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07 Workforce planning and strategy

Successive State of the Service reports identified that workforce skill shortages significantly impact on Australian Public Service (APS) capability. Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration (the APS Reform Blueprint) noted that capability gaps across the APS have been exacerbated by sporadic workforce planning and lack of clarity about capability requirements.1

To address this planning gap the APS Reform Blueprint recommended the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) develop a Human Capital Framework and establish an APS-wide Workforce Planning Framework. The Commission, in collaboration with agencies, has made progress on both recommendations.

Workforce planning is the bedrock of developing organisational capability in a systematic way—meaning the capability of an agency to meet emerging needs and resilience to respond to the unexpected. However, workforce planning must be understood in context. Human capital planning provides a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of an agency's workforce and workplace. It involves more than identifying employee numbers to be deployed at a point in time. For example, it includes systematic consideration of employee development and movement, with a focus on how human capital can be grown and deployed to improve organisational performance. The APS Human Capital Planning Framework was developed to help agencies consider the forces that affect the APS workforce and the workplace.

The key elements of the APS Human Capital Planning Framework are: environmental scanning, strategic workforce planning, human capital response and organisational performance. Human capital planning embeds both strategic and operational workforce planning in the context of the agency's environment and, perhaps most importantly, in relation to the objectives to be achieved. The elements of the APS Human Capital Planning Framework are shown in Figure 7.1.

Figure 7.1 APS Human Capital Planning Framework

Source: Australian Public Service Commission

A prototype of the APS Human Capital Planning Framework was tested and refined through a number of practical activities. These included environmental scanning workshops focused on identifying the most pressing workforce issues facing the APS and serving as a tool to assist planning for a group of agencies experiencing similar workforce issues.2 The most significant test of the prototype was in a comprehensive planning activity with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) (see Human Capital Planning case study). The final version of the APS Human Capital Planning Framework was passed to more than 60 APS agencies for comprehensive testing and feedback. It has proven to be a robust framework for understanding the forces affecting an agency's workforce and an effective aid to developing strategies to improve organisational performance.

This chapter uses the structure of the APS Human Capital Planning Framework to examine recent environmental scanning activities in the APS, the progress of workforce planning and risk assessment, and the range of people strategies used by agencies with a focus on recruitment. The framework provides the means to consider the contribution of each activity to organisational performance.

Human Capital Planning in the Australian Electoral Commission

One of the three enabling themes of the AEC's five-year strategic plan was ‘Investing in our People’ (IIOP). This comprehensive three-phase plan was based around six elements identified from State of the Service report results and in-depth internal consultation. Phase Two was rolled out in 2010–11.

In late 2011, as part of evaluating the progress of IIOP, AEC staff reviewed a range of key human capital data including 2011 State of the Service results and other workforce metrics. As a result, and seeking to build on the progress of IIOP, the AEC approached the Commission to work collaboratively on a human capital planning activity.

AEC senior leadership participated in two half-day workshops and were introduced to the APS Human Capital Planning Framework. They worked through the framework examining current and possible future issues within the AEC and the implications for its workforce. This gave AEC senior leaders the opportunity to consider the issues impacting on their workforce in greater depth and more comprehensively than had been previously possible.

The broad range of integrated people strategies identified will build on work already achieved by AEC through the IIOP program.

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Environmental scanning

Across the APS there is a well-developed body of environmental or horizon scanning work identifying the trends impacting on Australia, public administration generally and the APS specifically.

The Commission invited Executive Level (EL) and Senior Executive Service (SES) employees to participate in workshops to provide input to the development of the APS Human Capital Environmental Scan.3 These workshops identified specific workforce implications for the future leadership and culture of the APS, as well as the design of future work and workplace conditions. Two overarching themes emerged: first, the nature of work in the APS will fundamentally change and the APS must prepare now to adapt; and second, the concept of ‘One APS’ is key in providing the APS with the organisational resilience required to adapt to the future.

The Commission analysed more than 70 publicly available scans reviewing opportunities and challenges in the coming 20 to 100 years.4 This work identified a clear, common set of ‘drivers’ revolving around demography and resources, ‘response’ themes (including workforce capability and capacity, the public sector, information systems, and development) and ‘enablers’ sitting between these that revolve around commerce and technology. More broadly, the primary drivers of change were seen to be environmental and resource factors as well as human or social factors. The scans also pointed to a unique Australian perception of the world, including a strong Asia-awareness. A summary of the key influences on, and challenges for, APS leaders is outlined in Chapter 2.

In terms of human capital planning these broader environmental forces shape the context within which APS agencies operate. They are an important consideration in any workforce planning. For instance, the Department of Defence regularly conducts environmental scanning to inform its workforce planning as detailed in the case study dealing with the quarterly workforce outlook in the Department of Defence.

Department of Defence quarterly workforce outlook

Defence publishes a quarterly workforce outlook bringing together research and analysis of key external trends. The outlook examines external economic and labour force projections, and internal workforce planning and attitudinal data, to make specific workforce assessments. These assessments include identifying the ‘push’ (internal) and ‘pull’ (external) factors relevant to the Defence workforce (see diagram) to:

  • make specific judgements about risks and future workforce outcomes (recruitment, retention, critical skills)
  • examine differences for workforce segments (occupation, job family, demographic groups)
  • propose areas to focus remediation efforts and develop policy.

Most recent editions of the workforce outlook include: Defence Employment Offer (November 2011); Future Skills (March 2012); and Engineering and Technical Workforce (August 2012).

Since its introduction the outlook has assisted with:

  • a segmented approach to workforce management and options to differentiate the employment offer
  • enhanced evidence-based consideration of future workforce initiatives
  • strategic communications on workforce strategy
  • efficiencies in workforce analysis across Defence.

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Workforce planning

Workforce planning is the methodology used to identify the workforce required to deliver on strategic and operational objectives and manage workforce-related risks. It creates an evidence base for developing and prioritising human resource (HR) management activities such as: attraction, recruitment and retention strategies; training and development; performance management; talent management; and succession planning. The level of sophistication in approaches to workforce planning varies across agencies and includes:

  • Headcount and workforce management. At its simplest, workforce planning is positioned as a tactical activity that is the responsibility of the HR function or line manager. It is conducted as needed, in response to immediate operational business drivers.
  • Operational workforce planning. Most public sector workforce planning is positioned at this level. Workforce planning is a key strategic business process and responsibility remains largely with the HR function. Output is regularly considered by the executive group. The focus is on gaining greater insight into the nature of the agency's existing resources and using the information gathered (e.g. demographic data, turnover rates, recruitment rates, exit rates) to build human resource plans for managing the workforce.
  • Strategic workforce planning. Strategic workforce planning involves continuous business planning. It is a process of shaping and structuring the workforce to ensure sufficient and sustainable capability and capacity to deliver organisational objectives, now and into the future. It aims to ensure that the right people—with the skills and capabilities necessary for the work required—are available in the right numbers, in the right employment types, in the right place and at the right time to deliver business outcomes.
  • Scenario planning. Scenario planning builds on ideas developed in the field of risk management. It is directed to answering ‘what if’ questions, which are important in long-term planning. The aim is to identify plausible business scenarios to inform current and future requirements.

Progress on APS workforce planning

In early 2010, the Commission, in collaboration with the Australian Government Information Management Office, launched a whole-of-government information and communications technology (ICT) strategic workforce plan. This plan (2010–13) required APS agencies to submit their own ICT workforce plans by the end of 2010 and again in April 2012. The experience led to increased recognition of the real benefits to be gained through APS-wide collaboration on some of the more systemic workforce planning issues.

The Commission, in partnership with APS agencies, has identified and promoted better practice approaches to workforce planning by disseminating a:

  • practical workforce planning guide, with supporting tools and templates
  • job family (occupational group) model to enable the APS to map and understand its workforce.

To support the implementation of these products, the Commission, again in partnership with agencies, developed two training programs for HR practitioners and middle and senior managers with workforce planning responsibilities. This training seeks to build organisational capability in workforce planning and mitigate workforce-related risks to the effective delivery of business outcomes.

This work is expected to inform and improve the ability of agencies to undertake workforce planning more broadly. This is, in turn, reflected in the improvement in the proportion of agencies with a documented workforce plan in 2011–12. During 2011–12, 40% of agencies reported having a workforce plan compared to 26% in 2010–11. Of the agencies with a workforce plan, 78% reported that it covered all employees.

Producing a strategic workforce plan requires assessing future business requirements, the staff needed to deliver business outcomes (the demand) and the supply, internally and externally, of appropriately skilled staff to match the demand. Strategic workforce planning seeks to identify workforce risks and gaps as well as consider how resources are going to be used to meet current and planned business requirements.

In this year's agency survey, APS agencies that reported they had documented workforce plans were asked to indicate whether they had identified internal and external business drivers that could affect future workforce requirements. Of the agencies with workforce plans, 95% had considered internal and external business drivers, and 38% had considered future business scenarios that could impact on future workforce requirements (Table 7.1).

Table 7.1 APS agency assessments of workforce demand and supply, 2011–12
Assessments made within workforce plans % of workforce plans(a)

Source: Agency survey

Note: (a) Only 78 agencies provided detailed data on workforce planning. To reduce the administrative burden on small agencies, those with fewer than 100 employees completed a shortened version of the agency survey.

Internal and external business drivers that could impact on future workforce required 95
Strategies or initiatives to address key workforce gaps 89
Current business deliverables the agency is required to deliver 86
Current workforce gaps in terms of capacity and capability 86
Current workforce required in terms of capacity and capability 84
Current workforce supply in terms of capacity and capability 73
Future workforce required in terms of capacity and capability 73
Critical job roles 68
Future workforce supply in terms of capacity and capability 65
Future workforce gaps in terms of capacity and capability 65
Current and future availability of external supply 54
Future workforce affordability 53
Alternative scenarios that will vary in their likely impact on future workforce required 38

Workforce risks and planning challenges

Strategic workforce planning involves identifying and mitigating workforce risks against business delivery. This is supported by the 2005 Australian National Audit Office report, Workforce Planning, which recommended agencies ‘identify workforce risks specific to their agency with clear reference to a consideration of organisational capability’.5 This was reaffirmed in early 2010 with the publication of the APS Reform Blueprint.6

Strategic workforce planning ideally covers a minimum event horizon of three to five years. However, if the lead time to develop capability (e.g. fill critical job roles) is longer than this then the event horizon needs to be extended. Strategic workforce planning focuses on managing workforce costs and size and enables agencies to make more informed decisions about the skills7 and capabilities required to deliver business outcomes.

A strategic workforce plan documents business and workforce analysis undertaken to establish the evidence base and actionable strategies needed to move the workforce from its current to its desired future state and align it with the delivery of strategic priorities.

The agency survey asked agencies about their identified workforce risks over the next five years. Table 7.2 shows the 12 most common risks identified. The three most common were the inability to address capability gaps due to a changing operating environment, underdeveloped management or leadership capability among middle managers and the inability to recruit appropriately skilled employees. These were similar to the risks identified in the equivalent survey last year.

Table 7.2 Workforce risks facing APS agencies in the next five years, 2011–12
Workforce risk % of agencies(a)

Source: Agency survey

Notes: Agencies were asked to select up to five of the greatest workforce risks. (a) Only 78 agencies provided detailed data on workforce planning. To reduce the administrative burden on small agencies, those with fewer than 100 employees completed a shortened version of the agency survey.

Inability to address capability gaps due to a changing operating environment 56
Underdeveloped management or leadership capability among middle managers 53
Inability to recruit appropriately skilled employees 45
Limited career advancement or mobility opportunities for employees 44
Skill shortages which impact on agency capability 40
Loss of corporate knowledge or talent due to retirement 37
Inability to retain employees with a high potential for succession 33
Inability to retain appropriately skilled employees 32
Inadequate resources for changing business needs 28
Inability to address capability gaps due to a reduction in agency size 27
Dealing with changing business needs due to varying needs of clients 23
Loss of corporate knowledge or talent due to competition for staff 21

Although most agencies have identified, or are working towards identifying, workforce risks, a substantial number reported challenges in doing so when implementing and/or progressing workforce planning. As Table 7.3 shows, the two greatest challenges to this were resources (time or cost involved in undertaking the task) and changes in funding or staffing. Similar to last year, more than one-third of agencies identified difficulties in mapping current capabilities to predicted future requirements. There was a 6% increase in the proportion of agencies experiencing difficulties in achieving consensus on the challenges faced or capabilities required.

Table 7.3 Challenges facing APS agencies in implementing and/or progressing workforce planning, 2011–12
Workforce challenge % of agencies

Source: Agency survey

Note: Agencies were asked to select up to three of their greatest workforce challenges.

Resources, time or cost involved in undertaking the task 60
Changes in funding or staffing 45
Difficulties mapping current capabilities to predict future capability requirements 37
A lack of workforce planning experience 24
Limitations of the existing human resources management system 22
Uncertainty about the future 17
Difficulties achieving a consensus on the challenges faced by the agency or the capabilities needed 15
Fluctuating workload 13
Inadequate workforce planning models, tools or processes 10
Changes in government direction 10
Large agency size or complexity 10
Other 6
Insufficient access to environmental scanning information 5
Inability to access the required workforce data 3
None of the above 3

Occupational skill shortages

To build a more complete set of data to support workforce planning across the APS, the Commission worked in partnership with 58 agencies over the latter half of 2011 to develop a job family (occupational group) model. The two key aims of the model were to provide agencies with a data set that:

  • accommodates a large proportion of, if not all, job roles performed in the APS
  • provides links with the Australian labour market.

A job family model, when viewed across the functions of an agency, can provide that agency with a deeper view of its workforce. It can also enable enhanced analysis of its workforce and the associated risks to achieving business deliverables.

This year's agency survey asked agencies to indicate the extent of skill shortages experienced, through the lens of the APS job family model.8 Table 7.4 shows the results. The occupational groupings identified as experiencing the greatest skill shortage (moderate and severe) were in ICT, accounting and finance, people (human resources), and strategic policy, research, project and program.

Table 7.4 Extent of skill shortages experienced by agencies, 2011–12
Job family Limited Moderate Severe Total of moderate and severe
(number of agencies)

Source: Agency survey

Note: The occupational groupings in bold are reported by agencies as having the greatest extent of skill shortage.

Accounting and finance 23 22 3 25
Administration 9 4 0 4
Communications and marketing 14 13 2 15
Compliance and regulation 15 6 3 9
Engineering and technical 12 7 3 10
Information and communications technology 22 28 8 36
Information and knowledge management 23 13 2 15
Intelligence 11 5 1 6
Legal and parliamentary 17 13 1 14
Monitoring and audit 12 6 1 7
Organisational leadership 23 9 0 9
People (human resources) 27 16 2 18
Science and health 11 7 0 7
Service delivery 13 6 0 6
Strategic policy, research, project and program 23 16 2 18
Trades and labour 1 2 0 2

In the main, shortages reported by agencies are reflected in the broader labour market, where accounting and finance and ICT skills were included on the 2012 Skilled Occupation List9 published for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA). In particular, the occupations in the broader labour market facing shortages include:

  • accountants10 (accountant general, management accountant and finance manager)
  • ICT business and systems analysts11
  • software and applications programmers12
  • computer network and systems engineers13
  • telecommunications engineering professionals.14

Across these occupations submissions by industry bodies support the continuance of skilled migration programs to support domestic supply in the medium-term. However, it is expected over the medium to longer-term that supply will exceed demand.

Although not included on the Skilled Occupation List, the occupations encompassing APS people (human resources) and strategic policy, research, project and program occupational groupings are expected to experience strong to very strong employment growth to 2016–17.

Understanding the labour supply chain and tailored strategies needed to attract and retain these skills over the short to medium-term is critical, knowing that supply may exceed demand in the longer-term.

Agency people strategies

The purpose of strategic workforce planning is for an agency to identify and prioritise the types of strategies it needs to address capacity, capability and human capital issues so it can reposition its workforce to meet its business outcomes now and into the future.

In the past year, APS agencies employed a range of people strategies to address the human capital issues they identified. Table 7.5 summarises the most common types of people strategies APS agencies employed.

Table 7.5 Most common people strategies employed by agencies
Human capital issue Strategies employed
Source: Agency survey
  • Encouraging staff to participate in cultural events
  • Encouraging participation in external Indigenous employee networks
  • Encouraging participation in external Indigenous employee networks
  • Adopted the definition of ‘disability’ in Section 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 for developing recruitment and retention strategies
  • Provided a documented and clear process for employees with disability to request reasonable adjustments
  • Adopted the definition of ‘disability’ used by the ABS Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2003 survey to collect data and statistics from employees
Performance management
  • Performance appraisals include key role accountabilities and performance indicators
  • A formal performance appraisal process that is documented and conducted periodically
  • A performance culture where managers and staff engage in regular feedback and discussion on an informal basis
Talent development
  • Formal training
  • Supported on-the-job learning
  • Coaching
Leadership, learning and development
  • Programs are procured centrally
  • Programs are directly linked to the agency's performance management system
  • Programs are formally linked to and reflect the agency's business plans
Leave management
  • Raised awareness of health and safety issues and promoted employee wellbeing
  • Promoted a balanced view of workplace absence
  • Disseminating relevant absence data to managers
Employee retention
  • Study assistance
  • Inclusion of flexible work practices in industrial agreements
  • Wellbeing programs

Table 7.6 shows the strategies used by agencies to address skill shortages. The three most frequently cited were strategies to improve retention or culture, investment in learning and development of the existing workforce (each cited by two-thirds of responding agencies), and improve attraction or recruitment strategies (cited by just under half of responding agencies).

Table 7.6 Strategies to address skill shortages
Strategies % of agencies
Source: Agency survey
Strategies aimed at improving retention or culture (e.g. promoting work-life balance, flexible working arrangements or better employee health) 66
Investment in learning and development of the existing workforce 66
Improved attraction or recruitment strategies 44
Strategies aimed at better management of the non-ongoing workforce (including contractors and services supplied by third party providers) 17
Strategies aimed at reducing the demands for skills (e.g. redesigning business processes or job redesign) 13
Other 12
Investment in knowledge management initiatives 10
Strategies aimed at increasing the supply of skills (e.g. partnering with other organisations, skilled migration, supported study, removing barriers to increased participation) 10
Not applicable—no skill shortages 9

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Recruitment and attraction strategies

Recruitment is central to developing and maintaining a capable, diverse, skilled and engaged workforce. A number of initiatives undertaken this year aimed to streamline and simplify APS recruitment, as discussed in this section. Also examined is the efficiency and effectiveness of APS existing recruitment processes.

APS-wide strategies

Recommendation 7.2 of the APS Reform Blueprint15 required the Commission to develop best practice standards for recruitment that uphold the merit principle, as part of the government's overall strategy to streamline APS recruitment.

Following consultation with APS agencies, the APS Recruitment Guidelines16 were published on 1 July 2012. The guidelines facilitate more streamlined recruitment by:

  • dispelling some widespread myths about the process
  • encouraging agencies to consider alternative processes
  • introducing performance measures to processes.

The recruitment guidelines incorporated a manager's toolkit to further assist managers through the process. Managers were provided with resources such as information sheets, templates, checklists and agency case studies.

The 2011 Evaluation of Recruitment Advertising17 found APSjobs, an Australian Government job portal, to be effective in recruiting employees and supporting efforts to enhance recruitment through a cost effective form of advertising. An enhanced portal was launched on 1 July 2012 to improve the APS ‘employment brand’ and provide agencies with better functionality and new technology to support recruitment.

A key component of the enhanced portal is the option to post jobs daily rather than weekly. This reduces the time to finalise recruitment. The portal's enhanced functionality includes greater accessibility from mobile devices and access to additional content on APS job opportunities. A second phase of enhancements is planned for 2012–13.

Recruitment performance measures

In 2011–12, APS agencies measured performance for non-SES recruitment in various ways. Figure 7.2 shows that the most common methods were time-to-fill statistics (81%), advertising effectiveness (68%), feedback from line areas and management on the recruitment process (63%) and probation reports on new recruits (59%). Five per cent of agencies reported they did not measure non-SES recruitment performance.

Figure 7.2 Methods used to measure non-SES recruitment performance, 2011–12

Source: Agency survey


More than 80% of agencies nominated time-to-fill statistics to gauge recruitment performance. Figure 7.3 shows the median number of working days from advertising to gazettal, from 2007 until 2012, for SES and non-SES employees.

Time-to-fill information for the year was extracted from the APSjobs database and includes the time taken from advertising a vacancy to the formal gazettal of the outcome. In previous years, the time-to-fill data was collected through the agency survey using a slightly different definition (i.e. time taken from advertising to an offer of employment). Consequently, the data between the two years are not strictly comparable and it is difficult to interpret the movements between 2011 and 2012 shown in Figure 7.3.

Figure 7.3 Median working days from advertising to gazettal, 2007 to 2012

Source: APSjobs

Employee views on recruitment

Employee perceptions of the recruitment process are an important measure of recruitment performance. In the census, employees reported on their most recent experience (within the last 12 months) in applying for a job in the APS. This year's results show improvement in employee perceptions of the time it took to complete the process. In 2010–11, 53% of employees believed the assessment process took too long, compared to 43% this year. Also, more employees left with a positive impression of the agency this year (43% up from 41% last year). There was no change in the proportion of employees reporting they were provided with adequate opportunity to seek feedback (52%).

Effectiveness of recruitment

A measure of APS recruitment effectiveness is the number of employees who leave their agency within 12 months of engagement. Of the employees engaged in 2010–11, 1,420 employees (11%) left their agency within 12 months of engagement—an improvement on 13% in the previous year.

Figure 7.4 shows the trends in 12-month separation rates over time. These rates climbed and then dropped noticeably from 2008–09 coinciding with the onset of the global financial crisis which possibly reduced employee confidence in their ability to change jobs.18 By 2011–12, separation rates had fallen to a similar level to 2002–03.

Figure 7.4 Employee separation rates, 2003 to 2012

Source: APSED

A survey published by the Australian Human Resources Institute in 2008 stated that the average annual rate of staff turnover was ‘a calculated average of 17.4% for organisations with 1,000 employees or more and an average of 18.5% across all organisations.’19 For the APS the separation rate in 2011–12 was 6.6%.20 One reason this figure is comparatively low is the large number of opportunities for employees to move to positions in different agencies while remaining in the APS.

Retention and intention to leave

As reported last year, for those agencies able to provide an estimate of the cost of recruitment, in 2010–11 the average cost per ongoing recruit was $4,511 with the range from $459 to $11,076 per recruit.21 The high cost of replacing employees makes it important for agencies to have strategies in place to keep valuable employees. When asked if they had strategies in place to improve retention, 87% of agencies indicated they had. Strategies included study assistance (99%), flexible work practices in industrial agreements (97%), wellbeing programs (90%) and internal mobility opportunities (89%).

The census revealed that 22% of employees want to leave their agency as soon as possible or within the next 12 months. However, 52% indicated they want to stay working for their agency for at least the next three years.

In 2012, of the employees who indicated an intention to leave their agency within the next 12 months, 57% intend to work for another public sector organisation. Sixteen per cent intend to work for a private sector organisation and 10% intend to retire.

Figure 7.5 shows employee responses when asked what influenced their intention to leave their agency within the next 12 months. Thirty-four per cent of employees intending to leave indicated lack of future career opportunities in the agency as a reason, 25% poor quality of senior leadership and 21% a desire to try a different type of work. Some 11% of these respondents reported that bullying, harassment or discrimination was a factor. Another 11% cited inadequate remuneration.

Figure 7.5 Factors influencing employees' decisions to leave their agency within 12 months, 2011–12

Source: Employee census

APS recruitment initiatives

Traineeships for people with an intellectual disability

In 2012, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) advertised administrative officer traineeships to employ people with intellectual disability. The aim was to improve the workforce participation of people with a disability across Australia.

FaCHSIA partnered with the Australian Network on Disability and the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator to design traineeships and selection processes. The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Department of Defence and Department of Health and Ageing joined this recruitment initiative. The traineeships were part time (18 hours a week) and non-ongoing (fixed 18-month term). They included an opportunity for trainees to undertake a Certificate II in Business Administration. The Commission provided advice and guidance on planning and relevant legislation.

Social media graduate recruitment campaign

In 2012, the Department of Human Services launched an innovative recruitment campaign for its national graduate program. This campaign used a new marketing campaign and recruitment methodology specifically developed to identify and meet the department's business needs. Analysis of previous marketing strategies identified that candidates preferred the use of social media. This led the department to develop a marketing campaign primarily focused on online communication—Facebook, Twitter, videos, podcasts, forums and a webcast.

Online testing

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet introduced online cognitive ability and emotional intelligence testing to its graduate program recruitment processes. This testing was conducted online and provides instantaneous results for seamless integration of the recruitment process. Based on the success of the pilot with the graduate program, the department plans to roll out the online testing across other recruitment processes, where appropriate.

Simplified recruitment processes

The Department of Finance and Deregulation implemented a new recruitment assessment framework in line with its strategic plan (2011–14). As a result, two significant changes were made to its recruitment process, to streamline and improve it:

  • asking candidates to address two questions in the application process, instead of the previous six
  • assessing candidates equally on their demonstrated suitability against Finance's behaviours as well as on their relevant skills and experience.

Streamlined recruitment methodology

In 2012, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) streamlined its recruitment methodology to provide a consistent, standardised approach to recruitment for less than 20 vacancies. In doing so, the ATO eliminated its over-engineered processes. An important factor in the methodology's success was the introduction of ATO job profiling where more than 500 positions have a standard job description, duty statement and selection criteria. Streamlined recruitment in the ATO has significantly reduced the time required to fill vacancies.

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Key chapter findings

Human capital and strategic workforce planning combines a number of distinct elements that allow APS managers and HR practitioners to identify the people strategies that will best meet their agency's current and future human capital needs. By integrating environmental scanning, strategic workforce planning and the human capital response identified as a result, agencies can meet their workforce needs through improved organisational performance that is consistent with government and public expectations.

Across the APS there is a growing body of environmental or horizon scanning work identifying the trends impacting on Australia, public administration generally and the APS specifically. A consistent theme that has emerged is that the nature of APS work will fundamentally change and the APS must prepare now to adapt to this change. There is growing recognition that workforce planning is an important strategy for ensuring that APS agencies have a workforce with the capacity and capability to meet the challenges associated with the anticipated change. Key strategies include:

  • improving retention
  • investing in leadership, learning and development
  • developing strategies to increase the supply of skills
  • improving attraction and retention strategies for Indigenous Australians, people with disability and high-demand skills.

Development of APS-wide and agency-specific strategies to streamline and simplify APS recruitment continued this year. The APS Recruitment Guidelines and supporting tools provide those involved in APS recruitment with practical, best practice support. An enhanced version of the APSjobs recruitment portal was released in July 2012 to cut costs for agencies and shorten recruitment timeframes and further enhancements are underway.

Agencies continued to measure recruitment performance. Time-to-fill remains the most common measure. Data from APSjobs revealed that time-to-fill for SES positions increased this year. There was little change from last year for non-SES. However, interpreting this data is complicated by changes to data collection methodology.

When asked about their future work intentions, 22% of employees indicated they want to leave their agency as soon as possible or within the next 12 months. The most common reason given was lack of career opportunities in their agency (34%). Encouragingly, 57% of these employees indicated they intend to work for another public sector organisation. Fifty-two per cent of employees indicated they want to stay working for their agency for at least the next three years.

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1 Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2010).

2 More information on the development of the APS Human Capital Planning Framework and a description of its components is in Australian Public Service Commission, The APS Human Capital Planning Framework, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2012),

3 Australian Public Service Commission, The APS Human Capital Environmental Scan, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2012).

4 Australian Public Service Commission, ‘Human Capital Research Note 35–12, Initial Analysis: Environmental Scans’, (2012).

5 Australian National Audit Office, Workforce Planning, Performance Audit Report No.55, 2004–05, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2005), p. 23.

6 Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2010).

7 FC Anyim, SE Mba and JO Ekwoaba, ‘The Imperative of Integrating Corporate Business Plan with Manpower Planning’, International Journal of Business and Management, vol. 7, no. 8, (2012), pp. 56–62.

8 For further information, see http://www.apsc.gov.au

9 Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, Skilled Occupation List, (2011),

10 Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, ANZSCO: 2211 Accountants, (2012),

11 Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, ANZSCO: 2611 ICT Business and Systems Analysts, (2012).

12 Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, ANZSCO: 2613 Software and Applications Programmers, (2012),

13 Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, ANZSCO: 2631 Computer Network Professionals, (2012),

14 Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, ANZSCO: 2633 Telecommunications Engineering Professionals, (2012),

15 Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2010), p. 59.

16 APS Recruitment Guidelines and Manager's Toolkit are available at http://www.apsc.gov.au

17 Australian Public Service Commission, Evaluation of Recruitment Advertising: Agency Feedback, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2011).

18 Auspoll, Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Australian Workers, Australian Workers' Union, (2009), p. 7.

19 Australian Human Resources Institute and Talent Drain, Love ‘em Don't Lose ‘em: Identifying Retention Strategies that Work, Australian Human Resources Institute, (2008), p. 5.

20 Separation rate has been calculated as the number of ongoing employees who left the APS during the period as a proportion of the average headcount for the period.

21 Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report 2010–11, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2011), p. 198.

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Last reviewed: 
6 June 2018