Guidance for managers
This guidance is for those who lead and are responsible for a team, perhaps at the EL2, EL1 or APS6 level. It covers when and how you can use the APS Mobility Framework, and how you can get the most benefit out of each opportunity.
Benefits of mobility
Supporting mobility can help you achieve your strategic goals as a manager, with both short and long-term benefits, and can be incorporated into your strategic planning when looking at organisational needs, workforce plans, affirmative measures, the use of merit pools and talent management programs.
The benefits of temporary moves out of your team:
- uplift your team’s capabilities
- build understanding of other sectors and organisations
- foster collaboration between your team and stakeholders
- deliver on Government and organisational priorities
- retain talent and build employee engagement
- develop skills, experience, knowledge and partnerships
- improve business processes
- better utilise labour across the APS by reallocating them to address peaks and troughs
The benefits of temporary moves into your team:
- manage surges and peaks in workload for your team
- secure expertise to solve complex problems
- build networks with other organisations
- learn from new perspectives and ways of working
As a manager, you can actively support mobility by:
- championing its use
- addressing barriers and stigma
- releasing your employees for opportunities
- encouraging temporary moves into other sectors
- assessing it among other options in strategic planning
- consulting with HR practitioners for advice on participating in employment pathways of identified cohorts e.g RecruitAbility scheme
“Think about the individual and think about their progression, their opportunity – think about the outcome that we’re trying to achieve and getting the best out of the person that we can.”- Radi Kovacevic, Deputy Group Manager, Department of Home Affairs
Consider mobility in strategic planning
To use mobility effectively, you should consider opportunities that will help achieve your team’s goals, as well as delivering on organisation’s objectives. Your organisation may have a program or policy for mobility that sets out how you can or should use temporary moves; an HR practitioner will be able to help you with this. Identifying the needs of your team or project in your early planning will allow you time to structure a compelling offer for potential employees, or arrange support for employees moving out of your team.
Keep an eye out for uses of mobility that are not aligned with business and organisational priorities. For example, mobility is not a solution for underperformance or conflict in a team.
When mobility is most effective
Mobility to address surges or peaks in demand
- Short-term movements
- Fast on-boarding needed
- Unpredictable cause
- Predictable peaks where specific training is useful and a cohort can be trained in advance
- Systems or policy improvements won’t eliminate the need for extra people
- Generalist skills required
Mobility to solve complex problems
- The policy or delivery challenge requires response from multiple agencies or would benefit from a diverse or multi-disciplinary approach (e.g. legal, policy, IT involvement)
- Solving the problem cannot be easily done through engagement or co-design
- Specialist skills required
Mobility to develop employees
- Employee would benefit from an investment in their skills
- Employee will share new skills with their team on return
- Agency needs to build a rare skillset not readily available through the recruitment market
- Moves are complemented by other development methods
When you’re organising future work, as part of your corporate or annual budget planning, consider how mobility might fit into your team’s work plan, or be used to address any upcoming challenges. For example, do you:
- Anticipate surges or peaks in demand?
- Need to address a policy or program problem that you can’t solve within your team alone?
- Have employees that would benefit from intensive skills development?
- Have specific times of the year where you can more easily cope with your employees temporarily leaving your team?
- Have periods of extended leave you’ll need to cover?
- Have privacy or security risks associated with your work that will need to be taken into account?
- Have sufficient budget and Average Staffing Level (ASL) allocation to pay for backfilling or bringing in employees, or will you need contributors to cover these costs?
A key element of your planning should include talking to your team about mobility as part of regular career discussions in their performance management, and consulting with your HR practitioners and finance team about ASL and budget. You should also identify any opportunities to bring employees into your team and, as early as practical, work out the processes needed for you to do so with your HR practitioner.
“As a manager [you’ve got to be] structured and disciplined about what your workforce capability looks like, and plan for mobility rather than planning for loss of people because they have become mobile. So it’s a mindset that I expect people to move around…you plan for it rather than having to triage out the shock of someone having moved.”- Katrina Di Marco, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Treasury
Mobility and succession planning
Although planning is the best way to ensure you use mobility effectively, you will never be able to predict or anticipate every situation. Therefore, you should have a strong succession plan in place to account for the unexpected, such as a sudden need for your team’s expertise. By ensuring your team communicates and shares knowledge, you put them in a better position to mobilise and contribute to broader agency or APS objectives.
For help in your succession planning, the Succession management discussion tool can guide you in conversations with your employees, as part of performance management. The APSC’s Talent Management Toolkit has a useful Succession plan template to help identify key positions and critical roles.
Consider offering employees moves outside of the APS
Temporary moves into another jurisdiction, private company, not-for-profit organisation, or academic sector can provide experience that may not be available within the APS. Leave without pay (LWOP) arrangements can help facilitate temporary moves if your organisation doesn’t have a standing arrangement in place with a relevant private organisation, or you could look at secondment programs such as the Jawun APS secondment program.
Complete a risk assessment especially when moving outside of the APS, as APS employees on a temporary move will remain bound by the APS Values and Code of Conduct. Find more information on the APSC’s Conflicts of Interest page.
Take an approach of ‘generous collaboration’ to requests for help
From time to time you’ll be asked to support requests from other teams or agencies, for example, in response to a crisis or a Government priority. Under the Framework principles, managers should approach temporary moves with a collaborative, One APS mindset focused on delivery of Government priorities.
“No single agency can drive recovery or deliver major government priorities alone. We must continue to share data, flexibly move people where they are most needed, and collaborate early on policy or implementation challenges.”- Philip Gaetjens, Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Peter Woolcott AO, Australian Public Service Commissioner
When an employee approaches you to endorse their temporary move
If an employee has found an opportunity, or been approached for a temporary move, they will either need your endorsement to release them, or to escalate their request to the delegate for approval. All employee requests should be given reasonable and genuine consideration, though there may still be legitimate grounds for not supporting a request.
When considering an application, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the opportunity support the strategic goals of the team or organisation?
- Will the move help progress your employee’s development goals?
- Is there any conflict of interest with the host organisation?
- What are the risks of denying your employee the opportunity? Will they permanently leave your team?
- What impact will it have on the team at this time?
- Will the skills learned on the temporary move benefit the team on your employee’s return?
If you find you are unable to endorse an employee’s temporary move after this assessment, consider whether a change to the timing would make it achievable. Often a move can be delayed a few days or weeks if this will give the time needed to put your succession plan into effect. It’s important to discuss this with your employee as soon as you reasonably can. Before having this conversation, check your organisation’s policy to make sure you have the facts. Then:
- Clearly communicate the reasons you have made your decision.
- Listen and take on any feedback.
- Be open to any solutions they may have to help facilitate a release.
- Provide alternate solutions, such as committing to plan for a future temporary move.
“Reassure staff of your intentions: it’s important to have a really honest conversation that’s done in a respectful way. It’s about trying to help them find what they want to do in their career and actually facilitate that for them.”- Cassie Haynes, A/g First Assistant Secretary, Department of Finance
By having a respectful, solution-based conversation, you show you are willing to invest in your employee’s career and that you value them in your team.
Do you have employees who would benefit from a move but have skills that are difficult to replace? Some ways to address these issues include:
- Seeking agreement from executives to reprioritise or delay deliverables if someone from your team is needed for another purpose.
- Establishing succession planning and team processes to efficiently on-board temporary employees; this will help if you need to quickly backfill roles.
- Identifying times of the year in which mobility will be more feasible, and working with employees to organise a move for that period.
- Considering job swaps or employee exchanges as an alternative to one-way moves.
- Considering a part-time arrangement in which an employee is seconded two days a week and remains in your team for the other three days.
- Providing options for a virtual, task-oriented opportunity in which the employee may stay at the home organisation and work remotely for the host organisation.
Facilitating outgoing temporary moves
An employee might find a suitable position on their own, but as a manager, you have resources that can help identify the best opportunity for your employee and your team.
When you’re searching for possible moves for an employee, consider looking for temporary moves that support or contribute to Government, agency or whole-of-APS enterprise strategic objectives; temporary moves that deliver surge capacity, help solve complex problems, or deliver a strong professional development element, are a priority under the Framework. Some potential avenues for finding opportunities include:
- Browsing the temporary roles available on the APSJobs mobility jobs board.
- Consider the skills and job categories that would uplift your team’s capability and create a saved search on the APSJobs mobility jobs board, to alert you when the right roles are advertised.
- Looking at current mobility initiatives and programs open to APS employees.
- Identifying high-priority areas in your department or agency.
- Speaking with your agency’s HR practitioners.
- Reaching out to your own professional networks.
- Asking your executive manager to assist with finding roles – executives tend to have strong networks, and are well placed to facilitate temporary moves.
- Contacting managers in other teams who could meet your employee’s needs.
- Consulting teams you regularly work with; temporarily swapping employees is a great way to understand the work done by another team, and can build a closer working relationship.
- Looking at the APS Professional Streams
“As leaders we should be responsible and accountable for helping people be the best they can be, and be able to take on different opportunities and grow. That’s our responsibility, and we should be accountable for supporting mobility to help people grow. And when we can’t, we need to be clear as to why.”- Helen Wilson, Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics
Before your employee leaves
Before the temporary move, you should arrange a meeting with your employee and their host manager to discuss the details of the arrangement. A risk assessment covering any potential issues, such as workplace health and safety and conflicts of interest, should be completed prior to any placement. Consulting your HR practitioners early will help guide you through this process. Some issues to resolve with your employee and their host manager include:
- The duration of your employee’s move, including clear beginning and end dates.
- Any security clearances or background checks necessary for the role.
- The employee’s role, responsibilities and duties at their host organisation. This should include confirming expectations, key deliverables, flexible working arrangements, and opportunities for the employee to learn or share their skills.
- The role and responsibilities of the host and home manager for the employee. As the home manager, you should agree to regular communication, and discuss how you will support your employee during their move as well as performance management and WHS requirements.
- Professional development goals and performance processes (such as annual performance agreements or similar, if applicable).
- (If the employee is on a secondment) how to manage flex time or Time Off In Lieu (TOIL), annual and personal leave, and access to your agency’s systems so employees can view their payslip.
The details from this discussion should be set out in a written agreement (at minimum an email for micro-assignments or other informal arrangements). Your HR practitioners will be able to help determine the most appropriate arrangement for the move. More information about the different types of arrangement can be found on the mobility fundamentals page . Each type will have different impacts on your employee, so make sure your employee understands how they will be affected.
For temporary moves with a strong professional development component, a Mobility Plan will help you identify the objectives of the move, and how the employee will use their skills upon their return. Using the Mobility Plan template is a helpful way to facilitate these discussions with your employee and their host manager. In a secondment arrangement, a Mobility Plan can be attached to any relevant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or secondment agreement. Consult your HR practitioners for further information on MoUs and secondment agreements.
Lastly, the usual off-boarding activities you would do with any departing employee are worth working through with an employee taking a temporary move. Your organisation is likely to have its own list of off-boarding steps, but ensuring your employee prepares a hand-over document of any tasks or duties they’re currently working on prior to their departure will help prevent anything falling through the gaps.
During the temporary move
Supporting employees during their experience
Staying in contact with your employee during their temporary move is important to help them feel connected and valued, making it easier to transition back at the end of their move. You should take the lead on this to demonstrate your commitment to ongoing support, and provide the employee with contact details and information of any Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) in the event they need to seek additional support. Forward all relevant emails and any communication materials to your employees so they are kept up-to-date with events and other changes in your team or wider organisation.
Set up regular check-ins with your employee at a frequency that works for both of you, depending on duration; a fortnightly or monthly call can be a good starting point for short-term placements, and every three months for longer term placements. Use these conversations as an opportunity to see how your employee’s experience is progressing. Keep them up to date with your organisation’s news and changes, and maintain your working relationship.
These check-ins might include:
- Insights since the last catch-up.
- Any reflections on different ways of working that could be adopted by your team.
- Progress on development objectives included in their performance management or agreements.
- Mentoring or coaching your employee through any work-related challenges they are facing.
- Sharing your own experiences of temporary moves, particularly if you’ve worked in a similar context.
“When I think about what managers can do to really help with secondments out of the building or people on leave without pay, it’s maintaining constant contact with people. I reach out to my people who are on leave without pay every six months, “How are you going? How are you finding things, what are your plans?” It’s trying to help people when they do come back, work out where they want to go and what they want to do, but it’s about maintaining connectivity to the workplace.”- Katrina Di Marco, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Treasury
If the employee wants to return early, or their host manager wishes to end the temporary move earlier than originally planned, this can be a difficult experience for everyone involved. Have a discussion with each party to understand their concerns and speak to your HR practitioners about next steps.
If you are leaving your position as a manager and you have any employees on temporary moves, you should contact your HR practitioners and the employee. Complete a handover of your role to an acting manager, or to your HR practitioners to provide ongoing support. It’s important not to leave your employee without a good connection back to their home organisation.
Preparing for an employee’s return
There are many ways you can ensure your employee is smoothly and successfully integrated back into your team. You should speak with your employee at least four weeks in advance of their scheduled return to confirm the date of their departure. This is a good time to review their mobility plan, if they have one, making sure to talk about:
- What your employee will be working on when they return.
- Any changes to team structure or function.
- Plans for your employee to apply any new skills to their role in your team.
Providing clarity on these points will help your employee feel confident and informed about their return. Your employee should know that you are actively invested in their career, and that their development will continue even after their temporary move.
Put your employee’s wellbeing first, and encourage them to take a short break before they return, especially if they are returning from high-intensity work, a surge request, or a taskforce.
If your employee has been on a professional development-focused temporary move, prepare to give them opportunities to apply what they have learned. As with other professional development opportunities, failing to give your employee the chance to use their new skills may lead to your employee deciding not to return, or leaving shortly after their return.
Before your employee returns, make sure they have IT access and their equipment is set up, ready for their arrival.
“We just have to keep remembering there are good people that are coming back. If you don’t have a great opportunity for them to come back to, why would they leave to go in the first place?”- Helen Wilson, Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics
After the temporary move
When your employee returns, make an effort to incorporate their experience into your team. You could do this by asking your employee to prepare a presentation for a branch or group meeting, or hold an informal team chat, addressing what your employee learned and their key observations about their host organisation’s working style. Consider how your team can learn from this, and what processes you could adopt to uplift overall capability within your team.
Create a new performance agreement with your employee for their next performance management cycle, or update their existing one to account for their new experience and development. Consider giving them a project or task that allows them to build on what they’ve learned while away. If a new role was identified for your employee, provide them with a job description and outline their responsibilities. Share with them any new corporate documents or business plans, and link the purpose of their role to organisational or executive priorities.
Ask your employee to evaluate their experience; this reflection can be a valuable resource, and may help guide decisions about future moves in your team.
Hosting employees on temporary moves
Many of the steps for bringing in a temporary employee are similar to that for a permanent employee; your HR practitioners will be able to give you advice about specific differences in your agency’s context.
Marketing a role to potential temporary employees
Some things to consider when structuring an opportunity for employees from outside your team:
- Align the move’s purpose with Government, agency and whole-of-APS enterprise priorities. Experience suggests you’ll receive more responses to a clear, well-articulated pitch delivering on government priorities. This is important if you need agencies or other teams to cover the costs of their contribution.
- Deliver value for all participants: There should be a clear and compelling value proposition for the employee, their home organisation, and your own team.
- Work with your HR practitioners to design the roles and communicate the opportunity. They will help you reach the people you need, and understand the role’s requirements; for example, your prospective employee may need to obtain the appropriate security clearances before commencing. You can find an Expression of Interest template designed for taskforces in the Taskforce Toolkit’s request staff and getting the right mix.
- Post your opportunity on the APSJobs mobility jobs board. If you are offering an opportunity for current Commonwealth employees to move into your team, advertise your role on the APSJobs mobility jobs board. Seek support from your recruitment team to create a temporary opportunity notice and ask them to use the ‘skill tags’ feature in the notice, which tells the candidate about the skills they could develop in the role.
- Market the opportunity as widely as possible. You should think carefully about any restrictions you place on the role; if you offer it to people outside your organisation, or via a non-ongoing placement to people outside the APS, you have a much greater chance of finding the right person. Similarly, opening it up to people on part-time hours, or via remote technologies to people in other locations, will greatly increase your potential reach. This could also include looking at ways to make the opportunity available through affirmative measures.
Some further considerations for different high value uses of mobility include:
- Using mobility for surges and peaks in demand: The more generalist and unspecialised the role, the easier it will be to fill. If you will need help with a lengthy or complex process, review in advance ways to restrict the size of the job. For example, can employees on a temporary move do the first three steps of a process rather than the whole thing, freeing up your experts for more complex work? What’s the smallest amount of training that will allow extra people to have a quick impact? How short-term can the contribution reasonably be?
These are not simple things to work through, but the more you can do to simplify the requirements in advance, the easier it will be to recruit and on-board help quickly.
- Using mobility to solve a problem: If you’re considering setting up a taskforce or project team, read the Taskforce Toolkit – it’s full of advice for managers in your position. If you’re bringing an expert you’re your team, partnering the expert with one of your employees and/or holding regular knowledge sharing sessions can help maximise the cross-pollination of skills and ideas.
Before the employee joins your team
Managing an employee temporarily moving into your team
Prior to the temporary move, you should have a meeting with your prospective employee and their home manager to discuss the details of the arrangement. You should seek to resolve with their home manager:
- The duration of the employee’s move, including clear beginning and end dates.
- Any security clearances or background checks necessary for the role.
- The employee’s role, responsibilities and duties at your organisation. This should include confirming expectations, key deliverables, flexible working arrangements, and opportunities for the employee to learn or share their skills.
- The role and responsibilities of the host and home manager for the employee. It’s important to be clear about whether the employee is working full time for you or has split responsibilities between your organisations.
- Professional development goals and performance processes (such as annual performance agreements or similar, if applicable).
- (If the employee is on a secondment) how to manage flex time or Time Off In Lieu (TOIL), annual and personal leave, and access to your agency’s systems.
The outcome of this discussion should be reflected in a written agreement (at minimum an email for micro-assignments, as you may need to organise security and ICT access). Your HR practitioners will help determine the most appropriate arrangement for the move. More information about the different types of arrangements can be found on the HR Guidance page . Each type will have different impacts on the employee, so make sure you understand the impacts for you and your team. Employees on secondment, for example, may have different access to overtime, flex time, or special arrangements for shift work that differ from the rest of your team.
For temporary moves with a strong professional development component, a Mobility Plan will help identify the objectives of the move, and understand each party’s goals and responsibilities. Using the Mobility Plan template is a helpful way to facilitate these discussions with your prospective employee and their home manager. In a secondment arrangement, a Mobility Plan can be attached to any relevant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or secondment agreement. Consult your HR practitioners for further information on MoUs or secondment agreements.
Prepare in advance:
- Any written processes and guides for tasks your temporary employee will need to carry out.
- A draft welcome email that includes an introduction to the people in the branch and their role, the latest organisational charts for their reference, and where to find important information and learning modules.
- Any key acronyms and specific terms your organisation/branch uses.
During the temporary move
On-boarding someone on a temporary move to your team will be much the same as on-boarding any other employee, including inductions covering all the emergency exits, bathrooms, locations of first aid kits, and any mandatory training required by the home/host organisation.
Simple acts can make a big difference:
- Assign your new temporary employee a ‘buddy’ for the first few weeks to answer questions and help them with on-boarding.
- If they are working in a different office than yourself, organise someone from your team based in that office, or a buddy from another team, to greet and set them up.
- Have a team meeting to welcome them, introduce who they’ll be working with, and discuss ways of working preferences. The Taskforce Toolkit’s work preferences template may assist.
- Introduce them to people in your office and to other teams where cross-collaboration occurs.
- Talk to them about their role and goals, and identify whether these can be met within the team.
- Share any written guides or processes that have been developed by the team.
- Invite the employee to any reoccurring meetings and add them to staff calendars and any other shared mailboxes.
- If you have any technological platforms the employee might not be familiar with, set up some training for them. For example using Microsoft Teams or GovTeams, your video conferencing platform, etc.
In your first one-on-one meeting, discuss the following:
- What are the responsibilities of the temporary role?
- What are the organisation or branch’s priorities?
- What working relationship style suits your team?
- Is there anything happening in the organisation important to pass on?
- Who are the key people that should be introduced across the broader organisation?
- What key resources or standard operating procedures are required for the role?
Supporting temporary team members
Supporting temporary team members throughout the experience can make a big difference to the success of the experience. Consider the following:
- Schedule fortnightly or monthly one-on-one meetings (depending on the duration of the temporary move) to talk about the work at a broader level than the day-to-day. The employee is in your care for their temporary move so invest the same amount of time and thought as you would a permanent employee.
- Check in with each other in the morning and at the end of the day to see how they are going and if they have any questions – you can always change the frequency later if this proves too much or not enough.
- When they’ve been assigned a task, walk them through the process a few times; it shouldn’t be expected that they pick it up straight away, if it’s a new way of working.
- Show recognition for hard work, and foster a safe work environment.
- If you need to check-in with their home organisation on progress and performance, set up a regular check-in with their home manager, depending on the length of the temporary move.
In the event that you need to extend or shorten the employee’s temporary move, discuss this with the employee, home manager, and HR practitioner from your organisation who’s been supporting the move. There may be additional paperwork to complete to set out any changes to the original agreement.
If an employee on a temporary move is not meeting your expectations, you will need to address this situation. Temporary moves can be a difficult transition for employees; there may be a range of factors at play. Discuss this with the employee and consider a discussion with the home manager. More advice on performance management can be found in the APSC’s Sharpening the Focus publication.
Managing remote temporary employees
Recently, virtual or distributed teams have become more common, and will likely continue to be part of the APS business model for the foreseeable future. The Framework principles encourages offering temporary moves to those working in remote areas or in locations other than your own, as widely as practical.
If you’ve never managed employees in another location, it can feel unfamiliar and difficult in the beginning; for example, managing a remote team will immediately make it apparent to you if your management style relies on physical presence to be effective. However, over time you will find that leading a remote team opens up new talent markets, and allows you to retain talented people even if they’ve moved cities.
Employees also face challenges working remotely, including feeling isolated, missing subtle physical cues regarding team and agency dynamics, and a new set of distractions, such as neighbours or pets, when working from home.
See tips on Managing remote employees.
It’s good practice to recognise the contribution of employees on a temporary move. This could be through a letter or email to senior executives at their agency recognising their contribution; farewell lunches or events; and explicit thanks at a team or group meeting. You should also encourage them to stay in contact and maintain their new networks. A great experience will be shared with friends and colleagues at the employee’s home organisation. If your organisation runs an exit survey, this can also be a great opportunity to get some feedback on your approach.
After the temporary move
After the experience you should evaluate the temporary move and identify any opportunities to improve your process or approach. This can be written or verbal based on your needs. Ultimately, the evaluation should provide direction on how to continually improve and evolve the process of hosting.