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4. Conclusions

In general, Micro-agency employees were very positive about their workplaces and their leaders. Furthermore, Micro-agency employees were more likely to rate their leaders positively than those in the wider APS. This positive perception ranged across capabilities, from achieving results to personal qualities, including demonstrating honesty and integrity. Higher proportions of Micro-agency employees reported that their senior leaders are sufficiently visible. This has benefits for employee engagement. Furthermore, respected leadership and higher engagement levels may have contributed to Micro-agency employees working more hours than colleagues in the wider APS without experiencing overload or dissatisfaction with work-life balance (see Section 2). This may also be explained by the higher levels of workplace autonomy enjoyed by Micro-agency employees.

In addition, micro-agency employees believe they contribute to innovation in their agencies and that their leaders are generally supportive of this. Although employees see budgetary restrictions as a barrier to innovation, only a small percentage (31%) regard technological obstacles as a barrier. This may be related to the greater use of social media tools and teleworking reported by Micro-agency employees compared to that in the wider APS.

While the Micro-agency workforce is currently engaged, productive and innovative, relatively few employees intend to stay in their agencies for the long-term (three years or longer). This may be due to a perception that career options are more limited within Micro-agencies than in the wider APS. This has implications for talent management and transition planning within Micro-agencies. However, 64% of those intending to leave within the next 12 months intend to remain within the public sector, suggesting their skills and experiences may be retained.

Although Micro-agencies have a climate that promotes ethical behaviour, 15% of Micro-agency employees reported being bullied or harassed. This result is similar to the 17% result for the wider APS. However, the majority of bullied and harassed employees did not report the behaviour (61%), partly because they believed this would not achieve anything or the process was too difficult. It is unclear if employees pursue other actions to deal with the problem, but it appears that reporting the problem is not their action of first resort. Failure to report harassment or bullying has implications for any agency as it precludes any intervention on the part of the agency. APSC research has demonstrated that action on the part of the agency can reduce the negative impact bullying or harassment has on employee engagement.

Micro-agencies face many of the same challenges as the wider APS in regard to performance management and learning and development. Despite perceiving leaders as being generally effective, managing underperformance was seen as a weakness. Approximately half of employees were satisfied with their access to learning and development opportunities. Of those who were dissatisfied, 39% reported that there were budget restrictions to their access to training. Despite this, only 15% of employees had not been able to attend some formal training.

While there is a perception that career opportunities in Micro-agencies are limited, Micro-agency employees generally see themselves as having a long-term career in the public sector. Greater visibility of, and access to, senior leaders provides those leaders with the opportunity to shape the workplace and positively influence employees. This opportunity is not as readily available in larger APS agencies.