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Broadbanding

The Australia Public Service (APS) classification system provides agencies with flexibility to adapt the classification structure to meet work requirements. This includes the option to group together narrowly defined work into a broader group of duties.

Broadbanding is an arrangement where two or more APS classifications are combined into a single broader group of duties (a band) to meet the needs of the particular agency.

Objectives of broadbanding

Broadbanding may assist an agency to:

  • provide more flexibility in packaging duties into a job
  • remove artificial barriers between duties at different levels
  • implement and encourage a team-based approach to work
  • provide more development and career opportunities for employees
  • provide more flexibility in the deployment, mobility and use of employees
  • achieve its business imperatives and objectives
  • reinforce or introduce cultural change.

Broadbanding and the APS classification system

The option to broadband is available under rule 9(4) of the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 (the Classification Rules) which states that if a group of duties involves work requirements applying to more than one classification, the agency head may allocate more than one classification (a broadband) to the group of duties.

In practice, this means that where there are elements of work at two or more classifications that are very similar in nature, but vary in complexity, then an agency head may choose to broadband those classifications.

Agencies must ensure clear guidelines and processes are put in place to maintain integrity of any broadbanding arrangement. At a minimum, the procedures should ensure an employee is only advanced where:

  • sufficient work is available at the higher classification, and
  • they have gained the necessary skills and proficiency to perform the more complex work.

An agency with new or revised broadbanding proposals are required under the bargaining framework for APS enterprise agreements to consult with the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) to ensure that the proposals:

  • meet the APS Values and Employment Principles - relating to merit, community access to employment opportunities and leadership
  • meet the APS legislative requirements - such as the Classification Rules
  • are consistent with the bargaining framework for APS enterprise agreements. This includes that salary advancement for individuals within classifications and broadbands is subject to at least satisfactory performance.

It should be noted that a broadband is allocated to the group of duties and not to the individual employee. Within the group of duties, agencies must ensure that there are discrete jobs at each classification level within the broadband, and that these jobs are aligned to the work value requirement of the relevant work level standards.

Rule 6(1) of the Classification Rules requires each employee in an agency to be allocated an approved classification. his means all employees performing duties in a broadband must still be allocated a single classification within that broadband. Agencies should ensure that as each employee advances through a broadband, the employee's APS classification is adjusted to reflect the work value of the duties being performed.

Additionally, the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016 (the Directions) state that the advancement within a broadband is not considered a promotion.

A local title can be given to a broadband in addition to the approved APS classifications being broadbanded. Agencies are required to ensure that broadbands in their enterprise agreement clearly identify the approved APS classifications contained in the broadband.

SES classifications are excluded from broadbanding arrangements.

Advantages and disadvantages of broadbanding

Before making a decision to introduce a broadband, an agency needs to establish what the broadband intends to achieve and take into account the advantages and the disadvantages of a broadbanding arrangement. Broadbanded roles are not necessarily suited to all agencies, or to all job types. This means that agencies need to be clear about the benefits a broadbanded arrangement would provide for the work to be undertaken, and for the employees who are to perform the role.

The potential benefits of broadbanding include:

  • aligning functional operations with the classification structure
  • creating opportunities for skill development
  • increasing flexibility in matching people to jobs
  • increasing efficiency by removing barriers to the flexible movement of employees
  • reduce costs associated with promotion processes
  • supporting multi-skilling of employees across a wide range of activities
  • producing a less hierarchical and more team-oriented workforce
  • improving retention.

Disadvantages of broadbanding include:

  • reducing the number of occasions in which employees are competitively assessed
  • potentially blurring work value distinctions between roles in the same band
  • increasing ongoing salary costs where employees advance to higher classifications within the broadband, if the broadband is not managed appropriately
  • ongoing costs to educate and train employees and supervisors about the objectives of the broadband to ensure it is managed appropriately and evaluated periodically

Different broadbands for different needs

The aim of the APS classification structure is to provide agencies with flexibility to use the classification arrangements in a way that most suit their needs. There can be no single approach to broadbanding that will suit all agencies, and there is no expectation that an agency should necessarily broadband. Broadbands successfully used in agencies are usually structured around job families or specialisations, or can be agency-wide.

Job family or specialised broadbands

This type of broadband stems from the identification of a particular type of work that spans a number of classification levels. This more traditional broadbanding approach focuses on particular groups of roles within a job family or roles of a specialised nature. This approach means a variety of broadbands could operate within an agency.

Specialised broadbands have the potential to encompass the complete range of work value within the broadband. This means an employee can develop their skills to eventually undertake work at the higher level, subject to meeting certain tests regarding performance, competency and work availability.

Agency-wide broadbands

An agency broadband encompasses all roles at the specified classifications across the whole agency. This broadband method may suit an agency that has similar work across the agency, such as a 'policy' agency. However, is not always appropriate for an agency that undertakes very different types of work, such as a mix of administration, trade and specialist roles, where more specialised broadbands would be more appropriate. An agency-wide broadband is usually better suited to smaller sized agencies.

Establishing and managing broadband arrangements

There is no single ideal or 'correct' model for broadbanding that can be applied to all agencies. It is important to consider the similarity of functions, the increasing complexity of duties, and where advancement barriers should be placed. Advancement provisions should be clearly identified so that employees understand and have certainty regarding the eligibility conditions for advancement. This can be done in the agency's enterprise agreement or other human resources policies.

If an agency is considering introducing a new broadband during the life of their enterprise agreement, or reviewing a current one, a facilitative clause to this effect should be included in the enterprise agreement so an appropriate salary range can be applied to the broadband when needed. This enables any new or revised arrangement to take effect ahead of being included in the agency's next available enterprise agreement.

Before introducing a broadband, consideration needs to be given to what the broadbanded duties are intended to accomplish. This can be done through an analysis of the roles, including how they will be defined and grouped together, and any consequences of being banded together.

In addition, agencies need to identify:

  • how initial and ongoing costs will be controlled and managed
  • a strategy for managing employee expectations about advancement
  • how to determine whether (or when) work at the higher work value is available
  • a way to manage classification advancement that is based on evidence of organisational need for the higher level work and employee competency and skill level to undertake the duties
  • whether supervisors have the necessary skills to manage the broadband in determining the availability of higher level work and assessment of employee skills to undertake the work
  • ways in which employees can be rewarded, valued and motivated
  • a strategy to evaluate the effectiveness of the broadband.

In establishing a broadband, agencies must take into account the APS Employment Principles relating to merit and community access to employment opportunities. Broadbanding should be approached in a strategic way to address agency needs, and not simply as a way to bypass a promotion process. To meet the intent of the APS Employment Principles, it would be best for broadbands to be structured so there are at least two breaks between APS Levels 1-6 that require an open, competitive selection process. For example:

  • APS 1-3, APS 4-5, APS 6 or
  • APS 1-4, APS 5, APS 6 or
  • APS 1-2, APS 3-4, APS 5-6.

In most cases, broadbanding is not appropriate for the Executive Level (EL) classifications. In general there are limited jobs at the EL 1 and EL 2 classifications that are sufficiently homogenous, or have sufficient commonality of functions, to justify broadbanding. The spread of responsibility (such as the management challenge, accountability requirements, the scope of influence or judgement required) across these classification levels, and the importance of the EL 2 classification as a feeder group to the SES, are strong arguments to keep them separate.

Advancement within a broadband

Broadbanding removes the need for open, competitive selection processes between each of the APS classification levels included in the broadband. Where already in a broadband, an employee is assigned a higher classification based on the operating arrangements for the broadband rather than through promotion.

It is considered best practice for advancement to meet these minimum requirements:

  • work at the higher classification level being available; and
  • employees demonstrating on an individual basis their role-related capabilities to undertake the higher level work.

The Directions require decisions regarding advancement to be made on the basis of an assessment of the employee's work-related qualities and the work-related qualities required for efficient and effective organisational performance. Therefore, as part of the operating arrangements for the broadband it is important to build attainment points or other barriers that require some form of assessment to determine an employee's ability to progress to the higher work value.

Barriers, including some form of formal assessment, can be placed at any point between classifications within a broadband. As each broadband is designed to meet an agency's specific needs, operating requirements can vary. For clarity and certainty, these arrangements should be specified in the agency's enterprise agreement or other human resources policy.

Under the bargaining framework for APS enterprise agreements, it is a requirement that salary advancement for individuals within a broadband is subject to at least satisfactory performance. Therefore, an effective performance management system needs to guide progression through a broadband, manage expectations and deal with under-performance.

Other arrangements for advancement could include a requirement to undergo an internal merit selection process, or even an open merit selection process. Mechanisms to ensure fair and consistent treatment need to be developed.

Documentation

Appropriate documentation should be kept regarding a decision to advance an employee through a broadband to a higher classification level. This is good governance, and supports rigour, consistency and integrity in decision-making.

While keeping such records is important to the effective management of classification arrangements, the form the records take and their level of detail are matters for individual agencies to decide, having regard to its particular broadband arrangements and other factors.

Busting myths
It's often thought that… But in fact…
The allocation of a higher classification within a broadband is a promotion Promotion is based on providing all eligible members of the community having reasonable opportunity to apply to perform the relevant duties. Therefore the allocation of a higher classification to a person already within the same broadband is not a promotion.
Broadbanding is always beneficial to an agency Broadbanding can result in additional and ongoing costs where progression through a broadband is seen to be automatic and not linked to individual competency and performance and work availability tests. Further, where a broadband involves a reduced number of pay points it could result in rapid advancement of larger numbers of employees through the broadband than previously.
Broadbands are approved APS classifications Broadbands are local titles and, while they contain approved classifications, are not themselves approved APS classifications.
Broadbanding provides no benefits to an agency Broadbanding allows employees to grow in the job, identify career progression and develop skills outside the immediate role and take on work of a greater degree of complexity.

Better Practice Case Study - DHS

The Department of Human Services APS 3-4 Customer Service Role Broadband

The Department of Human Services (DHS) Enterprise Agreement 2011-14 contains an APS 3-4 broadband for employees in external customer service roles. Customer services roles are typically jobs that involve providing assisted and managed services directly to the public in the DHS call/processing centres, face-to-face customer service centres and in the community.

In order to advance, APS 3 employees first complete a Broadband Advancement Workbook which documents evidence of their technical capability and general behaviours that are expected at the APS 4 level. The workbook is modelled on the Integrated Leadership System (ILS) and clearly articulates the required behaviours expected at the higher level.

This completed workbook is then used by the employee's manager to confirm the employee's capability to perform at the APS 4 level. Relevant evidence may include (but is not limited to):

  • examples of the existing work and results;
  • written or verbal responses against the ILS criteria;
  • qualitative and quantitative data; and
  • observation and feedback from managers/supervisors and/or other relevant stakeholders such as technical specialists.

APS 3 employees are encouraged to work with their manager to identify the necessary experience, technical capability and behaviours they need to demonstrate to be able work effectively at the APS 4 level. This complements regular performance discussions and, coaching, as well as structured learning and development initiatives.

An employee assessed as not suitable for advancement may reapply in three months. An employee assessed as suitable for advancement may only advance if there is an ongoing job at the higher classification level.

Careful consideration is given to operational requirements i.e. managers must ascertain if there is an actual vacancy and/or the need for an additional job at the higher classification. Formal delegations are in place to ensure strong governance of these arrangements.

Where more APS 3 employees are eligible for advancement than there are identified vacancies, an internal merit-based selection process may be conducted to select those to be advanced to the APS 4 classification level.

Better Practice Case Study - FWO

The Office of Fair Work Ombudsman APS 3-5 agency-wide general broadband

The Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) established an agency-wide general broadband (APS 3-5), created in January 2010 as part of the FWO 2010-11 Enterprise Agreement, and continued under the 2011-14 Enterprise Agreement. The combination of these classification levels enables career progression for a large proportion of employees within the agency. Movement within the broadband saves the agency costs and time in comparison to an external recruitment process to fill a vacant position.

Advancement within the broadband relies on satisfying the relevant Branch Head (SES Band 1) of the following:

  • that there is ongoing work available at the higher level (either through a vacancy or through a change in requirements of the position),
  • that the individual has demonstrated work-related qualities at the higher level or has been successful in an open merit selection process, and
  • that the individual has achieved a rating of satisfactory or above in their most recent performance cycle.

The requirement to prove the availability of ongoing work ensures that any movement through the broadband reflects business requirements as well as individual capability. Without the requirement for an ongoing position at the higher level, the agency would be at risk of over-classifying positions.

It is likely that, at any given time, there are a number of APS 4 employees who can demonstrate competency at the APS 5 level but managers and employees with in the FWO are aware that the first requirement for a movement through the broadband is available ongoing work. This is made clear through a specific broadbanding intranet page, an agency-specific broadbanding guide and as part of the broadbanding request form. The broadbanding intranet page provides managers and employees with access to case studies that demonstrate the appropriate movement through the broadband, including a flowchart that outlines how movement through the broadband can occur starting with the 'identification of a vacant position'.

The availability of ongoing work relates to a vacancy as well as a change in role requirements. Their guidance material emphasises that the change must be linked to the role and its required outputs and not the capability of the person performing the role. The change in role requirements may be the result of one or more factors such as team restructures, branch restructures or a change in required agency outputs.

An internal broadbanding working group was established in 2012 to review the implementation of broadband arrangements across the agency. This review generated an educative channel to better inform both managers and employees about their obligations and entitlements in relation to movements through the broadband.

Within FWO's Human Resources Branch, the Recruitment Team provides advice and guidance in relation to broadbanding policies and procedures. By aligning ownership of the broadband process with the recruitment team there is a direct link between the team that manages agency vacancies and the broadbanding process.

The delegation for broadbanding decisions deliberately rests within the relevant work group. This enables the SES Band 1 to ensure that branch budgets are not negatively affected by movements through the broadband and that branch structure is maintained on the basis of work output requirements.

The benefits of the arrangements have been clear. The agency-wide general broadband enables efficient recruitment decisions in response to vacancies and changing role requirements. All employees are aware that the purpose of the broadband is to better reflect business requirements and to enable more effective career progression and filling of ongoing vacancies.