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The APS employment proposition

2014–15 State of the Service Report—The APS employment proposition

The APS employment proposition must be clear and compelling. Our goal is to have the best and brightest people aspire to work for some or all of their careers in the APS. To this end, it is important to understand what attracts people to a public sector career and what factors cause people to leave.

The Commission since 2013 has managed an entry and exit survey to assist agencies obtain information about engagements, retention and internal staff movements. The most common reason for joining the APS was the type of work available. Most employees taking up an ongoing position expected to stay with their new agency for at least two years. Employees reported that the people they work with, the work they undertake and development opportunities are key factors that encourage them to remain in the APS.

Most respondents to the exit survey reported that they were leaving their agency voluntarily. Employees who resigned had significantly lower engagement levels than all other respondents. It is important to understand the factors that help to explain this. Employees most commonly reported that a lack of future career opportunities impacted the decision to leave their agency. A desire to try a new career, unmet work expectations or having achieved all they could in their job, were all important factors. The loss of these employees needs to be considered in terms of the value to society of movement between sectors. It can broaden employee perspectives. Each APS vacancy also creates an opportunity for organisational renewal.

Not all employees leave their agency for work or career reasons. Those who leave for personal reasons were most likely to cite family responsibilities as important in shaping their decision. Age also plays a role, with employees aged under 35 years likely to report that their decision to leave was influenced by a wish to live elsewhere in Australia or overseas. Older employees were more likely to leave to travel or for recreation. Flexible working arrangements such as teleworking for younger employees and increased levels of part-time work for older employees may provide agencies with an opportunity to retain more of these individuals.

Learn more about the Entry and Exit Survey Process here.

Reasons for moving on to a new career

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 1.

The factors that keep people in their agency are strongly related to employee engagement. Employees reported that the people they work with, the work they undertake and their development opportunities impact retention. An understanding of these factors can help identify where the Australian Public Service (APS) may be at risk of problems associated with employee turnover.

Additional factors influencing retention are the level of control over how employees do their work and the level of demand they experience in their workplace. When employees report very little autonomy and consistently unrealistic time pressures, they are more likely to want to leave.

The APS employee census also asks employees whether they believe the work they do is appropriate for their classification level. Where employees feel their level of decision-making authority or the work they do does not match their classification, they are less likely to be committed to staying with their agency. Being underutilised has a bigger impact on retention than being expected to perform at a higher level.

Most exit survey respondents reported that they were leaving their agency voluntarily. Employees who resigned had significantly lower engagement levels than all other respondents.

Engagement levels for employees leaving their agency voluntarily

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

APS employees departing to go to another role tend to be attracted to their new position by the type of work offered. In addition to the nature of the work, employees moving to the private sector were more likely to indicate that the quality of leadership and personal relationships were important in attracting them to the new organisation. They were less likely to rate the employment conditions as important.

The steps taken to retain an employee are a critical component of managing workforce flow. Almost half of respondents had spoken to their manager before deciding to leave their agency. This reinforces the important role to be played by immediate supervisors in managing the workforce as they will likely be approached by employees indicating their intention to leave. They will also be in the best position to specify the impact of the individuals’ departure on the workgroup and therefore able to determine what lengths the agency can and may wish to undertake to in order to encourage them to stay.