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At a glance

State of the Service Series 2010-11

Effective leadership Diverse workforce Capable organisations and workforce Employee conditions APS Values

From the Australian Public Service Commissioner

There has been a significant amount of work in the last year or so to improve the workforce capability of the Australian Public Service (APS) and its capacity to design, deliver and implement the government’s policy agenda. Many of the changes to workforce capability are in line with the recommendations of Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration. The required pace of change is unlikely to slacken for the foreseeable future and the continued emphasis on renewal and improvement is key to meeting these challenges.

At a Glance provides a summary of highlights from the State of the Service Report 2010–11. It provides data and information on the human capital strategies the APS needs to build workforce capability. The State of the Service Report 2010–11 has been developed around three themes:

  • leadership and culture
  • human capital management
  • organisational effectiveness

This year’s State of the Service report outlines some areas in which progress has been made and identifies some in which there is still work to be done, such as workforce diversity. The evidence of this year’s report is that APS agencies are moving in the right direction.

Stephen Sedgwick

24 November 2011

Leadership and Culture

This year’s State of the Service report includes three chapters under leadership and culture—leadership (chapter 1), employee engagement (chapter 2) and APS Values (chapter 3).

Research this year shows that agencies recognise the importance of leadership capability with plans to develop this capability over the next three years. Important foundations have been laid with the establishment of the new Secretaries Board and the APS 200 (comprising SES Band 3 employees and Secretaries) to work on cross-agency projects. Supporting these efforts is the newly developed Centre for Leadership and Learning which will work with agencies to actively manage leadership development and facilitate the identification of potential leaders.

Key findings this year include:

  • The proportion of SES employees considering themselves ‘definitely’ part of a broader APS-wide leadership group increased from 39% in 2009–10 to 45%. This is the first substantial increase in four years and suggests that SES employees are identifying more strongly with the APS leadership cadre and that a more collegiate, outward looking and consultative culture is emerging across the APS.
  • Most employees (70%) felt SES employees ‘always’ or ‘often’ act in accordance with the APS Values in their agency. This year, 17% of employees were ‘not sure’. The ‘not sure’ responses probably reflect a level of uncertainty among APS employees who have little day to day interaction with their SES leaders.
  • More than one-third of SES employees intended to leave their agency in the next two years. Almost 40% of these were planning to leave the APS altogether, either to retire or seek other employment.

SES employee views on being part of an APS-wide leadership group, 2009–10 and 2010–11

A new model of APS employee engagement has been developed. It identifies four workplace elements employees engage with—their job, team, immediate supervisor and agency. This model provides an index for each element of engagement and allows for meaningful comparisons to be made within and across agencies.

APS employees showed generally higher levels of engagement than their counterparts in the United Kingdom (UK) Civil Service.

Comparison of 2010–11 APS employee survey with 2010 UK Civil Service People Survey results

A number of measures have been taken in the last few years to strengthen the ethics infrastructure of the APS, particularly in the direction of more open government. Some measures are in train and others are to come. Across the APS, the integrity framework continues to evolve to meet contemporary needs and emerging challenges.

This year’s findings include:

  • APS employees continue to have strong levels of confidence in the integrity of their workplaces and colleagues. Similar to last year, most employees believed their colleagues (90%) and supervisor (89%) ‘always’ or ‘often’ act in accordance with the APS Values in their everyday work. This is supported by the graph below, with the majority of employees scoring their agencies highly against range of workplace ethics and integrity indicators.
  • Overall, the level of misconduct in the APS continues to be low, with less than four in every 1,000 employees being found to have breached the APS Code of Conduct.

Employee views on agency ethics and integrity, 2009–10 and 2010–11

Human Capital Management

This year’s State of the Service report identifies APS workforce trends and a range of human capital management processes that underpin the development of workforce capacity and capability across the APS. This data and information is provided in chapters 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the State of the Service Report 2010–11. Findings include:

  • At June 2011 there were 97 agencies with 166,495 employees. This was an increase in the total number of employees of 2,013 or 1.2%, the smallest increase both in actual number and percentage terms since 2003–04.
  • During 2010–11 the overall mobility rate rose sharply, after falling over the previous three years: the promotion rate was 0.8% and the transfer rate was 1.9%. Generally, mobility between agencies is higher at higher classifications, with the SES mobility rate of 6.2% more than three times the APS 1–6 rate of 1.9%.

Ongoing employees—promotion and transfer rates between agencies, 2001–02 to 2010–11

  • An additional 5% of agencies reported having a workforce plan in place this year—now 26%. The two greatest challenges to identifying workforce risks were resources, time or cost in undertaking the task and difficulties mapping current capabilities to predict future capability requirements.
  • Agencies reported finding it most difficult to recruit or retain employees in the areas of project management, human resources, information and communications technology (ICT), generalist management and accounting/finance. These difficulties were verified by SES employees whose views on this were sought for the first time this year.

Organisational Effectiveness

APS agencies were asked for the first time this year to assess the maturity of their organisation against 13 capabilities. Some of these capabilities relate to improving employee skills through workforce planning, performance management and innovation; while others relate to the effectiveness of systems and processes, such as governance, project management and risk management.

Results from chapter 10, organisational capability, indicate a reasonable variation across the APS. Agencies reported that innovation, change management and workforce planning were the least developed capabilities and leadership the most developed. Survey results indicated that agencies recognise the importance of building capability with all agencies planning to improve their capability across all dimensions within the next three years.

There is a specific chapter on innovation in the State of the Service Report 2010–11 which sets the foundation for more systematic measurement of innovation in the public sector (refer chapter 9). Leaders have a significant influence on the workplace climate for new ideas. The graph shows the level of support of leaders and workplaces in encouraging new ideas. There were significant differences between the views of SES and other employees, with SES employees more likely to agree with all of these statements.

Employee views on support and encouragement for innovation by classification, 2010–11

Contact us

For further information email: <StateoftheService [at] apsc.gov.au>.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018