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Corporate goal 1: Streamline process, reduce red tape and drive productivity and performance

Streamline process, reduce red tape and drive productivity and performance

Modernising the APS employment framework

[Source of criteria: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 10; PBS 2016–17, page 113.]

Measure: Continue to modernise the employment framework, in particular recruitment, mobility, performance management and separations.

Result: The new Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016 facilitated significant changes to the employment framework. The changes enabled more flexible use of non-ongoing staff, expanded affirmative measures for engaging Indigenous Australians and people with a disability and simplified performance management.

Measure: Work with agencies to identify the implications of emerging workforce trends for the APS by December 2016.

Result: The Commission continued to collaborate with external agencies to promote a culture of innovation within those agencies to better position them to manage future work challenges.

Measure: Complete by December 2016 the third phase of a review of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions.

Result: As noted, the review was completed on schedule, with the new directions being made available in September 2016 and taking effect from 1 December 2016.

Measure: Renew the APSjobs website by June 2017.

Result: A review was completed in January 2017. A replacement website is being developed.

Measure: Work with agencies to trial options for moving employees more freely around the APS in response to critical needs by June 2017.

Result: In June 2017 the Commission partnered with six other agencies to launch Operation Free Range, a 12-month inter-agency research initiative on employee mobility in the APS.


Building a culture of innovation in the APS

[Source of criterion: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 10.]

Measure: Work with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Public Sector Innovation Network to embed a culture of innovation in the APS.

Result: As a network participant, the Commission continued to meet with agency representatives once a month, seeking innovative solutions to complex problems. It continues to work with agencies to test solutions—for example, through the Ripple performance management trial and the Free Range mobility trial.


Driving high performance across the APS

[Source of criteria: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 11.]

Measure: We will trial the performance management Ripple smartphone application by December 2016 and evaluate the trial by June 2017.

Result: The Ripple app was trialled from August to December 2016, and an evaluation report is due to be finalised by December 2017.

Measure: We will work with agencies to implement contemporary approaches to performance management.

Result: The Commission met with agencies to support implementation of the principles for Optimising employee performance in the APS and sharing knowledge gained across the APS.


Increasing employee engagement and driving a reduction in APS unscheduled absences

[Source of criteria: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 11.]

Measure: Draw on research to implement a new approach to attendance management that focuses on building employee engagement. This will be undertaken by March 2017.

Result: The Commission has established an absence management forum that shares strategies and data on absence and increasing employee engagement.

Measure: We will work with agencies to refresh and simplify guidance on attendance management by March 2017.

Result: We have developed an interactive guide to managing unscheduled absences; it is published on our website.


Improving the diversity of the APS

[Source of criteria: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 12.]

Measure: Support the Secretaries Board in progressing implementation of the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, the APS Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19, and the APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016–19.

Result: Tangible steps were taken to support the three strategies. These included establishing a 2016–19 memorandum of understanding between agencies and the Commission for Indigenous employment services, supporting the APS Disability Champions Network, and developing an APS Domestic and Family Violence Framework. We support agencies in the development and implementation of their own plans and strategies.

Measure: Facilitate sharing of effective practices between agencies to help the APS progress the goals of the three strategies.

Result: We partnered with beyondblue and Comcare to establish an APS Mental Health Community of Practice. We have also established an officer-level debrief to progress the strategic objectives of the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council and the Equality and Diversity Working Group.

Measure: Continue to work with APS disability champions and APS Indigenous champions to ensure strong leadership throughout the APS.

Result: The Commission provided secretariat and strategic direction for the APS Disability Champions Network. We have an active Indigenous champion and have worked to re-establish an Indigenous SES Network. This is a specialist strategic advisory group on Indigenous affairs. It provides advice to government on a wide range of Indigenous employment and policy matters.

Measure: Continue to update implementation guides for the three strategies, for the use of agencies.

Result: We have developed and published guidance for affirmative measures for disability and Indigenous employment.


Providing analysis and reports on APS employment trends

[Source of criteria: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 12.]

Measure: Help agencies meet workplace goals through providing comprehensive analysis of workforce trends in the annual State of the Service report, other research and evaluation reports.

Result: We continued to produce high-quality data, reporting and analysis, such as the State of the Service report. This included a number of online posts and presentations to APS staff around the country.

Measure: Use our employee databases to help the APS plan for the future workforce.

Result: We collect and make available biannual workforce data that capture the size of the APS, including engagements and separations. APS agencies use this information in their workforce planning.


Working with Commonwealth employers to improve workplace relations outcomes

[Source of criteria: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 13; PBS 2016–17, page 113.]

Measure: Partner with agencies to conclude the enterprise agreement round.

Result: We worked closely with agencies to develop new workplace agreements, providing support and advice on the application of the Australian Government’s Workplace Bargaining Policy. As at 30 June 2017 a total of 109 enterprise agreements had been voted up in 103 agencies.

Measure: Introduce a program during late 2016 to improve the bargaining and workplace relations capability of agency staff.

Result: Scoping and design work on the capability program commenced, with implementation of key activities starting in 2017. Capacity-building work with individual agencies continued throughout the year.

Measure: Review our engagement strategies to provide to agencies practical guidance on policy and contemporary matters in a timely manner.

Result: We completed a review of the engagement strategies and are implementing improved arrangements as a result.

Measure: Develop a policy framework to support the next round of enterprise bargaining.

Result: We provided to government recommendations for the new policy framework. Emerging issues and lessons learnt in the bargaining round were taken into account in formulating the recommendations.


Providing professional and high-quality policy and secretariat support to the Remuneration Tribunal and the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal in order for them to meet their statutory obligations

[Source of criterion: APSC Corporate Plan 2016–17, page 13; PBS 2016–17, page 113.]

Measure: Provide professional and high-quality policy and secretariat services.

Result: The presidents of both tribunals expressed a high degree of satisfaction with the support the Commission’s Tribunals Group provided. The Remuneration Tribunal’s president noted, ‘The Tribunal Secretariat comprises a small number of dedicated, capable people, whose work equips the tribunal with excellent briefing, including research and recommendations across a broad spectrum of public sector remuneration, including judicial and parliamentary remuneration’.


Performance analysis—corporate goal 1

The Commission is committed to encouraging employment reform, reducing regulation and building a high-performance culture in the APS. Our first corporate goal is to enable attitude and behaviour changes service-wide, focusing on both organisational and individual performance.

Modernising the APS employment framework

The Commissioner released the new Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016 in September of the reporting year, replacing the 2013 directions. The new directions came into effect on 1 December 2016. This was the third and most substantial phase of a major review, following two earlier phases in 2015 and 2016.

The new directions modernise and streamline the APS employment framework. Agency heads greater have flexibility in managing their workforces. The changes include:

  • enabling agencies to share merit lists and more easily participate in multiple-agency selection processes;
  • removing unnecessary and duplicative content outlining merit requirements;
  • reducing the number of employment decisions required to be notified in the Public Service Gazette;
  • providing greater flexibility when non-ongoing employment is the most appropriate form of engagement;
  • introducing a broad affirmative measure for disability employment; and extending the affirmative measure for Indigenous employment to enable short-term non-ongoing engagements.

Among inititiatives was the release of an updated Implementing Machinery of Government Changes guide in September 2016 by the Commission in conjunction with the Department of Finance. The requirement for agencies to report on their Senior Executive Service cap numbers was changed to quarterly rather than monthly. Also work proceeded on updating and clarifying online information available to agencies.

The Commission will continue to assess the legislative framework—in particular, examining the operation and effectiveness of the 2016 directions. This will take into account the experience of agencies, including any suggestions for improvement.

In June 2016, the Commission launched Operation Free Range, a cross-government research initiative designed in collaboration with six other agencies to improve the understanding of employee mobility in the APS context. The project will focus on temporary transfers and secondments over 12 months to test the benefits, identify and understand the barriers, and make recommendations for getting more out of mobility. The aim is to better position the APS for future challenges, which will require a more responsive workforce that can temporarily move to meet project needs, peak and cyclical workforce demands and short-notice capability gaps.

In response to recommendations arising from the Unlocking Potential review, the Commission established the HR Boost project in order to learn more about how we can develop better, more strategically focused HR functions throughout the APS. One of the findings of the review was that HR management in the APS was too focused on administrative process and lacked strategic capacity. The review recommended that the APS do the following:

  • ensure that HR has a seat at every agency’s executive table
  • assess agency HR delivery models to better align them with the needs of the business
  • conduct an audit of HR skills in order to get the right capability mix.

These recommendations form the basis of the HR Boost project. A working group of eight agencies was established in late 2016. The group broadly assessed the current business models that agencies are using to deliver HR and whether there has been a change from traditional HR models. There are a number of common themes emerging around the needs of HR for effectiveness. These needs include an improved understanding of business needs, ability to predict future needs and the ability to exert influence and achieve results.

Building a culture of innovation in the APS

We continue to work with all APS agencies to foster and develop a culture of innovation, encouraging staff at all levels to understand that innovation is not necessarily an action; rather, it is a way of working. The Commission will continue to be involved in the Public Sector Innovation Network, led by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. We continue to showcase initiatives across the APS. We are also probing the future of work and how senior executives can best focus their agencies to respond to emerging pressures as they influence the public sector.

Driving high performance across the APS

The Commission showcased work being done by agencies to transform their employee performance frameworks. It was important to share agency knowledge and various approaches and experiences.This supported agencies in implementing the principles for optimising employee performance that the Commission released in June 2016.

In August 2016 we embarked on an experimental project to test a new smartphone app, Ripple, designed to improve employee performance. The three-month trial involved 2,000 randomly selected EL 1 employees from 30 agencies. The trial proved successful. Ripple represents an innovative, cost-effective approach to improving performance, and work is under way to evaluate the trial and to determine the next steps.

Increasing employee engagement and driving a reduction in APS unscheduled absences

An absence management forum is being used to facilitate agencies’ sharing of their analytic tools and methodologies to improve the way they analyse and use their own absence data. An interactive guide developed by the APSC aims to build capacity in relation to absence management. It provides practical guidance to boost engagement and create a high-performance culture. The Commission continues to research and work with agencies to develop new material to add to the guide.

Improving the diversity of the APS

The Commission continues to work towards improving the diversity of the APS by supporting implementation of the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy; Balancing the Future: the APS Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19; and As One: Making it Happen—the APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016–19. We provide support to agencies in meeting their own diversity goals.

Implementation guides for agencies for all three strategies have been updated. This included development and publication of an APS Domestic and Family Violence Framework. We have also developed guidance relating to the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016, introduced on 1 December 2016, which expanded the affirmative measures. In the case of Indigenous recruitment, this allowed selection of individuals for short-term non-ongoing engagements without a requirement to notify the vacancy in the Public Service Gazette. For disability recruitment, it created the option for agencies to identify a vacancy as open only to individuals with disability or a particular type of disability. The guidance assists agencies in implementing the expanded affirmative measures.

A new three-year memorandum of understanding between agencies and the Commission for Indigenous employment services came into effect on 1 July 2016. The MOU supports 37 participating agencies in the recruitment and retention of Indigenous Australians, as well as development of the cultural capability of employing organisations. A number of important initiatives have been introduced under the MOU to build connectedness and increase agencies’ HR capability, recruit new and former Indigenous employees, and retain and advance existing Indigenous employees. The initiatives include:

  • an advisory service that draws on expertise across the APS to provide independent advice to agencies on their Indigenous employment strategies and initiatives
  • a streamlined whole-of-government APS Indigenous Graduate Recruitment Program, with significant enhancements made to online processes
  • an Indigenous Mentoring Program, which attracted APS employees at all levels and delivered face-to-face mentor training in locations across the country.

We enabled sharing of effective strategies between agencies to promote best practice and progress our diversity goals. We partnered with Comcare and beyondblue to produce a ‘community of practice’ to help APS agencies work towards providing mentally healthy workplaces and support implementation of the Heads Up initiative. Our close involvement with the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council also allows us to facilitate sharing between agencies. We have introduced officer-level debriefs to inform agencies’ diversity officers of the outcomes of the council’s meetings and facilitate communication between diversity areas throughout the APS.

We continued to provide strategic direction and secretariat support for the APS Disability Champions Network meetings, hosting four successful meetings in 2016–17.

Providing analysis and reports on APS employment trends

The Commission continued its focus on high-quality data, reporting and analysis. Through a broad range of outputs and services we provided to agencies tools to enable effective workforce planning and management, strategy development, benchmarking and evaluation.

We produced and tabled the State of the Service report. It is important that the state of the APS is well publicised and understood. Accordingly, the tabled report was supported by a number of online posts and presentations to APS staff around the country. We continued to produce biannual workforce data on the size of the APS, including engagements and separations. APS agencies use the data in their workforce planning. The remuneration reporting of SES and non-SES APS employees allowed for a breakdown of remuneration across the different classification levels and showed changes from year to year.

We continue to review the products we deliver to ensure the Commission is providing the information agencies need in order to analyse and report on APS employment trends.

We introduced streamlined processes to minimise the burden our data collection imposes on APS agencies. We reduced the frequency of unscheduled absence data collection from monthly to quarterly. We commenced sharing with the Department of Finance information on the size of each agency’s workforce, collected as part of unscheduled absence data. This minimises duplication of effort for agencies.

An important activity for the Commission each year is the APS employee census. After extensive consultation with agencies, a number of enhancements were made to the census. The changes included asking additional questions on leadership, flexible working arrangements, diversity, corruption, bullying, wellbeing and innovation. An improved understanding of APS employees’ perceptions helps ensure the APS is better placed to serve the community and respond to government demands.

The Commission worked with the project team involved in the Australia and New Zealand School of Government’s Master of Public Administration program to identify the practices that support more effective workforce planning in the APS. We have also been working with the Deputy Secretaries Working Group on Managing Workers’ Compensation to determine the lead indicators of workers’ compensation. The findings from this project will be used in the development of practices aimed at reducing workers’ compensation premiums.

Working with Commonwealth employers to improve workplace relations outcomes

At 30 June 2017 a total of 109 workplace agreements had been voted up in 103 agencies. The Commission continued to provide detailed advice to many Commonwealth employers on legislation, policy, drafting and better practice. The aim is to ensure that workplace arrangements are consistent with government policy and lead to better workplace relations outcomes.

A Workplace Relations Capability project began in 2016. The Commission collaborated with agencies to develop a program and series of events to enhance workplace relations capability across the public service.

Significant progress was made towards completing bargaining during 2016–17. The Commission supported concurrent bargaining processes across Australian government agencies. Every agency has a unique bargaining context. This and the Commission’s advice is tailored to the needs of individual agencies. Most agencies—and the majority of employees—are now covered by new enterprise agreements that are flexible and streamlined, provide sustainable wage increases, and maintain valued terms and conditions.

Providing professional and high-quality policy and secretariat support to the Remuneration Tribunal and the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal

The Commission’s Tribunals Group continued to support the work programs of both the Remuneration Tribunal and the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal. A focus for the Remuneration Tribunal during the reporting period was its response to a number of recommendations contained in the review report An Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System. The Tribunals Group is working collaboratively with staff in the Department of Finance to develop supporting legislation with a view to establishing a new framework for the determination and administration of work expenses for parliamentarians.