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Australian Public Service Human Resources Summit 2012: full report

Held on 4th/5th September 2012

Achieving business goals – showcasing human capital strategies in the Australian Public Service

1. Executive summary

From the outset it seemed ambitious. One event that would offer all agencies – be they small, medium or large – the chance for their most senior HR practitioner to participate and contribute.

We envisioned an opportunity to showcase HR best practices and promote the sharing of ideas, expertise, tools and processes in an environment of increasing complexity, challenge and opportunity for all public servants.

In the words of the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Stephen Sedgwick AO:

“HR professionals have a vital role to play in supporting business managers to bring out the best in our people and build the capability of our organisations. ”

This theme, and a spirit of collaboration and contribution, was evident throughout the summit. The relevance of HR to the ongoing success of the APS was confirmed by the participation and support of Secretaries and Agency Heads and experts from across the APS.

The summit covered many aspects of human resources utilising both presentations and panel discussions to stimulate discussion and understanding. Key themes included the need for HR to deliver exceptional operational services as well as contributing to business-wide strategy, the critical role of strategic workforce planning and, the importance of HR as an advisor to an agency’s executive team on succession planning and demographic change.

Over two days the summit covered much ground, from examining HR as a strategy enabler, how we can enhance our collective performance management capabilities, to the place of HR in APS reform.

The summit provided an opportunity for the most senior HR practitioners to learn and contribute to a discussion on some of the most critical issues facing HR professionals in the APS, namely:

  • Re-shaping workforces and strategies as budgets change,
  • Enhancing performance management capability,
  • Leadership strategies that work,
  • A contemporary approach to graduate recruitment,
  • APS bargaining,
  • The merits of a guaranteed interview scheme for people with a disability,
  • Bring the new APS Values to life,
  • Creating transformational change,
  • What does this all mean for the APS’ HR functions, and
  • The Commissioner’s perspective on what lies ahead for the APS.

This report of the summit contains material from the presentations and panel discussions and, as such, provides the reader with an insight into the thinking of senior public servants and HR practitioners.

Ian Fitzgerald
Chief Human Capital Officer

2. Table of contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Table of contents

3. Introduction

4. Main report

5. Summit Evaluation

6. What’s next? (including review PIR of this year’ event and planning for the next one)

Appendix A – Summit evaluation – Detailed results

3. Introduction

We already know that the capabilities of people within our organisations will determine whether, or not, the right strategies are pursued and how well they are executed. This is true for the Australian Public Service as it is for any other organisation.

And as much as we need to equip our HR functions to deal effectively with this challenge, the strategic foresight discussion at the summit identified five key exogenous challenges that will affect the APS:

  1. The pace of technological change will increase and will continue to transform the way people connect, where and how they work, whilst offering powerful and predictive analytics based on new ways of linking and modelling ‘big data’,
  2. Organisation and work structures, as well as systems, designed for last century are being, and will continue to be, transformed in this century as people seek new ways to access skills on a global platform,
  3. Privacy, identity and security will be some of the most critical issues for public sector (and other) managers to grapple with, within this social networking and media age,
  4. Ongoing demographic change, its effect on our economy, the effect of participation rates and an ageing population, and
  5. As well as labour market impacts of an ageing population, public sector budgets will require critical decisions around resource prioritisation as health care costs increase.

There are more of course, which makes being a human resources leader in the APS a very challenging and exciting proposition. In fact, the leadership behaviours for the APS that we so often talk about are the very behaviours that need to be embodied and exemplified by its senior HR professionals. Without them we can hardly be expected to lead change.

A small group of volunteers with these very qualities made this inaugural event such a success and, I am sure, they will have some part to play in future events. Taking this concept of a business orientated and strategy focussed summit that could be done ‘in-house’ and ‘at cost’ were a small but well supported team and it was a pleasure working with them. Thanks to:

  • Jacqui Curtis, Department of Human Services,
  • Carl Murphy, Department of Finance and Deregulation,
  • Ben Neal, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and
  • Jo Cantle, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

To paraphrase Steve Sedgwick AO, Public Service Commissioner, in his address:

“Our focus on leadership is important as we pursue APS reform and, a key role of human resource practitioners is to help the APS adapt to tighter budgets. ”

In closing I would also like to publicly thank all of the presenters and panellists, without whose contributions the summit would have been little more than a great idea.

I look forward to the next APS HR Summit.

Ian Fitzgerald
Chief Human Capital Officer

4. Main report

4.1 Why?

Increasingly, human capital, or HR functions in the public service are being called upon to demonstrate the value of their contribution to the achievement of agency goals.

Ongoing technological changes, including the widespread and increasing use of social media and networking are changing relationships and potential ways of working within and across agencies, and with stakeholders and citizens.

The global context, which is often described as complex, ambiguous and made up of multiple interlinked systems are also changing and as a result we need to anticipate and develop new options to respond well.

These issues have been extensively described in reports produced by The Treasury, the CSIRO, the World Bank, the Australian DAVOS Connection and many others.

One way that these trends are playing out is through economic changes. The most obvious manifestation of this for the APS is that, through efficiency dividends and financial challenges, we are being called upon to adapt constructively to an environment of reduced expenditure, as the new norm, not a temporary aberration. And we need to respond constructively, not defensively. This was a strong summit theme.

Given these and other drivers, there is an increasing important view that we need to review structures, systems, processes and cultures to ensure public sector agencies remain fit to serve citizens in the 21st century and keep their trust and confidence in successive governments and the public services that support them.

The Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration started a conversation and most of its key recommendations have either been implemented, will be implemented soon or have become “business as usual”. The question now is “what next?” as the Blueprint envisaged that the capability development we are now doing would lead to a better understanding of the important drivers of change and more individual and collective innovation in response.

For the APS HR profession we need to ask:

  • How do we maintain momentum?
  • What’s on the horizon, and how should we respond?
  • What’s our role in building high performing agencies?
  • As a profession, what capabilities do we need to strengthen?

4.2 What was the big idea?

Against this backdrop, the goal of the summit was to promote an exchange of ideas about the role of HR professionals in the APS role in:

  • building a highly capable HR profession: business-oriented, analytical, adaptable & evidence-driven
  • creating a future-oriented APS equipped with capable leaders and managers
  • identifying the challenges, revealing the opportunities, and aligning our human capital initiatives
  • working together to improve individual or collective outcomes and reduce agency costs
  • sharing expertise, tools and processes

4.3 Who came?

In the end around 60 agencies were represented and there were over 160 registered attendees. We were also pleased to have a representative from the ACT Public Service. Section 6 provides an analysis of participant feedback.

4.4 What we did

The following sections describe each of the summit sessions and outputs of working sessions when they were undertaken.

4.4.1 Welcome to Country

Aunty Jeanette Phillips welcomed participants to the Ngunnawal Country.

4.4.2 Secretaries Panel – HR as a strategy enabler

  • Mr Blair Comley PSM

    Secretary, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
  • Mr Peter Baxter

    Director General, Australian Agency for International Aid Development
  • Ms Carol Mills

    Secretary, Department of Parliamentary Services

Panel members were asked to reflect on:

  • Critical business trends and issues that will impact their agency and others over the next 5-10 years (e.g. tightening fiscal environment, changing stakeholder expectations etc)
  • The people and performance implications of these trends and how they interact with other strategy enablers (IT/Finance)
  • An example where they have seen HR add true business value: what was done and why did it work?
  • What they value and respect in an effective HR practitioner: what capabilities and way of working work resonate well with a top team?
Key points

Blair Comley

  • HR must position itself as both a business partner and a strategy enabler
  • HR has a dual role/function – firstly as a provider of sound HR operations, but also a credible strategic contributor (and a good way to do this is to demonstrate a deep understanding of the business)
  • If HR does not do operations well, it will never get a seat at the strategy table.
  • HR needs to be very attuned to the organisation’s culture and its alignment with strategy
  • A critical issue across APS that HR must help address relates to the capacity of managers to have difficult conversations with staff in cases of underperformance

Peter Baxter

  • HR has been critical to achieving transformational change in AusAID over the last three years as the organisation expanded the programs it delivers including a 50% in budget and 30% increase in staff
  • While the previous HR system was opaque and centralised the new system is now effectively aligning people and cultural change with new priorities
  • Workforce planning has been the key tool for staff with a focus on achieving higher levels of performance, management and business accountability with an accompanying roadmap and HR-related KPIs among others across operational and strategic functions of the organisation
  • To address the operational function of HR, it is critical that HR practitioners get to know the business of the organisation – one of the valued outcomes of this work has been clearer career paths for staff
  • Articulating AusAID values was a critical part of the change by ensuring they are embedded in mission and vision statements and measured through 360 degree survey instruments

Carol Mills

  • HR is viewed as a strategic enabler in the Department of Parliamentary Services with a particular focus on assisting the Executive manage change, specifically in relation to succession planning and managing demographic challenges as a result of the workforce profile
  • Leveraging input from other agencies based on their own experiences has been an invaluable resource and it is important for the APS to continue to build and use networks to assist in this process with a particular focus on helping to build the strategic capability of smaller agencies which do not have the resources or scale to maintain their own centres of excellence in all areas

4.4.3 Strategic foresight session: what lies ahead? (Expert Panel and working session)

  • Mr Ian Fitzgerald

    Chief Human Capital Officer

    Australian Public Service Commission
Expert Panel
  • Paul O’Connor

    CEO, Comcare
  • Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan

    High Tech Crime Operations

    Australian Federal Police
  • Trevor Moore

    Head of Organisation and People Practice, Australia and New Zealand


Economic, social, environmental, technological and other changes are playing out around the world, at an ever faster pace, make it even more important that public servants have the skills needed to look over the horizon and think about the potential implications for citizens, communities, the nation and, as a result, the capacity and capability of public services at all levels (and how they work together). This session was intended to start a strategic conversation, prompted by three stimulating speakers, and then to tap into the skills and experience of participants to think about the critical trends and issues and what they might mean for the public service and our role as senior HR managers.

Key points

Trevor Moore

  • There are three key technological forces for change and five areas of Human Capital Management that are pertinent to this panel discussion
  • Three technological forces for change are:
    • Connectedness between people, which is changing the way people interact and work around the globe enabled by social networking and media
    • Big data analytics that provide new and more powerful ways to generate meaning and information from huge amounts of data, processed at increasingly fast speeds which are enhancing our capacity to not only generate descriptive data, but also predictive analytics by crunching and combining huge amounts of data to make forecasts which can be constantly tested and refined by comparing predictions with outcomes
    • Ubiquity - the notion that computing and technological devices are everywhere and in everything, and it is all connected (feeding into the previous point)
  • From a Human Capital Management perspective – the five key notions are:
    • Time and place is becoming irrelevant - work is something people do, and it’s not related to where they are - an international project can be led from anywhere with people connected both physically and virtually
    • Business process management is no longer as relevant; it is the value of people and the connections/networks between people that will drive organisational efficiency and performance
    • Talent management – increasingly, organisations are looking to find and keep good staff in new and innovative ways
    • The move from physical to virtual structures within organisations, resulting in project teams moving and changing according to organisational requirements
    • The practice of leadership must shift from leading from the front to leading networks

Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan

  • The Internet is changing the way people identify themselves as individuals, and increasingly there is a need for APS managers to be aware of the many potential implications including those related to privacy (Information Privacy Principles 4 and 9 under the Privacy Act 1988)

Principle 4 - Storage and security of personal information

A record-keeper who has possession or control of a record that contains personal information shall ensure:

  1. that the record is protected, by such security safeguards as it is reasonable in the circumstances to take, against loss, against unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure, and against other misuse; and
  2. that if it is necessary for the record to be given to a person in connection with the provision of a service to the record-keeper, everything reasonably within the power of the record-keeper is done to prevent unauthorised use or disclosure of information contained in the record.

Principle 9 - Personal information to be used only for relevant purposes

A record-keeper who has possession or control of a record that contains personal information shall not use the information except for a purpose to which the information is relevant.

  • Arguably, privacy laws need updating, as they have not kept up with technology
  • The definition of what is “personal information” is also changing which creates potential difficulties in a world where every person now has an online profile and permanent history before they think about work choices and the implications something done, say as a teenager, may have for their career at a later date.
  • APS values also apply on line: agencies must effectively communicate this to staff

Paul O’Connor

  • Key issues for the future are:
    • Higher participation rates are required as an economic imperative; increased diversity; an older workforce; true equality for women in practice at all levels
    • The APS lagging in terms of representation of a diverse workforce – more needs to be done
    • Given the implications of an ageing population as outlined in Treasury’s Intergenerational Report, it is an environment that means we need to handle significant future fiscal challenges in public services
    • Given this “work” and “careers” are notions that are being continually redefined: they are increasingly part of a lifelong process of learning and participation
    • One issue is that the public service we are going to face the same challenges in future, including putting people in harm’s way (police, military etc) but a different labour market to draw on
    • As an overall goal we need to focus on providing people with good (safe and healthy) jobs
    • There has been a fourfold increase in the mental health claims to Comcare in the last 3 years – 40% bullying claims and 40% based on work pressure
    • Senior management are the stewards of the APS setting: the workforce culture is set from the top – initiatives such as the establishment of the Diversity Council provide strong and visible leadership
Strategic foresight working session
Critical issue Why might this matter for citizens, communities and the nation? Likely implications for leadership, workforce or agency capability
Financial pressures creating a need for innovation and prioritisation
  • Increased use of automated delivery, less personal service
  • Desire for increased transparency, but the cost of responding will reduce expenditure elsewhere
  • Service delivery will need to be prioritised in line with budgets
  • Risk to perceptions of service quality at same time as citizen expectations are increasing
  • Leaders must be better at managing underperformance
  • Creating a culture of change as a constant
  • Increased pressure, potential implications for staff health
  • Changes to recruitment processes to employ adaptable people (rather than current rigid approach)
  • More information and resource sharing across agencies
  • Agencies must support innovation and risk taking
Personalised services – mass customisation
  • Increased demands from citizens, want faster response and less tolerant
  • People expect services wherever they are located
  • People assume the APS can replicate their social media experience
  • Most citizens are time poor
  • Trade off between quality, volume and speed
  • Need to more from personalised to ‘mass’ business model
  • Can, should you personalise services?
  • Need to be nimble and fast
  • Must understand and use technology better than we do
  • APS ‘one stop shop’
  • Need to balance efficiency with customisation
  • Develop better ‘deign skills’
  • More self services channels: more technology and less people to people
  • Have shared services but be flexible to provide personalised services where customers require it - policies should be flexible enough to enable staff to do this where it makes sense
Asia Century
  • We need to benchmark our efficiency and effectiveness with Asian countries
  • Cultural diversity through new patterns of Asia-led immigration
  • Potential for local jobs to go when products and services can be provided at a lower cost overseas
  • Need to understand the cultures we need to partner with in Asia for trade
  • Need to increase international engagement to build awareness of economic and cultural issues in the region
  • Agencies must be able to respond to the government’s agenda with respect to Asia
  • We need a deeper appreciation about how our economy is and will be linked to Asian economies
  • Must improve understanding of Asian cultures and languages in order to participate and find opportunities in Asian markets
After the mining boom?
  • Labour market skill requirements will shift
  • Implications for education and training programs
  • Less government revenue available for services if no mining alternative is found
  • Communities now dependent of mining construction and other investment will need alternative sources of revenue
  • Transition to people leaving mines – where to?
  • Start to understand the economic implications around any transition now
  • Look to the future, what kind of workforces will we need to support the innovation necessary to find alternative source of national wealth
  • We need forecasting, scenario planning capabilities
Social networking
  • Better engage with citizens in any location
  • Could help to tap into regional workforces
  • Cheap way to get mass contact and information dissemination
  • Way to get feedback on services
  • Will become new norm
  • Better connections between people and their public services
  • Meeting preferred way of connecting with younger generations
  • Offers opportunity to co-design services
  • Crowd sourcing solutions
  • Potential immediacy and connectivity
  • Marketing tool for public services
  • Gives the public a voice
  • Cyber bullying of those providing services
  • Reputational risks if it goes wrong
  • Identify security and related issues
  • Privacy (what is/is not private)
  • APS must gain confidence in new technologies and how they can support business
  • Development of virtual teams
  • Need to get better a proactive analytics
  • Articulate values and ethics in an online environment: whole of government policy
  • Managing a 24/7 workplace
  • Enables workplace flexibility
  • Must take measured risks to play in this space
  • We need to take ownership online or others will
  • Provides an opportunity to access critical expertise online
  • Online information is eternal so must consider code of conduct and security assessment related issues
  • Be clear about the authority to use
Today’s teenagers as future workers
  • Will have different types of It facilitated human interaction
  • May not understand how their elders work and vice versa
  • Opportunity for knowledge transfer
  • When they come on board they will instantly see the opportunities for ICT enabled service delivery that we don’t see or don’t want to pursue today
  • Need for face to face communication will be reduced
  • Less physical presence at work
  • Will need new ways of working and leading in a more virtual world: a cultural shift for many
A digital world
  • People have an expectation that their personal information will be protected (a government role?)
  • Trust in agencies depends on keeping citizen data safe
  • Expectation of 24/7 response
  • Potential to reduce Australia’s GDP
  • There will be winners and losers based on those who can/cannot use ICT to their personal gain
  • Opportunity for Australian retailers to market internationally
  • Potential for social isolation
  • Potential for tension between workers around what work is and how its best done
  • May cause decline of local retail and manufacturing and associated employment
  • Leverage the national broadband network
  • Leaders will need to focus on goals and objectives rather than require physical presence
  • Jobs will need to be redesigned
  • APS must respond to disadvantaged groups who are not ‘connected’
  • We need to provide more of our products and services online
  • Requires a rethink of data management (big data)
  • Our notion of productivity and performance will need to change
  • Need disaster plans if major, interconnected systems we all depend on go down
  • Resulting flatter structures and lattice career paths
  • Need better expectation management
Ageing workforce
  • Reduced availability of workforce to deliver services and programs that people need: skills shortages
  • People will have to work longer than they may have planned to
  • Rise in need for caring facilities and associated jobs
  • Less money for many of the current public services as the priorities shift to meet the needs of older citizens
  • Older workers may see technology and social media as a threat rather than an opportunity
  • Need for communities to self manage rather than rely on government funded services
  • Increased need for continual learning to adapt to changing technology for example
  • Must respond to reduced budgets with improved productivity
  • We need a more sensible approach to the notion of ‘retirement’ and when it happens
  • Will require job re-design and flexibility
  • Use graduates as reverse mentors (techno savvy as opposed to techo saurs)
  • Recruitment campaigns to attract people in thei 2nd career
  • Find ways to manage preferred operating styles across generations
  • Anticipate and respond constructively to the otherwise potential for a conflict of ideas and expectations
  • Better transition to retirement and succession planning
  • Increased caring responsibilities

4.4.4 Reduce, redesign and redeploy: reshaping your workforce—case studies from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Health and Ageing

  • Mr Andrew Stuart

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Health and Ageing
  • Mr Craig Farrell

    Chief HRs Officer

    Department of Immigration and Citizenship

As departments deal with the impact of efficiency dividends and they need to reprioritise expenditure. It is critical to ensure the workforce is constantly aligned with current and emerging needs in terms of size, structure and capabilities. Two examples were provided of strategies put in place to do this, the success factors and some of the lessons learnt.

Key points

Andrew Stuart

  • The DHA National Alignment (DNA) reform program was implemented to streamline business activity, improve efficiencies and make savings. To date the “DNA reform” has improved the department by:
    • Rolling 157 grant programs into 18 flexible funds
    • Building a new department-wide capability to deliver IT programs (records management system, single parliamentary reporting systems and grant systems)
  • The HR challenge as been to assist the executive team:
    • Restructure
    • Reduce APS numbers
    • Realign staff to new roles
    • Change staff profiles
    • Increase branch/sector size
    • Link classifications to job value
  • Analysis to support this reform found that there was an imbalance in the ratio of APS to EL levels, originally at a 1:1 ratio but now after action it has moved to 1:2.5 (target of 1:1.5) - actions to achieve this included:
    • A bulk APS 2-5 round with 4000 applicants
    • More disciplined review of all proposals to advertise to recruitment is at the right level
    • A review of all higher duties and temporary positions
    • Reduced external recruitment
  • DHA is now looking at an agenda for middle management training covering, among other areas, the new skills required to do workload planning and to lift the managerial capability to have difficult conversations
  • It is acknowledged that the Department is going through a lot of change to both structures and deliverables and the impact this has on people – 80% of employees are affected by change
  • DHA’s success is considered to be due to the following factors:
    • Consulting, listening and acting respectfully at all times
    • Effectively engaging with unions, businesses and the Merit Protection Commission
    • Communicating honestly and consistently with employees to reinforce that change is real and happening (multiple communication channels: eg blogs, all staff sessions, regional office visits etc)
    • Good workforce planning has been a significant feature
  • The outcome of the reform includes:
    • Maintaining good staff survey results
    • Over 200 VRs
    • No industrial issues
    • Improving the alignment of work to correct classification (an ongoing process)
    • A focus on lifting capability
  • Message to HR professionals:
    • Keep promoting the people dimensions for change and to be ready to provide advice – organisations need to be more flexible, creative and people orientated

Craig Farrell

  • Provided an overview of a recent DIAC change reform project – “Redesign, Stabilise and Redeploy”
  • DIAC have had a number of reviews into the department’s performance; and all reports have commented on the agencies reliance and ability to respond
  • DIAC has a ‘can-do’ attitude when required; but it can be too reactive to problems and insular on occasions
  • In reactive times, the first point of action is for everyone to work harder and longer, to prioritise programs over longer term strategies, which may be critical but is not sustainable
  • To prepare for high expected response requirements, a “Ready Response” program was implemented leading to a reform initiative “Redesign, Stabilise and Redeploy” with the following features:
    • Recruitment – a bulk recruitment round was run for 200 employees (from 3000 applications) targeting external rather than internal candidates (it was clearly communicated that this wasn’t about existing employees getting promoted)
    • Training – including a mandatory induction process, for all employees
  • Moving to BAU the Department has implemented systems and infrastructure to be prepared to respond to future scenarios with close HR partnering with business lines around on workforce planning models
  • Workforce planning covered three key accountability action areas:
    • HR: labour supply forecast
    • Business accountability: demand forecast and implementation of workforce plan
    • HR and Business together: Scenario development, gap analysis, risk identification and strategy development
  • Scenario forecasting helped to anticipate future workforce requirements and ability to address the supply issue by redirecting the business process: it changed the way they approach handling and processing asylum seekers and detention centres
  • Lessons learnt:
    • Important to spend enough time communicating the benefits
    • Resilience training when necessary
    • Addressing issues related to long term deployment where people earn relatively high salaries (wages + higher acting duties + travel allowances) which locked them into these roles that could lead to undesirable business or personal outcomes (now remuneration is based on a 3 month cycle and employees are forced to have respite leave)
    • It was important to lift the focus on the performance management of employees on deployment
    • Mandatory induction, pre-briefing and debriefing sessions now cover APS code of conduct etc
  • Audience questions:
    • Other critical factors?: remaining apolitical at all times and communicating to all staff whether on deployment or in the office that they represent the APS 24/7
    • Putting staff in harm’s way? DIAC treats this issue very seriously and to mitigate risks they have implemented mandatory medical checks, respite leave and those on longer deployments first undergo resilience assessments and self care plans

4.4.5 Enhancing our collective performance management capabilities

  • Dr Damian West

    Group Manager, Client Engagement

    Australian Public Service Commission

The purpose of this session was to update attendees on work currently being done with agencies and academic partners to lift our collective performance management capability. The opportunity was also taken to seek input into the strategy from participants.

Key points
  • There are four phases to current performance management work program being undertaken in partnership with University of Canberra, the ANU and UNSW (also view PowerPoint slides):
    • Develop Framework for a High Performance APS Culture
    • Build on the Framework with agencies
    • Disseminate findings APS wide
    • Embed into agencies
  • - What is a high performance culture?
    • A difficult and challenging exercise in both the public and private sectors
    • At least two ways to think about it and both are required:
      • Humanistic perspective: according to proponents of this perspective high performance is attributed to investment in the ‘softer’ people aspects of organisational life and is improved by valuing, trusting, developing and empowering employees (also focuses on organisational cultures)
      • Rational perspective: emphasises the financial performance of organisation with an emphasis on cost efficiency and the ability to anticipate and respond to changing political and administrative demands
  • Performance Management Framework, includes three interdependent elements of:
    • High Performance Governance (HPG): aimed at setting the system wide architecture to enable high performance across government and includes the concepts of stewardship, orchestration, and meta-leadership: it highlights the need to move beyond the organisational goals to system goals and broader outcomes, while ensuring that organisational, group and individual goals are also achieved
    • High Performance Organisation: focuses on building and enabling the management capacity necessary for enhancing organisational performance
    • High Performing group and Individuals: groups and individuals must see how what they do contributes to the achievement of an organisations strategy and have the knowledge, skills and tools to deliver
  • The research has identified 4 areas to focus on:
    • Ensuring adaptability to context: the ability for organisations and individuals to anticipate, respond and adapt to changing circumstances
    • Mutuality: emphasises the need for employees and managers to be mutually responsible and accountable for performance management
    • Understanding of the important role of organisational capabilities for high performance: requires consideration of organisation-level requirements, understanding how resources are integrated and leveraged to enhance performance
    • Performance management capacity: the ability of all managers and employees, within an organisation to undertake performance management effectively.
Group activity
  • Participants were asked to discuss 3 questions relating to performance management in the APS:
    1. 1. With your most recent performance agreement discussion in mind:
      • What specific information, insight or evidence would help you to improve your performance?
    2. 2. Individuals seek & receive performance feedback through a number of means:
      • Informal feedback from peers and colleagues
      • Observing how others react to their work
      • Direct verbal feedback
      • How can we strengthen the motivation of the receiver to act on this feedback?
    3. 3. Within the context of building employee trust in the performance management system:
      • Are rating scales important
      • Should we decouple performance and pay
      • Is it just about the conversation and the acknowledgement of effort
      • What are practical options to recognise and equitably reward individual performance?
  • From the group conversations there were five key findings on the day:
    • You have to have interest in the people working for you, know your staff
    • The performance cycle needs to be a two way conversation – not only what the person needs to do but also how the manager will support the employee
    • Courage – managers and employees need to be courageous to have those difficult conversations
    • People want to know how to improve – support people to develop not just tell them what the issues are
    • Rating scales can have an encouraging or negative impact – there were strong feelings are rating scales both positive and negative
  • From the group conversations there were five key findings on the day
  • Subsequent analysis of detailed results were grouped in to themes:
    • The concept of Mutuality: the clear articulation of performance, behavioural and role expectations and an understanding that performance management is joint accountability but required:
      • Clearly articulate and define expectations of employees
      • Set clear outcomes / expectations of what is important (agreed between the two parties)
      • Discuss what each level of performance look likes for the role
      • Both sides knowing what is considered high performance and how this would be measured as critical to the process
    • Reward and recognition was identified as important including the following key points:
      • Money was not reported as a major factor but greater use of intrinsic motivators, for example exposure to key people and projects
      • Consider a range of options for R&R – ask/understand what people value
      • How do you identify incentives for high performers
      • Acknowledge positive performers
      • Mechanisms should be made available to reward great performance
    • Workplace culture was a reoccurring theme:
      • Creating a culture of professionalism, and one that encourages trust between manager and employee, regular and timely feedback, ongoing reflection and self development 
      • Consequences for not acting on performance feedback, for both managers and employees
  • The use of scales was a topic of robust discussion although debate differed on construct, there was strong agreement that we can do this better than we do in many areas – key points:.
    • keeping record of year’s achievements
    • must be evidence based
    • holistic assessment – results and behaviours are equally important
    • no moderation in assessments
    • knowing and understanding how indicators will be measured

4.4.6 Leadership development strategies that work—APS agency case studies

  • Dr Jane Gunn

    Group Manager, Centre for Leadership and Learning

    Australian Public Service Commission
  • Rosemary Holloway

    Regional Director

    Australian Customs and Border Protection Services
  • Marissa Purvis-Smith

    General Manager, People and Organisational Strategy

    The Treasury

The presentation outlined leadership and talent development work being undertaken in the APS. The discussions highlighted leadership strategies that work, and demonstrated that a strong focus on meeting the current and emerging needs of the business is key to success. In addition to information about the activities of the APSC’s Centre for Leadership and Learning, two case studies were presented to highlight innovative work being done at an agency level.

Key points

Jane Gunn

  • Three questions were addressed :
    • What are the business drivers of leadership development?
    • What do these business drivers suggest for how we develop leaders?What are we doing and how is it working to address the business needs?
  • Under its Memorandum of Understanding with APS Agencies, the Centre for Leadership and Learning has responsibility for developing an annual Leadership Development Strategy.
  • In the process of developing the strategy over the last two years, the APSC has consulted extensively with senior people across the APS to understand what they see as the challenges of leadership in the Service, and has undertaken research into contemporary leadership development theory and practice.
  • The APS is in a period of substantial reform and change.
  • Forces impacting the APS include a particularly fast paced environment, for example data from the SOSR has indicated that 69% of SES and EL2 staff report an increase in pace and complexity of work over the last five years.
  • Both here and in other contexts and jurisdictions, there is a clear increase in complexity of issues being dealt with by the public service. One way that is useful to characterise the nature of the issues we deal with is the concept of ‘adaptive’ vs ‘technical’ issues. Technical problems can be complex, fast paced and critical, but there is a known solution. Adaptive problems are those (such as climate change, culture change), where even defining the problem requires learning and discovery and experimentation.
  • We need to adapt our leadership methods to changes in the environment in which we work.
  • APS leaders need to continue to role model the values and manage efficiently, and in addition, they need to bring other, new skills to the table.
  • These include capabilities in collaborating, using our technical knowledge base as a foundation to be built upon as we understand and explore issues and arrive at innovative solutions.
  • This has led to the knowing | doing | being framework; looking at leadership development through three lenses; building knowledge (knowing), building skills (doing) and building your own self awareness, ability to collaborate and learn and change (being).
  • Key examples of areas that the new context creates a change in emphasis include; strategic thinking – ability to think about the future and understand and prepare for the challenges & opportunities coming, people management – always an area that can be improved and change management and leadership. Perhaps most fundamental to our success as leaders is the capabilities associated with ‘being’ a leader; building self awareness to understand how our actions impact on others, being able to truly listen during stakeholder consultation and learning how to learn.
  • The APSC is working in consultation with agencies to address this emerging leadership development need.
  • Examples of new programs being developed include ; a new SES orientation program, new talent development programs and a refresh all SES leadership development programs.

Rosemary Holloway, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs)

  • Rosemary introduced the leadership model build specifically for Customs – Listen, Respect and Lead; building a better workplace through better engagement.
  • Customs is changing from an operational focus to a more intelligence lead and risk based organisation.
  • It was identified that managers were not confident or capable to have difficult conversations or provide feedback, and it was evident that staff were very busy and neglecting making time for conversations to occur.
  • Customs was challenged with how to address disengaged staff and communication.
  • The program was based on workshop format to encourage employees to listen, including a range of tools to work on their skills and self awareness: recognising the roles we unconsciously adopt.
  • The one day workshops are co-facilitated by an external presenter and a member of the SES and identify how we expect our employees to behave.
  • Participants are asked to complete a survey before and after the training: they are also expected to ask their colleagues to call them on their behaviour to ensure they are modelling the behaviour learnt in the training.

Marisa Purvis-Smith, The Treasury :

  • Marisa provided the forum an overview of the Women in Treasury Review and the recommendations that are being implemented, in particular unrecognised -bias training.
  • Treasury place a high priority on having a diverse workforce. Given that half of the APS are women, the department was concerned about the low proportion of women in leadership roles.
  • The Women in Treasury review found that there was no single problem but more of subtle diverse cultural issues.
  • It was found that barriers for women advancing their careers came from unrecognised bias. Unconscious behaviours and thoughts around the following areas were identified; homogenous leadership group, family commitments and part-time work. These problems are not gender specific but they affect women disproportionally to men.
  • Recognising there is no silver bullet solution, Treasury have implemented a suite of recommendations, one of which is unrecognised bias training for all SES and EL2s
  • The pilot unrecognised bias program was designed for individuals to recognise their internal assumptions and biases. The training requires participants to be courageous to openly examine their internal belief systems. It aims to change attitudes and behaviours to improve organisational culture.
Questions to the panel
Q. What were some of the practical changes that Treasury have implemented to influence cultural change?

A. One of the practical changes Treasury is doing is supporting part-time employees more and focusing on job design to ensure that the job requirements match the hours worked.

Q. What are the integrity measures that Customs have put in place?

A. The Minister has made an announcement to strengthen the integrity of the department, the measures put in place are:

  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Mandatory reporting of serious misconducts
  • CEO power to terminate employees after serious breach of code of conduct with no option for review.

Customs is aiming to strengthen the integrity of the organisation and mitigate the risk of eliminating employees with bad intentions.

Q. How is the APSC trying to avoid inefficiencies with agencies working on their own leadership development programs?

A. Jane informed the forum that the Secretaries Board has supported the central management of procurement for SES development. At the lower APS levels, it is the intention to design and develop leadership/talent programs and share them with agencies.

Q. All three presenters were asked how their agencies are evaluating their programs.

Marissa informed the group that Treasury is still grappling with evaluation; however measuring success is a critical aspect of the approach. They are expecting to undertake another cultural review in two and half years, hopefully the findings will be different and there will be a visible cultural change. The Secretary has set a target for the proportion of women in the SES, this target will be monitored.

Rosemary reported that Customs have built in before and after questionnaires to track changes in attitude and behaviour. They have also incorporated questions into their organisational census and identified questions in the SOSR to compare data from last year.

Jane explained that the APSC have put in place a benefits realisation plan, reporting at 2 years and 5 years. A baseline was taken and changes will be tracked over time using SOSR data. Comprehensive evaluation strategy is in place for each program being developed, with specific requirements set, before, during and post evaluation data collected from participants and their managers.

4.4.7 Opportunity knocks—improve recruitment outcomes with good design and technology

  • Ms Jo Talbot

    National Manager, Workforce Planning and Diversity

    Department of Human Services

To provide a presentation that showed how social media has been used in a contemporary recruitment campaign and how much this was valued by graduates (also view PowerPoint slides):

Key points
  • The first big hurdle for any recruitment process is always finding and keeping the right people
  • Social Media played a key part on the attraction and candidate management processes for the Graduate recruitment program for DHS
  • 3000 applicants were sourced for 100 positions and all positions are expected to be filled across six professional disciplines and a generalist pathway for DHS
  • The intake process for graduates are over two intakes for the year and the first intake was marketed early in 2012 for the August intake
  • The recruitment campaign was developed by Zoo Advertising and featured a mix of online and offline media coordinated by the department. This included tools such as webcasts, videos, online forums, YouTube, Twitter and the use of Facebook.
  • The department’s staged marketing campaign released DVD’s, talent videos, updates, strategically across the eight week application period.
  • The department’s Facebook page displayed updates on the recruitment process, current graduate photos, promotional material, podcasts by current graduates, information on relocating to Canberra etc.
  • The sourcing process whereby 3000 applicants were assessed and progressed to to interviews for 100 positions was conducted by Chandler Macleod. The majority of this was done online.
  • The key to the success of the program was due to managing expectations of applicants and using social media to keep them engaged and informed of the progress of their applications etc
  • The success of the campaign was measured by the increased number of quality applications, with final merit matrix with excess suitable applicants than required by the department.

Diversity numbers increased from 5% of those offered roles identifying as having a disability and 5% Indigenous.

4.4.8 Indigenous Attraction and Recruitment in the APS

  • Mr Ross Dickson

    Branch Manager, Workforce Supply

    Australian Taxation Office
  • Mr Jason Orchard

    Director, Ramp Up Project

    Australian Taxation Office

Showcase work done in the ATO to successfully lift the intake of Indigenous staff.

Key points
  • In the last financial year ATO hired 41 new indigenous staff, increasing numbers from 148 to 189, a 28% increase for the year
  • These roles are all APS 1-3 operational roles and 30% have tertiary qualifications
  • There were 150 applications for 38 positions across 3 pilot locations (Brisbane, Perth and Geelong)
  • Keys to the success of the Ramp Up project – designed to increase intake of indigenous staff to the ATO were:
    • Use of special measures to advertise opportunities
    • The development of a specific brand and theme to accompany the project
    • Information sessions in the locations two weeks prior to the application closing dates
    • Email groups marketing the opportunities to employment service providers
    • Use of Radio, Twitter and Facebook to communicate the opportunities and ATO as an employer of choice
    • Demonstrations on how to use the ATO e-recruitment system (via a separate process to the general e-recruitment process)
    • The establishment and use of an Indigenous Consultative Body to inform the development and deployment of the campaign

4.4.9 Power up your critical thinking and creative skills

  • Ms Jacqui Curtis

    General Manager, People Capability Division

    Department of Human Services
  • Ms Jo Cantle

    A/g Assistant Secretary, People, Capability and Performance

    Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

This session offered the opportunity to briefly learn about and use a number of tools and frameworks to aid critical thinking

Key points
  • It’s important to build our analytical skills and critical thinking
  • HR has a role to play in creating a more innovative culture
  • Other people’s perceptions can colour thinking of the people around them
  • Sometimes people don’t voicing opinions: frameworks and tools can assist to engage a broader group
  • A number of tools were discussed to assist with critical thinking in the workplace, including: Six thinking hats, appreciative enquiry, cognitive mapping and rich pictures
  • Critical thinking tools are useful in engaging the senses and releasing energy into conversations, and encouraging people to think differently.

4.4.10 APS bargaining—lessons learnt and future directions

  • Ms Helen Bull

    Group Manager, Workplace Relations

    Australian Public Service Commission

Through this session an update was provided on the last bargaining round and participants were asked to answer several questions about the next round of bargaining.

Key points
  • A number of improvements have been identified from the previous round of bargaining including: identifying policy goals, the need for improved technical capacity, and clearer roles and responsibilities of the APSC
  • The presenter posed four questions for the audience to respond to (responses to questions were collected as part of the commencement of focus groups and consultation to improve the next round of bargaining)
    • What principles/goals should drive bargaining in 2014?
    • What would an APS wide productivity agenda for bargaining look like?
    • How could bargaining support a One-APS agenda?
    • How should we manage APS wages?
Results of participant workshops

The many thoughts and ideas generated will supplement further consultation with a range of stakeholders regarding preparing for the next bargaining round. At a high level:

  • participants provided a range of suggestions about the future of agreement making in the APS with a focus on the 2014 bargaining round
  • ideas generated ranged from suggestions about the principles that should underpin bargaining to considerations for how best to manage remuneration across the APS
  • ideas about how to ensure that bargaining contributes to APS productivity were explored
  • there was good and useful discussion about the relevance of bargaining to the idea of One APS
  • feedback from discussions will be considered as part of the bargaining policy formulation process

4.4.11 How a guaranteed interview scheme can change our employment thinking

  • Mr Graeme Innes AM

    Disability Discrimination Commissioner

    Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Dr Rhonda Galbally AO

    Chair of the National People with Disability and Carers Advisory Council
  • Ms Carmel McGregor

    Deputy Secretary, Defence People

    Department of Defence
Purpose :
  • The aim of the scheme is to increase capabilities of people with a disability by increasing experience and skills, and confidence. It will also increase awareness and educate HR by increased involvement with people living with a disability
Key Points
  • The aim of the scheme is to increase capabilities of people with a disability by increasing experience and skills, and confidence. It will also increase awareness and educate HR by increased involvement with people living with a disability
  • Speakers provided a number of examples where people were unable to gain employment in the APS due to a disability and provided some advice:
    • Don’t make assumptions about peoples abilities
    • Don’t exclude people by the selection criteria that are used. For example, if a driver’s licence is not critical to the job, then don’t list it in the selection criteria as it excludes people unnecessarily. List only the inherent requirements of the role.
    • Collect ideas that have worked in other places and increase the cross-learning
    • Maintain a supply of candidates register which could be put forward for positions
  • The benefits of implementing the GIS include assisting to bring issues forward and increase the pressure on HR managers to lift standards in the workplace
  • The panel advised that workplaces needed to be conducive to employing persons with disabilities to achieve the outcome, and employers need to get past a person’s disability, again warning against making assumptions
  • For people to feel comfortable disclosing a disability, the environment needs to change to one that allows people to be honest about their reality
  • Myths:
    • People with a disability will require more leave
    • won’t stay as long – the fact is they are likely to stay longer and are more loyal
    • it is more expensive to employ someone with a disability – average adjustments cost around $500
  • It is important to implement the scheme and be seen to do so because the APS should be setting the benchmark and being the leader for states and for the private sector. The APS is currently falling behind
  • About 15% of the Australian population have a disability and only 3% of the APS disclose a disability
  • Risks to implementing the GIS include:
    • It requires awareness raising
    • The issue of disclosure also needs to be addressed, people need to feel comfortable in doing so
    • During downsizing, the APS needs to maintain a diverse workforce
    • Requires management including sharing better practice
  • To improve the number of people with a disability in the APS involves perseverance.
  • Convincing risk averse colleagues – set up cross-sectional groups, chaired by the most senior staff, involving all levels of the agency for strategy design. Target senior people and encourage them to be early adaptors. Get a more senior person to sit on a panel interview.
  • Speakers were asked how the APS would know that it had been successful in 12 months.
    • Numbers would increase
    • You would see more people in the workplace with a disability
    • People’s perceptions have changed
    • People in leadership with disabilities
    • The APS is being praised
    • We wouldn’t need to have the conversation about it

4.4.12 Leading from the front—values in action

  • Ms Karin Fisher

    Group Manager, Ethics

    Australian Public Service Commission

To provide and outline of the importance of APS Values, the progress of legislative reform and steps that are being taken to prepare for the new Values when they are passed by the Senate

Key points
  • From inception the Australian Public Service has been required to work ethically, innovatively and efficiently
  • Values-based leadership and management makes good business sense
  • Values-based leadership and management is grounded in mutual trust and respect
  • Employees will engage in discretionary behaviours to benefit the organisation if they trust managers to treat them fairly and they perceive that the organisation operates fairly
  • For Values-based leadership to work, actions must match words:
    • Revised values – ICARE – going through parliament
    • Employees must know what is expected and the consequences for not behaving in accord with expectations
    • They must have the knowledge enables them to exercise sound judgment, make better decisions and coach staff
    • Employees should consider how the APS/professional values fit with their personal values
  • Guidance is available to assist agencies to integrate the new values into their everyday work - leaders must integrate the values into governance practices and deal with behaviours that are inconsistent with them
  • APSC has developed a checklist or type of internal audit that, once finalised, will assist agencies to identify how to integrate Values into strategic and operational plans. APSC intends to use the checklist as a monitoring tool for continuous improvement.
Feedback from participants
  • From inception the Australian Public Service has been required to work ethically, innovatively and efficiently

4.4.13 When incremental change is not enough—HR and transformational change

  • Mr Carl Murphy (Chair)

    First Assistant Secretary, Corporate Services Division

    Department of Finance and Deregulation
  • Ms Kate McRae

    Assistant Secretary, People and Service Delivery

    Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
  • Mr Gerry Linehan

    Assistant Director General, National Library of Australia
  • Mr Neal Mason

    Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission

To provide a range of practical examples from a large, medium and small agency concerning business problems where incremental solutions would not work and transformational change was necessary. The focus was on the role of HR within the change processes. The agencies did not purport to present HR ‘best practice’ rather they illustrated HR ‘in practice. ’

Key points

Chair: Carl Murphy (FAS, Corporate Services, Dept. of Finance and Deregulation)

Speaker: Kate McRae (Assistant Secretary, People & Service Delivery, DAFF)

  • Drivers for change – increasing volume of trade and passenger movement, resource pressure, outdated information technology, outdated and complex legislation, the need to do more preventative work offshore and the changing priorities of Government
  • HR issue – role of inspectors became redundant - staff had to be re-deployed and/or retrained without loss of respect for the contribution of this group of employees
  • Approach to resolving – intelligence-led, evidence-based, risk/return approach that fitted with the mindset of employees with scientific backgrounds also:
    • considered the data, economics and best practice
    • modernised legislation, technology and business practices.
  • Actions:
    • Ensured the leaders went out and talked to people all around the country
    • Set up a Change Management Committee that looks at all projects across DAFF and considers not the risks or costs but the impact - HR has a seat on this Committee, which asks the question “Is DAFF trying to do too much at this point in time?”
    • The Committee has an embedded assessment process that looks at the implications for:
      • Government - Political impact (i.e. if project did not proceed or failed)
      • DAFF’s reputation
      • DAFF’s People
      • Stakeholders
      • ICT
      • Property, plant and equipment
      • Resources
      • Clients
      • Policy and Regulatory framework
    • Empowered the Committee to say no to some things or to stagger the timing of projects.

Speaker: Neal Masson (Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission)

  • Drivers for change – decreasing levels of enrolment on the electoral role, increasing rates of informal votes, raised population and community expectations
  • HR issue – low employee engagement, ongoing staff of about 800 increasing to 70,000 for a few weeks around an election, workforce re-skilling to deal with on-line environment and manage clients’ negative reactions to changes in the way business is done
  • Approach to resolving – modernisation, collaboration and investing in AEC People –streamlined recruitment, and introduced performance management and learning and development to enable people to do the job differently
  • Outcome – evaluation suggested that the initiatives did not impact on employee engagement, so AEC piloting APSC Human Capital Planning Process focusing on culture change through job redesign and leadership processes

Speaker: Gerry Lineham (Assistant Director General, National Library of Australia)

  • Drivers for change – increasing collection (information explosion), restricted resources (no government funding for growth in the collection), labour intensive industry, ageing assets and need to maintain relevance in an electronic world
  • HR Issue – need to increase knowledge and capability of the workforce
  • Approach to resolving – long term planning (rethinking the service model), bring the sector along, gain buy-in from other sectors, increase community engagement, reduce service points (through the introduction of Trove)
  • Actions:
    • Encouraged awareness of the need to change
    • Integrated strategic documents
    • Involved HR in other business e.g. asset planning and ICT Committee
    • Provided opportunities for senior staff to observe Council meetings
    • Fellowships funded from donors for staff to travel abroad to expose them to latest thinking
    • Regular leadership talks given to staff from prominent Australian leaders
    • Fortnightly IT seminars for staff
    • Setting budgets in December to enable long term planning
    • Positioning projects to be ready to roll out if funding became available e.g. a strategic workforce initiative.

4.4.14 Implications for the APS HR professional—strategic conversation

  • Mr Ian Fitzgerald

    Chief Human Capital Officer

    Australian Public Service Commission

To identify, from participants’ perspectives what strengths and weaknesses they see in the APS HRs community and some specific ideas about actions to increase our collective capability.

HR’s perceived strengths in the APS
Perceived strengths % of 105 responses Some common themes
Attributes 35%
  • Committed, motivated, resilient and flexible
  • Pragmatic about change, solution-focused and able to adapt
  • Genuine desire to do things better
  • Passionate about people
  • Professional, collaborative and collegiate
Networks/collaborative spirit 28%
  • Use of GovDex to share ideas, tools and processes
  • Well networked within the APS and broader professional associations
  • Able to bring ourselves together when we need to (this event)
Knowledge and skills 27%
  • Know legislation well
  • Able to achieve a lot with little funding
  • Good at communicating and engaging people around change
  • Good understanding of the challenges
  • Able to apply tools and processes
Reputation as business enabler 10%
  • In many agencies, HR now has a seat at the executive table, are seen as strategy enablers and effective business partners
  • Starting to be seen as a genuine profession
HR’s perceived weaknesses in the APS
Perceived weaknesses % of 92 responses Some common themes
Not recognised as true business partner 21%
  • Disconnect between senior leadership and HR
  • Lack of engagement with front line managers
  • HR technical expertise is not valued
  • Of limited influence
  • Not a partner, just someone to clear up the mess
  • Need to understand the business better
  • Often seen as theorists rather than addressing business needs
Insufficient APS-wide collaboration 21%
  • Too much duplication of effort
  • Inconsistent systems and practices across the APS
  • We don’t collaborate enough eg to share experience with smaller agencies in L&D
  • Not acting as One-APS
  • Agencies work in isolation: need more networking
  • Too much duplication of effort across agencies
Not effectively communicating HR value-add to the business 20%
  • There’s an assumption that anyone can do HR
  • Too desk bound
  • Not marketing ourselves well enough
  • Limited by myths eg its too hard to sack someone
  • Credibility gap
  • Not demonstrating our ROI
  • Can be too “pastoral” and not strategic enough
Declining or lacking technical skills 14%
  • Losing focus on BAU: loss of POP
  • Scarcity of critical technical skills: SAP payroll
  • Lack of critical thinking
  • Inconsistent qualifications and work level standards in HR
  • Need more diversity
Seen as too rule-bound, risk-averse and rigid by the business 10%
  • Seen a blocker rather than enabler
  • Considered the “rules police”
  • Tend to revert to compliance
  • Viewed as ‘red tape”
Lacking confidence as a profession 4%
  • Need to be better at pushing back
  • HR can be seen as Jack of all trades, master of none
  • Lack confidence to ask the right questions
APSC not responding to agency needs 3%
  • APSC has own agenda, not connecting with agency needs
  • APSC supports ON APS, but is sometimes unaffordable and there are issues with quality
  • Need more visibility of the Commission’s work
Poor career paths in the APS 3%
  • Tight labour markets for HR talent
  • Lack of professional development
  • Poor mobility
Low strategic contribution 3%
  • We do lots of “stuff”
Ideas for improving capability
Action area % of 89 responses Some common themes
Collaborate to avoid duplication and share best practice 38%
  • Expand mobility register to support medical and compensation redeployment
  • Send newsletter on HR innovation to network
  • Information sharing on WHS
  • Provide more opportunities to collaborate
  • More virtual networks: share centres of excellence and communities of practice
  • Develop Facebook page for HR practitioners
  • Public more case studies
  • Share merit pools of available staff
  • Networking workshops at the Boathouse should be longer
Build HR capability together 25%
  • Establish APS HR College
  • Reinstitute POP training
  • More mobility of HR staff across agencies
  • Need central development of HR people and a clear and deliberate career pathway including more secondments
  • Relaunched HR Capability Development Program
  • More informal HR networking events
  • Cross agency project teams to work on APS-wide issues
  • Establish exchange programs with the private sector
Develop APS-wide guidance and standards 17%
  • APSC should develop policy templates for terms and conditions
  • APSC to take lead bargaining agent role
  • Single performance management system across the APS
  • Consistent recruitment system and practices
  • Need standards not principles
  • One set of job level standards
Reposition/build the HR brand 16%
  • Allow HR to focus on business solutions not just compliance
  • APSC should promote role of strategic HR to agency heads
  • Need to train SES to understand potential of HR to add value
  • Need to ensure HR speaks language of the business
  • We need to promote ourselves as strategic partner
  • Need to change notion that head of corporate cannot be an HR person
Shared HR services 5%
  • There should be shared services for small agencies (payroll and recruitment)
  • Create one APS recruitment system
  • Utilise APS mobility/job placement more effectively
  • Build on the strength of panels for hiring at APS-wide level

4.4.15 APS Reform—what’s critical for HR in the APS?

  • Mr Stephen Sedgwick AO

    Australian Public Service Commissioner
Key points
  • Short history of the public service beginning with reference to the Public Service Board
  • Debate during the later part of the 20th century about the responsibility of the public service to the government of the day and whether the public service could be accountable for results in the absence of control over employment, pay etc. that culminated in the abolition of the public Service Board
  • Noted that the Public Service Board did not have the powerful influence on reform that finance has historically had, and it is unusual for HR to be represented at the top table
  • This Forum is beneficial because it can help to raise the standard and consistency of HR practice across the public service, particularly important as people are a key enabler. The APS is the steward of the institution for the future. It is the public service’s responsibility to:
    • Build the capability of our organisations to deal with emerging issues
    • Systematically and proactively build resilient organisations
    • Actively partner with the government of the day in regard to discharging its agenda
    • Scan the horizon to identify emerging issues
    • Manage succession – multigenerational (four generations) workforce challenges
    • Create flexibility to deal with the lifestyle needs and expectations of these generations – eg Bunnings provides a real example of flexibility in its employment policies
  • The Blueprint focuses on organisations’ systems, structures, culture, processes and governance, not just the individual - it addresses the need to combine and recombine skills
  • The APSC response to this is Capability Reviews that help people look at the capability of the organisation, not just the performance of individuals
  • The APSC is reinventing the APS-wide leadership development model to promote flexibility, adaptability, multidisciplinary approaches, confidence, situational and self awareness and the willingness, courage and ability to acknowledge lack of skill and source it elsewhere
  • The leadership development model is based on adult learning principles of 70% experiential, 20% relationship based (coaching and mentoring) and 10% coursework. Supervisors are part of the experiential on-the-job learning process
  • APS is required to nurture and tend its values and ethical framework and if it doesn’t, the system will fail. The Wheat Board was cited as an example of this lack of ethical leadership and focus on results at the expense of integrity
  • The Commissioner validated the notion that ‘austerity is the new public service norm’ with revenue to government expected to be sluggish for the foreseeable future. The APS needs to demonstrate to today’s government and the alternative government that it is flexible, responsive and efficient
  • The APS also needs to demonstrate to government and to citizens of Australia that it can be trusted, is apolitical and fair in its dealing with people. Pay dispersion in the APS will need to be addressed to rectify the lack of parity (fairness) for staff
  • Finally, the Commissioner commented on Australia’s placement in the Asia-Pacific, and the need to be sensitive to our neighbours’ culture. Specifically, he noted the burgeoning populations of India and China and the need to share ‘thought leadership’ with these increasingly influential groups and be open to new ideas.

5. Summit evaluation

  • 160 attendees from 58 agencies (and one from the ACT Public Service) and a good mix of small, medium and large
  • Online evaluation survey completed by over 50% of attendees (85 responses) with the following results
    • 98% agreed the content was relevant to their day to day work
    • 87% said presentations were of a high quality
    • 81% said presentation were engaging
    • 89% said presentations were appropriate to the audience
    • 80% rated the summit as  either very good or excellent
    • Over 95% would come to a similar event if it was put on
  • We have also had offers from other agencies to help put the next one on and spirit of collaboration we are keen to encourage.
  • It shows what can be achieved when people show initiative in terms of delivering a highly valued capability building event at a very low cost

6. What’s next

This year’s organising committee will meet in November to generate ideas for next year’s event based on participants’ feedback. At this meeting we will also generate some ideas for how to spend the money left over on professional development activities for agencies that attended the event, but one idea is to put on one or more master classes for practitioners covering some of the key themes: productivity & performance management; building the capability to re-prioritise resources; and/or restructuring organisations.

We will also consider some options for developing an APS-wide response to some of the critical issues summit participants have raised.

The APSC will then call for expressions of interest in helping to organise next year’s summit, starting in February.

Should you have any additional comments or thoughts to please email these to:

ian.fitzgerald [at] apsc.gov.au

Appendix A – Summit evaluation

Key statistics

Quality of presentations

Venue and location

Overall summit rating

Would you come again?

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018