Strengthening the Performance Framework Project
Recommendation 7.4 of the Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration (The Blueprint), seeks to develop a high performance culture within the Australian Public Service (APS) through:
- performance management training for all SES employers and managers; and
- principles and practices for developing a high performance culture within the APS.
To progress this objective, the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is leading a research partnership with the University of Canberra, Australian National University and University of New South Wales (Canberra) to better understand what constitutes good performance in the APS and develop a more comprehensive performance management framework.
A primary aim of the project is to develop a set of principles that will provide guidance to agencies in developing a high performance culture within agencies. The project is part of a broader program of work being undertaken by the APSC, including the amendments to: the Public Service Act 1999 (the Act), refer to Circular 2013/3, Australian Public Service Commission - Public Service Act amendment. Amendments to the Act provide new ‘Employment Principles’ that support the four key principles for a high performing APS, strengthening and clarifying the legislative framework for managing performance within the APS.
Progress to date:
The research paper Developing High Performance: Performance Management in the Australian Public Service provided a conceptual design for the Strengthening the Performance Framework study within the APS, which has been subsequently refined as a result of empirical work undertaken in APS agencies. The paper is available on the Commission’s Govdex site or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
A series of new questions around performance management in agencies, were included for the 2011 – 2012 State of the Service Report (SOSR), providing useful data on employees with performance management responsibilities and what is done well and what is done poorly in agencies around performance management. Chapter 8 of 2011-2012 SOSR discusses the performance framework model and includes an analysis of data for these new questions.
The 2011-2012 agency survey showed that line managers are central to implementing an effective performance management system, however only a few agencies rewarded managers for their staff management skills, 24% (a marginal increase on last years (19%)).
Although most agencies reported having a formal performance management system in place (92%), with a defined timeline for completion of the agreement process (93%), SOSR findings indicated that agencies could improve the effectiveness of their systems in a number of areas.
Only 46% of agencies reported they provided performance management training for their managers and a decline was noted in the number of agencies reporting measures to ‘encourage active management of underperforming staff’, falling from 85% (2010-2011) to 77% (2011-2012). Twenty per cent of APS employees reported they had not received formal individual performance feedback in the last 12 months, while only 48% of employees agreed, that their most recent performance review would help them improve their performance, 16% disagreed. Employees generally, reported that the performance management system is time-consuming and inconsistently applied among managers and across agencies.
Key areas highlighted by this year’s SOSR data where the APS can improve performance management support the case study findings. Crucial areas noted for attention within the APS included: connecting individual agreements to agency outcomes; improving manager capability; and supporting and valuing strong people management skills that manage both top and poor performers (that is the extremes of performance).
Four key Principles have been developed through consultation with agencies, informed by SOSR findings and empirical analysis, underpinned by three foundation elements.
- Purpose and Clarity;
- Alignment and Integration;
- Mutuality and Motivation; and
- Adaptability and Progress
These Principles will assist agencies to optimise existing performance management frameworks, thereby lifting performance across the APS. The three foundation elements are central to giving effect to the Principles.
- Evidence and data;
- Pragmatic; and
These foundation elements need to be in place, providing an enabling environment for the operation of the Principles, building capability in the APS workforce and a culture of high performance.
Principles for High Performing Government
A diagnostic instrument is being developed by the APSC to support agencies to assess their baseline condition, identify areas of strength and weakness, and required actions to achieve more consistent and better practice internally. The use of the diagnostic, over time, will enable an agency to make an assessment of year-on-year improvement.Additionally, the APSC is also developing APS-wide guidance material for agencies (A Good Practice Guide to Managing Probation and A Good Practice Guide to Managing Performance), to support agencies and managers in embedding a high performance culture within the APS. The project team will continue to disseminate updates, reports and papers to the broader APS and continue to work with agencies.
Research findings will also continue to inform the development of material including in the curriculum of the core skill priority area of ‘performance management’ now under development with the APSC Strategic Centre for Leadership, Learning and Development. Once developed, the material will be available to agencies through the Strategic Centre MOU. The APS will deliver a pilot program in August 2013 with a finalised program available to agencies from September 2013. The program will target middle management and will be designed to be delivered by individual agencies or centrally.