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2012 Indigenous census: Theme 3 - Organisational effectiveness

Organisational effectiveness is context-specific and difficult to measure in the public sector. For many private sector organisations, effectiveness can be measured by annual profit, the number of customers served or cost per unit of production. While some of these measures are applicable for specific areas of the APS, the organisational effectiveness of many agencies cannot be measured as easily. Most specialist or policy agencies do not provide services or create products in a private sector sense. Furthermore, for the APS organisational effectiveness includes more than just economic factors. Ethical behaviour and social responsibility are all integral to the effectiveness of the APS.

As outlined in the 2010 report Empowering Change22, service in all its forms is at the heart of APS effectiveness. Indeed, this is a key reason why many Indigenous employees join the APS. To remain effective, the APS must keep pace with social and economic change and this requires a readiness on the part of the APS to embrace innovation in all areas. Innovation is ‘core to being able to achieve key public sector goals’23. Without innovation, the effectiveness of the APS will inevitably decline as it fails to adapt to changing circumstances or provide new or updated services which the community demands.

Implementing innovation creates workplace change as processes and services are modified. However, workplace change can also result from other events such as staff turnover and agency reorganisations. For example, when a leader leaves an agency, the temporary loss of capability and coordination lowers organisational effectiveness until the leader is replaced. While innovation results in changes to processes and products, workplace change does not. Workplace change can disrupt operations and place employees under stress, reducing organisational effectiveness until normality returns. If change is managed poorly, these effects can be large and prolonged, although innovation is vital to preserving organisational effectiveness, so too is managing change.

Innovation

Enablers of innovation

The employee census defines innovation as new or significant changes to services and goods, operational processes, organisational methods, or the way the work group communicates with users. Innovation is driven by individual employees at all levels pursuing new ways of operating. As Figure 3.1 shows, the majority of employees thought they had made a contribution to innovation in their agencies over the last 12 months. Similarly, nearly two-thirds were satisfied with their supervisor’s actions aimed at encouraging innovation. All three segments of the APS workforce were comparable. While only half or fewer of all three groups agreed that their SES encouraged innovation, this may be due to limited contact with senior leaders.

Figure 3.1: Individual contributions to innovation

For innovation to succeed, the organisation must provide support for introducing new practices. Approximately two thirds of all employees reported that they received support when suggesting new ideas (see Figure 3.2). While only a minority of employees reported they were provided with the time and resources to try out new ideas, non-ACT Indigenous employees were more likely to report this than their colleagues. While they were also more positive on a number of other issues, these differences were minor.

Figure 3.2: Agency support for innovation

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

Barriers to innovation

As well as supporting innovation, the workplace can inhibit it. Overall, 46% of ACT and 43% of non-ACT Indigenous employees believed their agency had barriers to innovation. Both are comparable to the non-Indigenous workforce (52%). As Figure 3.3 shows, the majority of these employees believed their agency’s barriers were budgetary. There were several differences between ACT and non-ACT Indigenous employees. Non-ACT Indigenous employees were less likely to report their managers were resistant to change and unwilling to take risks. Conversely, they were more likely to report that their agency had a lack of incentives to innovate and feel their ideas would not be seriously considered. Non-ACT Indigenous employees were also more likely to believe their ideas would not be seriously considered than non-Indigenous employees. This is in contrast to this group as a whole, who do feel supported by their manager in proposing new ideas (see Figure 3.2). The reason for this apparent contradiction is unclear. Political uncertainty was also a concern for a higher proportion of non-ACT Indigenous employees.

Figure 3.3: Barriers to innovation

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

Experiences of innovation

Similar proportions of ACT and non-ACT Indigenous employees (43% and 42%) reported that their workgroup had implemented at least one innovation. Both were comparable to the non-Indigenous workforce (49%). Administrative and organisational processes were the largest fields of innovation. ACT Indigenous employees were more likely than the other groups to report that innovation had affected their policy thinking. There were no other salient differences in the types of innovation experienced by the three workforces.

Figure 3.4: Experiences of innovation

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

Key findings

  • The vast majority of employees offer suggestions to improve their workplaces. There are no salient differences between the three workforces.
  • The most commonly perceived barrier to innovation is budget. However, non-ACT based Indigenous employees are more likely to see political uncertainty as a concern.

Workplace change

The majority of employees reported that their workgroups had been directly affected by workplace change. However, ACT-based Indigenous employees were more likely to report being affected by change than their non-ACT colleagues at 73% compared with 61%. The non-Indigenous workforce fell between the two, comparable to both at 66%. As Figure 3.5 shows, the majority of all employees who had been affected by change reported that it was in staff numbers. ACT-based Indigenous employees’ experiences of change were generally comparable with non-Indigenous employees, except for changes in SES numbers. ACT Indigenous employees were more likely to report a change in SES leaders than non-Indigenous employees and non-ACT Indigenous employees were lower again. However, there were further differences between ACT and Non-ACT Indigenous employees. Non-ACT-based Indigenous employees were less likely to report being affected by changes in organisational structure or geographical location than their ACT colleagues.

Figure 3.5: Workplace changes experienced in the last 12 months

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

Data from the employee census shows that employees have mixed feelings about change management in their agency. Most employees thought they were adequately consulted about changes which affected them personally (see Figure 3.6). However, employees were less positive about how well the changes themselves were managed. While non-ACT Indigenous employees were more likely to be positive about their agency’s ability to manage change, less than half agreed that change was managed well.

Figure 3.6: Satisfaction with workplace change

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

Poorly managed change can have a large impact on employees. Figure 3.7 shows the engagement levels of Indigenous employees who have experienced change broken down by how well they thought the change was managed. Those who reported that their agency managed change poorly had considerably lower engagement levels than others. Even those whose perceptions were neutral showed clearly lower levels of engagement than those who thought their agency dealt with change well. The biggest drops associated with poorly managed change are on agency engagement for both ACT and non-ACT-based Indigenous employees. It should be noted, however that this impact is not unique to the Indigenous workforce. Poorly managed change is an issue for all employees.

Figure 3.7: The effect of change management on employee engagement for Indigenous employees

Key findings

  • Only a minority of employees felt change was well managed in their agency. While non-ACT-based Indigenous employees were more positive in this regard, only 49% agreed. ACT-based and non-Indigenous employees were comparable on 35% and 32% respectively.
  • ACT-based Indigenous employees were more likely to report being affected by workplace change than their non-Indigenous colleagues (73% compared with 61%).
  • The most frequently reported type of change experienced was a change in staffing numbers. There were no salient differences between the three workforces on this issue.

Social media and teleworking

The growth of social media has presented new challenges to agencies in recent years. Meeting these challenges has placed new demands on the APS, but has also driven innovation. ACT-based Indigenous employees are more likely to report having access to some or all social media tools than their non-ACT-based or non-Indigenous colleagues. However, only a minority of all three groups report having some level of access (see Figure 3.8).

Figure 3.8: Access to social media tools

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

Between 27% and 30% of employees with access to social media use it to work with government stakeholders (see Figure 3.9). Under a quarter reported using it to communicate with non-government stakeholders. All three workforces were comparable. While 57% of ACT-based Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees reported not using their social media access for either purpose, non-ACT Indigenous employees were less likely to report this. However, they were more likely to have selected ‘Not sure’.

Figure 3.9: Use of social media tools

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

Of those who used social media, the majority were satisfied with its effectiveness (see Figure 3.10). Indigenous employees were more satisfied with its effectiveness to communicate with government stakeholders than non-Indigenous employees.

Figure 3.10: Satisfaction with social media tools

*Indicates a statistically significant difference which is at least small in magnitude.

As well as increasing the use of social media, APS employees are also being encouraged to increase their use of teleworking arrangements. As Figure 3.11 shows, currently only a minority of employees telework. This is consistent between the three segments of the workforce. Non-ACT Indigenous employees were more likely to select ‘Not sure’.

Figure 3.11: Satisfaction with social media tools

Key findings

  • ACT-based Indigenous employees are more likely to have access to some or all social media tools than their colleagues.
  • Between 18% and 30% of employees with access to social media use it to work with government or non-government stakeholders. There were no salient differences between the three workforces.

22 Management Advisory Committee, Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010.

23 ibid, p. v.