivity and profitability, we're looking at continuous improvement.

[Greg Williams]

2021 through to now our business turnover for the Neumann Contractors Group will nearly have doubled.

So if you stand back from your business and identify the workforce gaps that you have, there's only benefit in a proactive approach.

Workforce planning has emerged as a critical strategy for companies to respond to evolving workforce needs and drive growth.

Neumann Contractors, a Gold Coast manufacturing business, serves as a compelling case study of how proactive workforce planng can enable a company not only to survive challenging times but also to thrive and seize new opportunities. By integrating workforce planning with their business strategy, Neumann Contractors successfully navigated the COVID-19 recovery period and labour market pressures to build the workforce it needed to harness potential and grow.

This article explores how Neumann Contractors leveraged workforce planning to achieve business growth, attract and grow top talent, improve productivity and foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

The power of workforce planning

Workforce planning involves thinking ahead, managing change and aligning workforce strategies with business goals.

Neumann Contractors’ General Manager Greg Williams is the first to say that, prior to attending a workshop facilitated by the Gold Coast Manufacturing Hub in 2021, the business had no such thing.

“That really stuck with me that day – we could only answer ‘no’ to all of these questions related to workforce strategy,” Greg said.

“The first big takeaway was simply recognising that we needed to concentrate on our strategic planning and to go through each of our 10 business units and thoroughly understand where we needed to be – where the gaps were, so we can take steps in the right direction.”

It was a crucial awakening for Neumann Contactors, part of the family-owned Neumann Group, which has a long record of excellence and innovation in contract dredging and other manufacturing, including recently developing a world-first device to change reverse osmosis membrane cartridges in desalination plants.

With the right tools and support from the hub, Neumann Contractors was able to hit reset and started to proactively embed workforce planning activities throughout their operations.

This included conducting gap analysis to identify skills gaps and future needs, which informed both staff development and recruitment plans. By ensuring everything was linked to overarching business objectives, Neumann Contractors was able to realise the real power of workforce planning.

Now is the right time

Like many businesses, Neumann Contractors turned its attention to workforce issues as it navigated the impacts of COVID-19 and labour market changes. But – as Neumanns’ story shows – workforce planning is best done in advance of crisis or opportunity.

“To have the workforce development plans already thought through was gold,” Greg said.

“For us, it was very timely because we had so much activity and opportunity in the pipeline – so much so that, in that same timeframe, from 2021 through to now, our business turnover for Neumann Contractors nearly doubled.”

With plans mapped out, Neumann Contractors was able to grow its workforce from 74 staff in 2021 to 110 in March 2023, which included increasing its number of apprentices significantly, from 1 to 8. To accommodate growth, productivity and innovation, the business also grew its under-roof workshop, expanding by 50%.

“To have all that in place and to be able to make quick decisions about how we grew our workforce was really powerful and one of the best investment’s we have made,” Greg said.

Talent development and attraction

According to Compliance Officer Nikki Marra, one of the greater successes has been the dual focus on talent development and attraction, ensuring a strong skills pipeline into the future.

“One of the many successes has been upskilling our workforce,” Nikki said.

“We've managed to upskill around 40% of our workforce, which is substantial, and we've had positive feedback. There's also been an increase in efficiencies, productivity and profitability.

“People are thinking differently. Mindsets are changing and we're working towards a positive training atmosphere or culture. Culture is extremely important because if you have a positive work culture, people feel valued and are more likely to perform to a higher standard.

“We're also performance tracking in a more formalised way. We have our visual management boards which are helping track how a business unit is performing – looking for opportunities to be more efficient, to build on success and generally try to improve.”

Recognising the talent within, Neumann Contractors also plans to formalise a mentoring program, as it looks to strategically grow and attract the skilled workers it needs.

“In our case, we’re fortunate to have a lot of skilled tradesmen already with us, so we decided to recognise that and bring in apprentices and young people with the right attitude, and have our experienced people mentor them. This is just one part, but a very important part, of our workforce plan.”

Top 3 takeaways for employers:

  • Proactive workforce planning is key: Businesses must think ahead, manage change and align their workforce strategies with business objectives. By doing so, they can position themselves to seize opportunities and navigate challenges more effectively, just as Neumann Contractors did.
  • Talent development and attraction are crucial components of workforce planning: Neumann Contractors seeks to grow its own and attract specialised talent where needed. It recognises and leverages the expertise of their experienced staff to mentor apprentices and young people, fostering skill development and growth within the company.
  • Seek external support and guidance: Neumann Contractors benefited from attending workshops and using resources provided by the Gold Coast Manufacturing Hub*. Employers should consider accessing practical tips, advice and workforce development programs to enhance their planning process and achieve better outcomes. Check out the links below to find resources and support that meet your needs.

This showcase is powered by the Good people. Good jobs: Queensland Workforce Strategy 2022–2032.

Special thanks to Neumann Contractors, especially Greg and Nikki, for sharing their story.

* The Gold Coast Manufacturing Hub is one of several local manufacturing hubs across Queensland, run by the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water (DRDMW). The hubs offer wide-ranging support for manufacturing businesses, from business and skills development programs through to awareness of latest in advanced manufacturing.

More information and support

  • Workforce planning for small business – access free courses and tools to plan your workforce and learn how workforce planning can ensure you have the right staff, with the right skills, at the right time.
  • Industry Workforce Advisors – providing workforce planning support to employers in small to medium-sized businesses.
  • Employing and managing people – find workforce management information and advice, ranging from workforce planning to building high-performing, positive workplaces where staff want to start and stay.

Join the conversation

If you have a workforce solution story, share it today and inspire others, or become a member of the Workforce Collaboration Hub on LinkedIn to join the conversation.

Last updated 1 September 2023

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