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Future APS Asia capability

In the APS, employees have disparate levels of engagement in and with Asia depending on their agency and role. This will have a key influence on the depth and nature of the Asia capability they require. For APS employees in Asia-related international engagement roles—which by their nature involve managing strategic and operational interactions—sophisticated capabilities spanning language skills, relationship building skills and the ability to adapt behaviour to the cultural context will be important.

For the majority of APS employees, who primarily work in domestic-focused roles, a foundation level of Asia capability will be sufficient for them to identify and take action where there is an intersection between domestic and international issues. This means all APS employees will need to understand the relevance of Asia and Australia's place in the region and be able to work with different cultural perspectives. This latter capability is important not only for engaging in and with Asia, but for serving Australia's multicultural community and working effectively in the diverse APS workforce.

The White Paper tasked the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Public Service Commissioner with developing a strategy to ensure the APS has the capability it requires to position the nation for success in the Asian century. Work on the strategy is progressing.

Developing APS skills

The agency survey asked agencies whether they have a strategy for building their Asia-related awareness and skills across five segments: all employees, senior executive (Band 2 and above), other leaders and decision makers, individuals in international roles and/or individuals employed overseas. Twenty-two per cent of agencies indicated they neither had, nor were they developing, a strategy for building the Asia capability of their employees. Table 8.7 shows that not all agencies are pursuing these options for developing their capability.

Of the 53 agencies that indicated they have or are developing a strategy to build the Asia capability of their employees, 26% are focusing on all workforce segments. Table 8.7 shows the distribution of agency capability development priorities by workforce segment. Most agencies are not yet to a stage of targeting workforce development opportunities, which is consistent with the levels of maturity of the capabilities identified by agencies earlier.

Table 8.7 Asia capability development priorities by workforce segment, 2012–13

Table 8.7 Asia capability development priorities by workforce segment, 2012–13
  All employees

Senior executives (Band 2 and above)

Other leaders and decision makers

Individuals employed in specific international roles

Individuals employed overseas


Source: Agency survey

Note: Columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.

Yes—fully 4 11 8 21 14
Yes—partially 12 25 27 21 17
Being developed 12 14 11 16 6
No 72 51 53 42 63

Research has shown that Asia-oriented leadership is a critical success factor in Asia.27

By investing in the development of Asia capability among a range of leaders at all levels it is anticipated that these leaders will foster Asia capability within their teams by encouraging their employees to consider Asian factors in their work.

Agencies also reported on the strategies they have found most effective in building employee Asia capability. Responses indicate that agencies are making use of on-the-job learning and drawing on Asia-capable employees to build capability. The capability development approaches most frequently cited by agencies include on-the-job training (working with visiting delegations, exposure to international works in agencies, participation in international fora, secondments and/or exchanges), training programs (including induction training, cultural awareness training and general Asian century awareness training) and employee networks (including online blogs).


27 Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia and Asialink Survey, February (2012); Asialink, Developing an Asia Capable Workforce: A National Strategy, University of Melbourne, (2012).

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018