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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. Many specialist or operational 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 Empowering Change[24], service in all its forms is at the heart of APS effectiveness. To remain effective, the APS must keep pace with social and economic change. This requires a readiness on the part of the APS, including the Micro-agencies, to embrace innovation in all areas. Innovation is ‘core to being able to achieve key public sector goals’[25]. Without innovation, the organisational effectiveness of the APS will inevitably decline as it fails to adapt to changing circumstances or provide the new services which the community demands.

Implementing innovations 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 the agency, the temporary loss of capability and coordination lowers organisational effectiveness until these are 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 innovations 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. In both cases, the results for Micro-agencies were similar to those for the wider APS. However, a higher proportion of Micro-agency employees agreed that their senior leaders encourage innovation. This is a sizeable difference that may be an outcome of the greater visibility of SES leaders in Micro-agencies (see Section 1).

Figure 3.1: Individual contributions to innovation

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

For innovation to succeed, the organisation must provide support for introducing new practices. Almost three-quarters of Micro-agency employees agreed that they receive support from their supervisor when suggesting new ideas (see Figure 3.2). However, only about half were positive regarding the agency itself. Less than a third of all employees reported that their agency had an established process for evaluating new ideas.

Only a minority of staff agreed that they had the resources to trial new ideas. However, Micro-agency employees were more likely to agree than those from the wider APS. While Micro-agency employees were also more positive on a number of other issues, as can be seen in Figure 3.2, these differences were generally smaller.

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. Forty-five per cent of Micro-agency employees believed their workplace contained barriers to innovation. The majority of these believed budget restrictions always or often prevented innovation. However, as shown in Figure 3.3, Micro-agency employees were less likely than those from the wider APS to report this. Micro-agency employees were also not as likely to report a range of other issues including lack of incentives or qualified personnel as barriers. Notably, Micro-agency employees were less likely to report technology as a frequent barrier to innovation in their workplace.

Figure 3.3: Barriers to innovation

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

Experiences of Innovation

Over half (53%) of Micro-agency employees reported that their workplace had implemented at least one innovation in the last 12 months. This is comparable to the wider APS result (49%). Of those who reported an innovation, Micro-agency employees experienced a greater impact (compared to the rest of the APS) on their administrative processes and policy thinking, whereas the impact was greater in the services areas in the rest of the APS (see Figure 3.4).

Figure 3.4: Experiences of innovation

Key findings

  • Over half of Micro-agency employees reported their workplace had introduced an innovation in the last 12 months. Innovations most frequently affected administrative processes.
  • Micro-agency employees were more likely to agree that their senior leaders are supportive of change. They were also less likely to see barriers to innovation in their agency.

Workplace change

The employee census showed mixed results on how employees regard change management in their agency. While most employees thought they were adequately consulted about changes which affected them personally, only 45% agreed that change was handled well. In both cases, Micro-agency employees were more likely to be positive than employees in other agencies (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5: Satisfaction with workplace change

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

In terms of the amount of change being experienced in Micro-agencies, Figure 3.6 shows that 58% of employees reported that their immediate workgroup had experienced a major workplace change in the last 12 months. A change in staff numbers was the most frequently reported challenge.

Figure 3.6: Workplace changes experienced in the last 12 months

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

Micro-agency employees were less likely than those of other agencies to report that their work priorities had changed in the last 12 months. They were also less likely to report changes in supervisor or senior agency leadership. Despite being comparatively minor differences, this suggests Micro-agencies may have been marginally more stable than the larger agencies.

Poorly managed change can have a large impact on employees. Figure 3.7 shows the engagement levels of Micro-agency employees who have experienced change broken down by how well they thought the change was handled. 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. These results raise two issues. First, 39% of employees who had experienced change thought that their agency did not handle change well. Secondly, poorly managed change had a larger impact on Agency Engagement than any other factor. As shown earlier in this paper, employees with lower engagement levels are more likely to intend to leave their agency sooner than those with higher engagement levels.

Figure 3.7[26]: Engagement levels segmented by responses to the question “Change is well managed in my agency”

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

Key findings

  • Most Micro-agency employees reported they were consulted about changes which affected them. However, less than half thought the agency handled change well.
  • Fifty-eight per cent of Micro-agency employees had been affected by workplace change in the last 12 months. Most reported a change in staffing numbers.

Social media and teleworking

The growth of social media has presented new challenges to agencies in recent years. This has placed new demands on the APS, but has also driven innovation. As Figure 3.8 shows, access to social media tools is more prevalent in the Micro-agencies than in the wider APS. In addition to having greater access to social media tools, a higher proportion of Micro-agency employees use them to liaise with non-government organisations (see Figure 3.9).

Figure 3.8: Access to social media tools

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

Figure 3.9: Use of social media tools

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

Although there are differences in take up rates for social media tools, employees who use them for communicating with stakeholders reported that they are beneficial (see Figure 3.10).

Figure 3.10: Increasing effectiveness through social media

In addition to making greater use of social media, Micro-agency employees are also more likely to be using teleworking arrangements to some degree. While regular teleworking remains rare throughout the APS, Micro-agency employees are more likely than those from the larger agencies to use it from time to time (Figure 3.11).

Figure 3.11: Use of teleworking in the APS

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

Key findings

  • Micro-agency staff are more likely to be using social media to work with non-government stakeholders.
  • Micro-agency staff are more likely to telework than are staff in large agencies. However, this seems to be on an ad hoc basis, rather than as part of a stable arrangement.