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Classification management in practice

Work value determines the classification of jobs across the Australian Public Service (APS). The work value for each classification level is described in work level standards.

What are work level standards?

Work level standards describe the distinctive features of work at each classification level. They are a statement of

  • the broad job requirements, key duties and responsibilities
  • the knowledge and skills required of the role
  • the operating context and characteristics that describe effective performance at each classification level.

Common applications

Work level standards are a tool to support sound decision-making relating to job design and classification. The standards also help employees to understand what is expected of them in their role. The primary uses for the work level standards include:

  • job classification – for example, 'We are introducing a new role. We are not sure what classification it should be'
  • job design or redesign – for example, 'There is a high level of turnover in this role because the scope of work is too broad/narrow. How can we make the job more engaging while keeping it at the APS 4 classification?'
  • evaluation of work value – for example, 'Employees in the role are expected to deal with complex enquiries on their own. Is that what an APS 3 should be doing?'
  • developing a job statement – for example, 'We need to advertise a new job. How should we describe the key requirement associated with the job?'
  • learning and development - for example, 'I want to be able to apply for an EL 1 role within the next year. In what areas do I need to gain more experience?'
  • performance management – for example, 'What is expected of roles at the APS 6 classification?'

Key concepts

The principal purpose of work level standards is to describe the essential characteristics of the work to be performed, at both a conceptual and a practical level.

1. Differentiating between the person and the job

Work level standards describe the level of work and not the skills of the individual employee who may perform the role. This is an important aspect of job classification as it focuses on what the job is expected to do and not on the attributes of the individual employee performing the role at any given time.

When using the work level standards to determine an appropriate classification level for a role, it is important to consider

  • the responsibilities and accountabilities required of the role, and
  • the knowledge and skills required for competent performance in the role.

The level at which the incumbent is currently performing should not influence the outcome of the classification evaluation. Additionally, the current incumbent may have qualifications, skills and capabilities that are not needed for the role.

2. Distinguishing between work value and work volume

Work volume does not influence work value. The appropriate classification of a job should be determined based on the complexity and responsibility of tasks involved, not the number of tasks or how busy the role is. Work volume may influence the number of employees needed to perform the duties.

3. Determining the appropriate classification

The appropriate work level is influenced by the duty or function/s of the highest work value that is most regularly performed. Many roles are a mix of duties with work values that are higher and/or lower than the classification level allocated.

A classification level can only be allocated following an analysis of the job. That means looking at the range of duties, their relationship to one another and their relative significance. Such decisions cannot be based on a single task (for example, supervision), but must be considered on balance in conjunction with the other duties performed in the whole job.

No single example of work will necessarily determine whether a role should be classified at a particular level. Equally, work level standards cannot be expected to describe all possible combinations and permutations of characteristics that may make up an individual role.

It is unlikely that any single role would include every activity, task, responsibility or skill identified in the work level standard for that classification. However, the actual duties to be performed should be consistent with the nature of the work described in that standard.

4. Assisting with performance management

Work level standards broadly describe the level of work expected at each classification and can be used to inform performance management processes as they identify the work value expectations for each classification level. The Integrated Leadership System (ILS) can also be used to help to understand the expected behaviours and capabilities of employees at each classification level.

5. Reclassifying roles

A role should only be reclassified where a substantial and sustained change in the nature of the work alters the level of complexity, responsibility or authority of the job. It should be noted that not all changes in the nature of the work justify an increase or decrease in classification level.

Generally, a change in workload will not influence work value, but may influence the number of employees needed to perform the duties.

APS work level standards for the APS Level and Executive Level classifications

From 1 December 2014, agencies are required under the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 to adopt the APS work level standards (APS Level and Executive Level classifications).

Agencies may retain content from their existing work level standards as supplementary guidance to assist with the job evaluation process for their workforce. However, any agency specific guidance must be consistent with the APS work level standards.

Structure of the APS work level standards

The APS work level standards highlight the key differences in work value between the APS Level 1-6 and EL 1-2 classification levels. These work level standards are also consistent with the Senior Executive Service (SES) work level standards, contributing to a transparent, comprehensive and cohesive classification framework.

The work level standards are intended to be a broad framework that classifies APS Level and Executive Level roles according to work value. They do not attempt to describe in detail all the possible components of roles at their different levels across the APS. Instead, they focus on the core components of the role.

The work level standards consist of two key elements: characteristics and functions.

  • Characteristics – these are general statements about the broad job requirements and operating context for each classification level.
  • Functions– job requirements are divided into five functional streams that describe typical duties for each classification level. A role may incorporate duties from more than one function.

Together, the characteristics and functions capture the broad requirements of the job.

Table 3.1: Work level standard characteristic descriptions
Characteristic Definition
Leadership and Accountability There are two aspects to leadership and accountability;
  • the depth and scope of knowledge and expertise essential to the role, and
  • the impact of the role on agency outcomes.
Job Context and Environment The complexity and diversity of the operating environment.
Independence and Decision-making The degree of guidance provided by operating frameworks and the scope for judgement and discretion to act, approve or make decisions.
Stakeholder Engagement The nature of interactions and degree of stakeholder management.
Management Diversity and Span Resource management of the role; size and complexity of management responsibilities.

It is useful to firstly consider if the role has a stronger fit with one of the five functions, and to then consider secondary functional areas if there is a diversity of duties. Many roles will incorporate duties from more than one function.

Table 3.2: Work level standard function descriptions
Function Definition
Service Delivery Outcome delivery, including the development of delivery responses.
Program and Project Management Resource management and inter-agency and cross-agency engagement.
Policy Development, interpretation of policy and the provision of policy advice.
Regulatory Compliance and enforcement functions within a governance framework.
Professional / Technical Provision of technical, professional, specialist or strategic advice, expertise or knowledge.

Describing work value from the perspective of both the characteristics and functions allows a more comprehensive understanding of APS roles and for the differences between classification levels to be more clearly identified. The distinctions in work value described in the work level standards are illustrated in the Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1: Work value distinctions

Shared responsibilities

The work level standards work in conjunction with the broader APS employment framework under the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act), including acting in accordance with

The APS work level standards for the APS Level and Executive Level classifications have been developed to provide a broad common base suitable for use across the APS. Agencies can choose to adopt these work level standards, or calibrate their own work level standards with the APS standard.

Alternatively, an agency can build on the APS work level standards by tailoring them to provide a more comprehensive picture of employment for that agency. This can be achieved by developing specialised sub-functions as illustrated in the figure below. The sub-functions would provide more detail about the typical duties or operating context for specialised roles in the agency.

Figure 3.2: Example of how to tailor APS work level standards for agency specialised roles

APS work level standards / APS work level standards adapted to meet agency needs

Job families

Job families gather functionally similar roles that have related skills, tasks and knowledge blocks into occupational groupings down to the level of job role. The APS Job Family Model can be used to complement the work level standards by providing an agency context for specialised roles. This will provide clarity to roles that may not fit neatly into the functional streams, or enhance the agency's work level standards by including unique and specialised roles. The job families component can add additional detail to the work level standards regarding agency expectations on issues such as mandatory qualifications for specialised roles. Understanding these groupings can help an agency to make role comparisons with the broader labour market to gain an understanding of potential skill shortages and any future planning that may be needed for these particular specialised roles.

Local titles

An agency can attribute local titles to roles to better describe the particular functional stream or occupation. A local title is to be underpinned by the work level standards for the relevant classification, as an approved classification must be allocated to all APS jobs. Local titles may also be an effective way of attracting a strong field of applicants from within the specific occupational stream.

APS Role evaluation tool and guidance

To support the introduction of the APS Work level standards, the Commission developed the APS Role Evaluation tool and supporting guidance to assist agencies to measure the work value of new and existing roles and determine the appropriate classification level.

Use of the tool is not compulsory. However agencies are strongly encouraged to incorporate a structured role evaluation process into their classification management processes.

APS work level standards for the SES classifications

Since 2012, agencies have been required under the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 to adopt the APS Senior Executive Service work level standards.

The Commission has developed the SES classification methodology to assist agencies to measure the work value of new and existing SES roles. The methodology consists of:

  • SES work level standards – an official statement that provides a general description of the work performed at each of the three approved SES classification levels, and
  • an evaluation tool – to assist agencies in measuring the work value of SES roles against the work level standards.

These are available at: http://www.apsc.gov.au/aps-employment-policy-and-advice/ses/ses-classifications

Agency work level standards

For classifications other than APS, Executive Level or SES levels, agency heads must issue work level standards, in writing, describing the work value of the group of duties to be performed in the agency at that classification.

Busting myths
It's often thought that… But in fact…
Jobs should be classified to match the skill and performance of the employee Classification decisions are made on the basis of the work value requirements of the role and not the person performing the role.
The work value of a role is not considered separately from work volume The quantity of workload does not inform the work value of a role. Changes to the volume of workload should not be reflected in a change in the classification of the job. Instead an increase in work volume could be addressed through:
  • a revision of work processes or delegation;
  • overtime;
  • or having more than one job.
Classification is determined by remuneration Work level standards are used to classify a job. Remuneration and other conditions provided to employees in enterprise agreements do not influence classification decisions. How much employees are paid is a separate consideration.