APS HR Professional Stream
A structured way to build and uplift strategic HR skills across the APS
On Monday, 28 October 2019 the Australian Public Service (APS) HR Professional Stream Strategy was formally launched by the APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott. The Strategy will support the establishment of the HR professional stream by identifying core, long-term capability needs, standards and career pathways. It will draw on public, private, domestic and international experience and best practice. The Commissioner also announced the appointment of Jacqui Curtis, Chief Operating Officer of the Australian Taxation Office as the HR Head of Profession. In this role Jacqui will champion strategic HR capability and create strong collaboration across the APS to deliver the initiatives in the Strategy.
More than 1,100 APS HR Professionals from 65 agencies joined the event in over 20 locations across the country.
Good afternoon, and welcome. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. My name is Mary Wiley-Smith and I'm the Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner. I'd like to start by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we meet today and pay my respects to Elders past, present, and emerging. We are meeting across 20 different sites today, and I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of all the lands at each of these locations. I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Islander peoples today. I'd also extend a special welcome to all of you who are joining us for today's event. Through virtual means from locations here in Canberra, but also outside Canberra. I understand that we have 1100 people watching this event today.
It's great to have you all with us, and today is actually all about you. It's about HR practitioners in the Australian public service. Today is also the first of many, many networks that we are going to have with HR across the country in the year to come. It's also a pleasure that I acknowledge several of our special guests today. Firstly, I'd like to welcome Chris Jordan, the Commissioner of Taxation. Peter Woolcott, the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Michele Bruniges, the Secretary of the Department of Education. And Rob Heferen, who is acting Secretary of Department of Environment and Energy. Welcome. Today's event is a culmination of a collaborative effort across the Australian Public Service. So I'd also like to welcome members of the Deputy Secretary's Reference Group. The reference group worked to actually make today possible.
So I'd like to actually acknowledge them. They are sitting in the front row here, and I know that you're gonna meet them soon when we actually go to questions later on in today's event. Jill Charker from the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. Justine Greig from the Department of Defence, Jacqui Curtis, from the Australian Taxation Office. Katherine Jones, from the Department of Finance. And Neal Mason from the Department of Agriculture. I'd also like to acknowledge members of the Reference Group who, unfortunately, couldn't be here with us today. Sir Matt Yannopulos from the Department of Health and Roxanne Kelly from the Department of Human Services. As I mentioned, today is the culmination of a collaborative effort between departments and also senior executives from across the Public Service. All united in a desire to make a difference to the Australian Public Service. And the most practical and valuable way to do this is to build our collective HR capability, particularly in strategic HR, to work closely with our business areas and our executive to help lead and advise on organisational change.
Now I know you are all itching to get to the exciting part of the day, and in a moment I will hand over to the Australian Public Service Commissioner, to make some key announcements about the way forward for HR professionals in the Public Service. And we're also going to meet our new Head of Profession. And we're going to actually see the Reference Group in action. But first, some logistics and housekeeping. For those of you here in Canberra, you would have walked past the bathrooms on your way into the room. For guests in other sites, you have site coordinators in your rooms who can guide you. In the event of an emergency, please follow the directions of your local Fire Wardens. When we confirmed your nomination to attend today, we asked you all to upload the Slido app on your mobile phones. If you haven't done that already, please take a moment to do that now. The instructions should be on the audio/visual behind me here.
While I ask that your mobile phones are on silent mode, please keep them close. We would like you to send through any questions or comments for your speakers and panel through the afternoon. So please do that using the Slido app. You will also see on the app that we are also asking you to nominate any topics of interest that you'd like to be made available for future HR network meetings. I would now like to invite Peter Woolcott, the Australian Public Service Commissioner, to make his address. Peter.
Thank you, Mary. It is great to be here today to launch this much-needed public service-wide initiative. I'd like to begin by echoing Mary's acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet today, across all locations, and pay my respect Elders, past, present, and emerging. As you all know, the Australian Public Service is operating in an increasingly complex environment. The APS is facing the challenges of digital disruption and automation, globalisation and changing demographics, including a growing and ageing population and an evolution of how people want to participate in work and manage their careers. To continue to deliver the best service to the community, the APS needs the best minds and the most dedicated people.
However, the APS is up against tough competition for talent from the private sector. Potential employees are looking for a dynamic, challenging, and flexible work environment and the APS will need to work hard to attract them. This is critical for the betterment of our workplaces and employees and the community we serve. To strengthen our effectiveness, we must be sure we are Public Services capable, open, dynamic and flexible to change. And today is one part of the plan for how we will achieve this. You'll no doubt be aware the independent review of the Australian Public Service has recently been delivered to the Prime Minister. While the review has not been published, the interim report, Priorities for Change, highlighted the need for formal, focused professionalisation of all APS roles drawing on international best practice. Several reviews of the APS over recent years have highlighted capability gaps across a number of professions, including strategic human resources management. This has led to why we are here today.
And to the work we're doing to establish a formal professions model in the APS, with the aim of lifting in-house skills and expertise and providing rewarding Public Service careers. Australian Public Service Commission has looked at what other governments overseas have learned. From implementing profession-based models such as in New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK. In the UK, for example, when you join the civil service, you become part of a profession. Your profession offers networking opportunities, career routes, training, and development programs. A formalised professions model has the advantage of being able to help define and support career paths for both generalists and specialists, providing opportunities of value, expertise, and management capability. However, a professionals model also needs to be flexible. Keeping in mind that what works for one profession may not work for another and there should be scope to work across different professions. To do this, we have to build career paths for our core professions that create a common understanding for skills and experience needed at each level, and the opportunity to gain these in a structured way. It is my pleasure to announce that we have developed an APS HR professional stream strategy, to further professionalise HR leadership and the HR workforce in the APS.
This strategy will provide a systematic service-wide approach to lifting strategic HR capability and attracting and retaining the best strategic HR talent available. The HR professional stream strategy follows the key principles of growing capability, sharing knowledge and experience, and engaging via collaboration and voluntary activity. The strategy has been developed with consultation with the established reference group, comprising senior deputy secretaries representing a range of APS agencies. The deputy secretaries who have gathered this work are our special guests today and were introduced by Mary earlier. Many thanks go to all of you for your advice and help along the way to get us to this point. Including finding people to lead the work. I would like to specifically acknowledge the early conceptual work undertaken by Deputy Secretary Jill Charker.
It was Jill's early strategic thinking that was used as the foundation piece for evolving the strategy. I would also like to specifically acknowledge the ATO commissioner Chris Jordan who generously provided resources to work at the commission over the past few months as well as generously hosting our event today. For anyone who's not aware, Commissioner Jordan is a strong advocate of strategic HR. He understands the value of his people and the importance of partnerships between business areas and HR to deliver outcomes and drive change. And I thank you again, Chris. I also would thank the Secretaries Board for their strong support for this initiative. The strategy includes initiatives that will help identify the core longterm capability, needs, standards and career pathways to support HR professionals in the APS. It will draw on public, private, domestic and international experience and best practice. The key signature initiatives of the strategy are: the creation of a professional HR network, implementing HR mobility program, developing a workforce strategy for HR professionals, improving in recruitment of HR specialists to the APS, and streamlining HR graduate recruitment. Today we've launched the HR Professional Network and I'm pleased this network is now up and running. The APS HR professional network brings you all together. HR employees from across agencies to share your knowledge and experience.
A monthly scheduled networking opportunity has been created so the HR Professional Network can come together regularly for collaborative learning. Masterclasses on topical issues will also be a key feature, as well as speakers series. Today I'll also introduce to you the complementary online virtual HR network established on the GovTEAMS online channel. The online channel will provide resources and learning opportunities for all APS HR professionals. So, what are the next steps? Firstly on mobility, the strategy outlines that we will create mobility opportunities for APS HR practitioners. These will include inter-agency and cross-agency as a commons as well as with external private sector providers and academia. These mobility opportunities will aim to provide a way for people to develop their individual capabilities, expand their knowledge and experience, and immerse themselves in diverse organisations and environments. People can then return to their home agencies with new perspectives and a diversity of views and ideas to share.
This is the first time we're implementing a formal mobility program for a professional stream. We will also be working to identify the professional HR standards and HR capabilities needed for strategic HR practitioners in the APS. Optional formal HR certification will be considered to ensure growth and retention of professionalised workforce that is aligned with professional standards and broader future capability needs. At a senior and leadership level, we would like to understand the profile of that cohort and develop a talent and succession management plan. It is a need in the APS for HR leaders to be exemplary role models for the wider workforce. As we move to address the expectations of government and the Australian community and the new challenges that face us in an increasingly connective world, the nature of what we need from a strategic HR needs to broaden to include skills outside of traditional HR. Key needs include change leadership, design capability, commercial and business acumen, data analytics, behavioural economics, organisational psychology and other broad potentials that partner with business to achieve pragmatic business outcomes. We have also codesigned a central HR graduate recruitment and development program for the APS to work an on opt-in basis. This will be coordinated and initially run with the ATO. As well as benefiting agencies in the wider APS, HR graduates will have a better candidate experience.
For example, HR graduates will only need to apply once for any HR position in any APS agencies. And HR graduate only need to attend one assessment centre represented by all agencies that opt-in to the centralised model. Successful HR graduates will then participate in whole of APS development program. The development program will run for nine months including rotational placements in different agencies, along with learning and development that'll focus on strategic HR problem-solving, related to complex business problems. The co desire of this initiative is bringing together different agency views and a diversity of thinking and ideas. Now the thing of the APS HR Professional Stream Strategy is the appointment of HR Head of Profession. The role of the HR Head of Profession is to champion strategic HR capability and strong collaboration across the APS. The HR Head of Profession will be rotated every two years between relevant senior executives at the Deputy Secretary level. This will share ownership across agencies and leverage the diversity of thinking over time. The responsibilities and accountabilities as the HR Head of Profession are distinct from those of agency heads. The Head of Profession will not have any formal authority over Agency Head decision making. The Head of Profession will use influence and will assist and guide decision-makers to ensure HR strategies are actively engaged with business to delivery workforce capability improvements across the APS. This is not the only professional model that will be established. It is, however, the first. I'll be Head of Professions and have oversight across the APS and the various models and be a conduit to the secretaries all over. It is now my pleasure to introduce to you, the new deeply established HR Head of Profession, and that is Jacqui Curtis.
Jacqui's current role is Chief Operating Officer at the Australian Taxation Office. In that role, Jacqui leads the ATO's enterprise strategy and corporate operations functions. Jacqui sits on the ATO Executive, responsible for shaping and setting strategic direction and oversight implementation. A significant part of her role is corporate positioning, change management and design of the 20,000 strong organisation. that is primarily based outside of Canberra as a national business. In oversighting the people function, Jacqui brings together an integrated picture of the people and resource management to ensure the ATO has the right capability and culture to meet its strategic intent. Prior to her current role, Jacqui was Deputy Commissioner of the ATO's People Function and led the Reinvention Program management office leading change management and key reforms to improve the client and staff experience. Before then, Jacqui held other HR functions in both the public and private sectors. She is a fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute, was appointed adjunct professor at the University of Canberra last year. Along with her Deputy Secretary colleagues on the Reference Group, Jacqui has helped guide development of the HR professional stream work program. It is now my great pleasure to announce Jacqui's appointment today and to introduce her to you. Please join me again in congratulating Jacqui and I invite you to stage.
Wow, this is exciting. I'm delighted to be here today and particularly to see so many familiar faces here in Canberra. And I know many of the people that are tuning in from around the country from the ATO sites. As Peter said, I am Jacqui Curtis and I am the Chief Operating Officer here at the ATO. A role that I love and an organisation that I am privileged and proud to work for. Thank you, Peter, for that wonderful introduction. I think it's terrific that you've been able to explain to everybody here and across the country exactly what this new professional stream's strategy will mean to us as an HR workforce. But also, to the APS. At the heart of this, the professional stream's strategy is about building capability and capacity across the whole of the APS so that we can deliver better outcomes for our organisations, but more importantly, for the Australian community.
So, it's truly an honour to have been asked to lead the HR Professional stream. And as many of you know, I too am an HR professional. And as someone who has always worked to make sure HR is positioned as a key driver to improve the organisational outcomes that we can deliver, and for people to be the best they can be, it is amazing to be able to be here today and ensure that HR is recognised as a really important value asset to our organisations. So it's a privilege to be talking to you today. I too wanted to thank some of our special guests. Peter and Mary in the APS team mentioned a couple of my own people. Lina and Kate who also joined them to help shape this program. I too would like to thank my Deputy Secretary colleagues who are going to be here later today and you'll be able to quiz them about what straight, strategic HR means to them. And I too want to thank all of you. The 100s of HR professionals across the country who have come out today to help us launch what is a really important program. One which will mean so much to you because at the end of the day, it is you that have the most skin in the game. And it'll take all of us to be able to change the way the HR profession is positioned. I particularly also want to acknowledge the support we have received from the very top. Secretaries and agency heads, some of us have been able to join us today including, as Peter said, my own boss, Chris Jordan. I'm specifically calling out this top-level support because it's one of the things that will be critical to our succeeding.
As it is with any important change. So today, we are launching a program that is specifically designed to bring together, invest in, and build an expert HR workforce that is valued for its professional expertise and ability to deliver outstanding people outcomes. And I want to highlight upfront the significance of HR as being established as one of the first streams. Or as Peter said, the very first stream. As you know, the APS is transforming and will continue to transform faster than it ever has before. We're seeing an increased focus on emerging professions such as data and analytics, digital and design. And many other critical professions that will position us for the success of the service in the future. And let's not forget the traditional professions such as policy and service delivery. They too will need to reinvent themselves and transform. However, what I really wanted to do is say we are the first cab off the rank. Because what we do know is that of all of these professions, both emerging and established, it is HR that will have to be there to provide leadership, advice and support so that they can make their own transformations a success. I think that just goes to show the shift in thinking that has occurred in the importance of HR, the recognition that we as a profession are able to achieve when we can demonstrate and measure the effects of our strategies. So today we are not so much launching a strategic initiative, but perhaps more accurately an opportunity, and opportunity which in my highest hopes will transform our profession in the following three ways. First, it will see us working together across our agencies and silos to collectively achieve what one person or team could not do alone. Second, it will deliver expanded opportunities to deliver and advance a profession recognised for its expertise and strategic advice. We do need to rid ourselves of some old-fashioned notions that still exist in some quarters that HR is a female dominated industry located somewhere in a back office full of helpful people.
Now we all know that's not the case but there are some people that say that it is. So that is something we can all achieve together. And third and perhaps most importantly, the HR workforce will become known as a profession that has the ability to develop, win support for and implement people's strategies. Strategies that help the APS jump the curve, position us for the future and better serve the Australian people. Now that's pretty ambitious if you reflect on where we are as a profession today. It's not that we are not good at what we do, we are. But as the people-people, I think we would be the first to admit that we can and do need to ensure that our capability is consistently high and that we are evidence-based, data led that we are strategic and influential and that we have a seat at the table. That I don't want to be, as Boris Johnson would say, a gloomster or a doomster. And put any negativity on today's event. The reason we are here is to launch an ambitious program that will make a difference to our profession and address some of these concerns. So I thought I would start off by telling you a story about another ambitious change, where strategic HR was at the table and where it made a huge difference to the outcomes that could be achieved. It is a story about what is possible, one which I hope will encourage and help all of us imagine what can be possible for our profession with the right support, investment, leadership and of course our commit to the profession.
Now in fact, some of you may have heard me tell this story before. I hope though that it will resonate with you today and I will try and put a slightly different angle on it. It started like many good stories do, with a phone call. Back in 2013. A friend called and said, Jacqui, the ATO is looking for an experienced HR professional to lead the people function and more importantly to lead a massive transformational change. At the time I thought, likely story. I mean, the ATO is more known for collecting money that is focused on people. Or so it was at the time. But I did begin to believe when I got the opportunity to talk to the new Commissioner, Commissioner Chris Jordan, he explained to me that the ATO was reinventing itself and how he believed that the success of that transformation depended on being people-led. He said, the head of HR would lead the change and be part of the executive team. So after maybe 10 minutes or so, maybe a little bit less, if I'm being truthful. I got on one of my machines as you do. I send him a text and said, I'd would like to be considered for that job. And I was lucky enough to win the role as head of people at the ATO. And I joined an executive team that valued and believed in strategic HR. And together we started to develop and invest in comprehensive strategies that have delivered significant results. And some of those strategies are HR strategies that are have made a real difference. For example, we have seen a reduction in the CommCare premium, from $50 million per year to less than $3 million per year. Which means, an extra $47 million going straight back into the business. A reduction in unplanned leave from 16.6 days to 13.3 days, which means approximately 48,000 dollars...sorry, 48, 000 extra days of productivity, which is equivalent to 210 FTE or $20 million. Some agencies - that's their whole budget for the year or their whole workforce for the year. We have been able to put that straight back into the business. And engagement scores are higher than we have ever seen before. Which means we have an engaged, highly productive and hopefully very happy workforce. Needless to say, this change has been a success. While there is still a way to go, when I look back at where we started, I think it's a testament to what dedicated and professional HR people can do when they have the expertise and the experience. This could not have been possible or have been achieved without the right top level support, strategic direction and skilled people with the right credentials in the right roles. And here is the thing, there are stories like this all across the APS. Stories about HR delivering great results and driving better outcomes. So there is no reason why we can't all have this same kind of impact across our agencies. Especially now we have the support of the professional stream program and the sponsorship of secretaries and agency heads. Because you have to have people at the top of the organisation who believe in what you do if you're going to be able to make a difference. Now you would have noticed that throughout this presentation I have talked about strategic HR. I just want to expand on this concept for a moment and what it means to me. My colleagues will tell you more about what it means to them when we have the panel session. I'll just have a little sip of water.
So firstly, you need to understand the business needs. I don't mean that you need to be able to run the business or become an operative, although a stint in the business never hurts. At the heart of this it means you need to how your strategies and policies will impact on the ground. Because if you don't understand the operating environment of the people on which you're policies will impact, even the best HR policies and theories will remain just that. Strategies and policies on a page. You also need to really understand your organisation, you need to understand its culture and what makes its people tick. It's priorities and it's operating context, including the political context. Everything that you do should align with and take this into account. Having that that deeper understanding of your staff, and your business will enable you to be strategic.
Think about your HR function from end to end, always keeping the end goal front-of-mind and taking an evidence-based approach to get where you need to be. Doing your research and having the hard facts behind you will also make you more convincing and help you bring along staff and leaders. If you could link back to the priorities of each business area and demonstrate with insightful analysis why your approach will work, you will be convincing. Here is one of my favourites. Try to tell your story in different ways to different audiences and avoid the HR jargon. I can honestly tell you, I have never been approached by... who's asked me about how a talent acquisition of a program is travelling. Or what's happening with the contingent workforce. That language is fine in our own circles, or when we're sort of pitching something to the top. But when you're talking to people on the ground they want to understand how our recruitment process is going. They want to understand what's the mix between casual, non-ongoing, labour force. Human beings aren't wired for technical jargon, they relate to stories that have meaning and to which they can connect. And, of course, and I've put this in here for Commissioner Jordan, of course, get the fundamentals of HR right. No one will listen to us if our strategic ideas...and our strategic ideas, if we don't get the basics right. Imagine trying to get someone on board with your strategy if you haven't been able to pay them accurately. So do the basics brilliantly, and be sure you are doing what you ask of others in your own backyard. I say to my people all the time at HR, if you can't do it in your space with your people, how could you ever expect anyone to follow you? My final tip, be confident and bold in your advice. You can, of course, only do this if you have the right credentials and expertise.
So now we have it. A broad invitation to show what we can do as a profession, so lets the make the most of it. Now it is up to all of us to really grasp this opportunity. We can only do this together. I believe the program and the initiatives that Peter spoke about earlier will really make a difference to our profession. So let's work together and make our move now. Thank you.
I am now just handing back over to Mary and the panel session.
Thank you very much, Jacqui, and congratulations. First Head of Profession in the public service. That's a pretty exciting time for all of us. So I would like to introduce our colleagues, that have been helping and developing the profession over the last six months. I know, because I have got a wonderful device here that's actually showing me that you have got lots of questions that we can ask them, so thank you very much and thank you to everybody that's actually online using the Slido app as well. Sitting right beside me, and I'm sure she'll wave to you, is Jill Charker, from the Department of Employment Skills, Small and Family Business. Then we also have Neal Mason, Neal's from the Department of Agriculture. We have Justine Greig, from the Department of Defence. And on the end is Katherine Jones, from Department of Finance. So panel, are you happy to go straight to questions? Wonderful. So to start with, there's nice one here which is basically, if you could tell the audience, your views on the three key capabilities you expect from talented HR strategists? We might just get a couple people to take this question. Who would like to go first? Go, Justine.
Good afternoon everyone. It is absolutely fantastic to have the afternoon with you. I think about this quite simply. It is be, know, do. And I'll explain what I mean with be, no, do. I am not very good on the do, so I have people around me that are good implementers. But when I say the know, is understanding your organisation and really understanding your organisation fits nationally and internationally, and what those priorities are. Also within that, I think the knowing how media and social media and communication has changed what we do, in HR you've really got to be a centrepiece in that communication, so I think it's knowing and understanding in communication in that context and understanding your organisation. In the being, I think it's really being agile. And you hear the word all the time. Hopefully this afternoon I might be able to share a few examples where I think we in government have been quite agile in HR. That agility, to work across teams in your organisation, and also teams within HR, that agility across the professions, whether it's workforce planning, whether it's case management, whatever it is, being agile across those teams is just vital. So I sort of call that, the being. In terms of the doing, having a real understanding of implementation of HR solutions that are simple but always having that evaluation built in 'cause I think, more and more, we've got to try things at an earlier point in time, and having an understanding of what those ideas and solutions might bring, and evaluate as you go. So, that's how I described the three things that I see as really critical to that strategic HR.
Thank you very much. I don't know if anyone else wants to jump in.
DR JILL CHARKER:
Yeah, just building on that. Yeah I think, just building on that, I think the knowledge of the business, really deep knowledge of the organisation you're in is really critical. Jacqui touched on that in her comments as well, but I think without deeply understanding where your organisation is at and what it genuinely needs at this point in time, it is incredibly important, I think for HR strategists, in terms of then avoiding a one size fits all, cookie cutter approach to what we do. So I think that's fundamental but I would add too... I just think an inherently well-developed problem solving ability. It's certainly, as Jacqui indicated, there's a level of, sort of BAU HR services, which I think is almost a hurdle requirement for us to be able to claim that we deliver, and deliver hopefully reasonably effectively...hopefully most of the time. But the problems which, for which our advice is most often sought and often valued are problems which the business area is struggling with, and they that can manifest in terms of capability, in terms of retention, in terms of some particularly sensitive matter. So I think being able to bring that problem-solving focus to bear, which inherently is what people are looking for from HR, is incredibly important.
Terrific. Thank you.
Yeah, can I add one more...if it's OK? And I think it applies right across the board for us as public service, but it's courage. In HR, we see lots of the good and we see a lots of the challenge in the organisations we work with. And it's is really important for us, anywhere within our profession, to really make sure that we are calling things as we see them. And importantly then, working with business areas and managers to help work through them. So I'd encourage you, when you see things that are great, embrace them. When you see things that don't look quite right, then you should be asking some questions around, what is that? Let's be a bit curious about that, let's think a bit about that, and work with our business areas to really understand how we can actually work out what's happening behind the scenes in a way that we can add value to making it better.
Terrific, thank you very much. So we've got a very popular question here that's just come through. And it's, what will be...Is this going to be the start of the first of many joint recruitment opportunities through that APS? I might throw to Katherine on this one. Is that alright?
Thanks Mary. Well, I think I'm probably talking on behalf of everyone to say...hope so. I think it's a great starting point to do the joint graduate HR process. But I think the era has come where we just have to be so much more joined up and strategic around thinking about APS capability as a whole, not that we have a whole lot of individual, discrete organisations. There is so much commonality in terms of what we need. I would love us to take the big leap almost immediately, and do a whole of APS graduate process, not just HR graduate process. When you hear about the experience of people who apply through 8, 10, 12 different processes, and have to write 8, 10, 12 applications and front up to interviews, what other organisation of 160, 000 people would put people through that? So I think that time has come and I think the more that we start approaching our workforce from this professional stream perspective, which I think is such a great development. We'll think about pooling our resources and having a much more whole of service strategic approach. And that is where HR has such a fantastic role to play in terms of being able to support those processes and assist areas that sometimes can get a little bit too focused on narrow technical skills, which are necessary. You know, we need data specialists, we need digital specialists, but we also need people who are going to evolve into good leaders, and good general problem solvers. And I think HR specialists can really help us better develop and identify those skills.
Well done, that's good. And we are actually looking at what we can do in terms of being one APS, and seeing if we can streamline what we do together. So I think through the Secretary's Board, they have already asked the APS, see working without the agencies, to seeing if we can actually just streamline some of the back end processes for all the grad programs So an applicant, instead of what Katherine was talking just talking about, having to apply for, for 20 departments, go through multiple rounds, they only even have to apply once. It still gives each agency the ability to select who they need, but if we can streamline for people coming into the service, then we want to be able to do that. So I might move onto the next question. And it's another one that is very popular, related really to the first question we had. And we've got a lot of staff here that are asking about what's the balance for HR professionals between deep HR expertise and knowledge of the business. You're all nodding. Who wants to go first?
I don't mind. I'm first regardless.
The strong theme that I see that works here is thinking about the balance in the team, rather than in the individual. So an individual may have a lot of business experience, less HR, or a lot of HR, very little understanding of the business and who we are delivering our strategy and services to. I tend to recommend we must, must look at the team, and we need a combination of those. It is much, much more effective if there are people in your HR team that have worked in the business, because they of course understand what is needed. I think the great example there is when we are trying to integrate advice, so whether that is strategic workforce planning, or whether we are trying to come up with a solution for various sort of complex case management issues, the person that's worked in the business is actually very good at seeing how best the integrated advice can be received. So my view there is balance in the team, and I, for one, am always actively looking to bring people in who are not HR professionals, but rather complement the skills that we have got.
Time for me to weigh in? Great. For me, and I think our new Head of Profession put this particularly well, you need to understand the business that you are in and you need to understand the business you're in as a HR professional to provide advice. It doesn't mean you have spent 10 years in the business to do that, because what I am doing is bringing professional expertise to that conversation in a way that's got to add value to the business. The two of us together and going to work out how to transform a business process. I am not going to that on the side-lines, and generally HR add value when we join the business to do that. The challenges that we don't spend enough time in the beginning talking together about how to do that. We tend to jump into something and then we give advice or we tend to give advice and then jump into something, rather than I think the term we used earlier around designing something together. HR can bring a lot to the table if we are at the table. To get to the table you need to get the basics right. And I couldn't agree more with that. From my point of view, all the HR folk I work with every day realise that we have to spend time in the business, we've got to understand how the bits work, and we've actually got to think about how to bring value to that rather than saying it's one thing or the other.
Terrific. So we have another... Sorry. Katherine.
I just wanted to add one thing, that underlines the challenge. Because we talk about the businesses as if each organisation has one line of business. Most of our organisations are actually incredibly varied. My organisation, the Department of Finance, I know a lot of people think it's just the budget, but that's actually the smallest part of the organisation. We do service delivery, we do service delivery to parliamentarians, we do whole of government procurement processes. The mix of skills, the mix of needs that our organisation has is really broad. I need our HR capability to understand that broad mix, and I would suspect that is the same for many organisations. So it is about being able to acquire an understanding of the department or the organisation and all its different responsibilities, and deliver for it, as opposed to having a very intricate understanding of particular lines of business within an organisation.
Thank you very much, and I've always found... So I've moved in my career - I've moved in and out of HR all of the time. Into policy, into program. And I believe it makes me better in terms of my role in HR because you do understand the business, the complexity of different agencies and the work we do in serving the government and communities in Australia. So, moving onto the next question, this one's an interesting one, I will have, have hands up on who would like to answer it instead of allocating it you. But could you tell it's out of time when you saw bad HR or no HR in action?
DR JILL CHARKER:
Yeah, I'm happy to take that one.
DR JILL CHARKER:
Not because I have a plethora of examples to draw on, but I have one or two that stick. Certainly not naming agencies, places or anything. We just observed a place I've worked in my career, and now I've worked in a number of places. So this organisation remains unidentifiable, there was a reasonably significant internal transformation program going on, Which you could characterise like many transformation programs, many of us are familiar with. So, changes to IT systems, changes to our processes that staff had to engage with, both with their ultimate clients as well as with IT systems. And I suppose underpinning all of that, a change to culture and values and what we were looking for and wanted to move to. And what I observed here was actually HR nowhere to be seen. The core things that we're changing were how the humans in the department on the agency, without naming, interacted with the technology, interacted with the clients and end customers, interacted with each other to get to that point. And yet HR was not even in the discussions. HR was very much relegated to very much to the transactional. They'll process pays, we hope, as I said earlier correctly. But In terms of that strategic capability and getting in early to say we are actually talking about a big shift in skills here in capabilities and in how we reward people, and train people, and in whom we recruit, those discussions were not led by HR. HR in that instance was actually AWOL, I would suggest. Past the remnant of even being bad, actually not at present. Which to me was a real shame. And so the HR gap that was created was being picked up to some extent by the transformation lead area and they were trying to do HR as well as do all of the stuff as part of that transformation and struggling. And so I think for me, when you see big changes and big disruptions, and there's roles for HR in many other places too, One hopes that HR recognises the core common element, which is often the people in the organisation. And you're often asking them to do something different, something new, to be rewarded for something that maybe historically they have not been, there hasn't been a focus. And so thinking upfront really early and engaging as a HR practitioner or strategist really early with the area that is driving the change I think is incredibly important and a wonderful opportunity and a great loss of course too when we don't engage in that way.
That's a good one. Katherine, you've got one to share too?
Well, I actually want to respond differently and not so much bad HR. Cause I gotta say, the HR capability that we got at our organisation is absolutely fantastic. But I think bad expectations of HR, and that is when I think the senior leadership of the organisation or leaders all the way through the organisation abrogate their own responsibility around culture, around people and HR is seen to be just mopping up mess around the organisation. So I think from my perspective it's much about all of us as part of the senior leadership to be setting the right expectations for HR, really underlying their contribution to the strategic, to the culture, to the capability and not necessarily spending most of their time doing case management or because people aren't taking responsibility in their own work areas.
That's a good point, actually.
Well done. Alright, we have a popular question. It's an anonymous one. And it seems to have got lots of votes. How do we grow HR expertise broadly across the breadth of the APS when the EVP of some agencies may not be as attractive as others? So this goes back to how we actually work together in a whole of government way.
DR JILL CHARKER:
I mean, I suspect some of what the commissioner and the head of profession have touched on goes very much to that point. I think there's that recognition emerging more strongly that this is a shared asset, if you like, of skill. That we fragment and we scatter and we don't connect groups of folk with those skills to our detriment. And so I think in some respects it is almost the subtext of the professional stream or the strategy that is obviously being launched today is about trying to get more connection through various informal and formal mechanisms. One of the more formal mechanisms though being that mobility piece. So recognising that the movement of HR professions across the... HR staff, sorry, across the APS is a core part to trying to grow that capability. And also developing a more structured approach to the recruitment and training of HR professionals. So I think Jacqui touched earlier, it might have been the commissioner, I apologise I can't recall, on certification, and certification of HR professionals as being as optional but highly valued way to systematically boost the capability of HR folk would like to say they are practising HR professionals. So I actually think the whole point, in some respects of today, it's a great question, is exactly to that point, about building the capability across the service, not in a fragmented manner.
I mean how exciting is it that we've got about 1100 people on today? I mean, I don't know, I'm guessing a good portion of you HR professionals. Some of you won't be, so fantastic. We've got lots of business people here today, but I think to have 1100 people in a profession all taking the time to acknowledge that we are a profession, we are in the APS and going to make a difference, I think the levers are all here. I mean, I'm really excited about that, and really excited to be a part of that. So for anyone who's sort of thinking not quite sure, here is the opportunity, we have seen some tools that I think are going live today where you'll be able to get straight in and start finding and connecting with people within the profession, there'll be some professional things happening for us all over the next sort of 12 months which I'm pretty excited about. And I think collectively it's 1100, we can make it what we want it to be. We really can. We've got the authorising environment. I think it's really good in our hands. It's terrific.
OK. Well said, Neal. That was good. We are all here and we can do it, we can actually change the culture and focus on the profession. I should mention the reference group, not everybody is here, we've got two people missing. But out wonderful people on stage, and Jacqui, they made today happen. So, no-one said you have permission. They decided we had a need within the public service and we want to do something about it for the good of the service and for HR profession because it means something to us. And we are all committed so thanks for reminding us, Neal. Because that's why we're here.
I just get very excited.
We want to make a difference, at a whole government level. Just going to another couple of questions that are quite popular. We have one person that actually wasn't anonymous, and he's Nick who has asked a question. And he's got 25 thumbs up. So we might actually put a thumbs up to Nick and actually ask this one. So, Nick has asked "What is our role as HR professionals in getting the culture of the organisations right or guiding the culture of the organisation?
This is probably my favourite topic, so I'll go there. Thanks, Nick. That's an excellent question. Our role in culture is very much to help the organisation understand it. And for many organisations I think we rely on surveys quite heavily, and as HR professionals today, we need to broaden our thinking there. It is certainly about talking to people in the organisation but there's also other sources today that we didn't have before. There is a lot of communication on a daily basis across government in your own organisation, and in understanding the culture I think we need to really excel in our methods and how we understand what is going on. So I would say that is point one. Point two is understanding what are the levers. I think you mentioned Katherine earlier, that cultures is complex. I come from an organisation at the moment that is very complex in terms of the number of subcultures and how people work, what the organisational climate, climate is and the levers in those environments are different. So again, it's understanding that specific context you're working in. Then as part of the leadership team and part of other teams, it really is working together to then identify what are the levers we might pull. And those levers may be different depending on where you are. So I see in some, the HR role is actually highly critical to that.
DR JILL CHARKER:
Yeah I'm happy to comment as well. I think HR working in partnership with the business can co-create, can consciously co-create a culture that we want to see. And often I think we talk about culture as being sort of an end product, a reactive thing that comes out of what we do. And I think we tend to talk a little bit less about opportunities to design a culture that we want to see, and Justine said, what the levers are to effect that. And I think HR has an enormous capacity to again embed in the business thinking of what the organisation wants to achieve from a business point of view, which is fundamental here, to then say, right, if that's what the business was to achieve and that is what our customers, clients, stakeholders want us to look like, how does that translate into our practices internally? What sorts of behaviours should we be seeing? What sorts of behaviours and practices should we be rewarding? And immediately you can start to see links to our reward and management systems. You can see links to what we train people in and all of those things are a statement of the culture in a sense that we think we're trying to achieve. Sometimes we do that consciously and sometimes less consciously. I think HR has a wonderful vantage point and a set of tools at its disposal that can be put into motion to support a very conscious design of a culture that the organisation, the business was to see.
Yep. We can change the incentives. We can be the executives to actually change some of the behaviours that you see. That's good. Alright. Last question, and this one's really... Neal, you'll be happy about this question I think. So males are under-represented in some HR functions. So what are effective approaches to ensure gender balance for the public service as we move forward. You don't have to answer it. I think your three colleagues could answer that one.
Maybe my colleagues need to answer the question. I'll chip in at the end if you like.
I think one of the things is how you value the profession and the importance of it in your institutions. And I think this initiative of developing the professional stream is a really good step in the right direction. I think the more we think about HR as a key capability to grow organisations or help organisations really deliver on their outcomes. And less about that problem solving thing that I was talking about earlier on, I think that will assist. But I think consciously thinking that it is good to try and achieve greater gender equity and be a bit proactive about that. I've worked in areas in government and Justine will be able to talk about this, but I've worked in areas of government where there is a significant gender disparity and that was in the national security space. You certainly get a different perspective and different outcomes when you have a significant balance one way or the other. So I think this is a great starting point, really strongly promoting the profession, strongly building capabilities and having programs in place to do that is a fantastic step in the right direction.
I think it comes down to... diversity in any profession is a healthy thing, so diversity, however you define it. And I've seen over the last 25 years actually, big shifts in diversity in HR. So a lot of people have come in from other professions. So I think my view on that one is growing the diversity and building on the diversity that starting to appear.
I think part of it is also being able to educate and influence our wider colleagues so that they know exactly what happens in HR, because I do think that Jacqui's comment is right, it's the women out the back doing some admin work. We're not good at selling ourselves in HR, we're not good at explaining what we do and we're not good at talking about how valuable we are to the business and how we can make things happen. You've heard some great examples from my colleagues here talking about how effective HR can be in actually driving business outcomes, changing incentives and really focusing on how we actually deliver. So I'm gonna end there. And would you [lease join me in thinking everybody on the panel. Katherine, Jill, Neal, and Justine. Thank you.
And thank you to everybody that has actually put in all of their questions into Slido. There's many more questions here that we don't have time to go through today and answer, but what we might do is we can get together as a group and we can answer these questions for you and actually put them back out into the Govdex site so that you do get an answer from us. Does that sound alright everyone, if we do that? They're all nodding, so that's good. Alright, so thank you for everybody's input today. Thanks for your views, thanks for your different perspectives, and also your engagement. To you here in Canberra, you will have the opportunity to continue to network with the reference group who have kindly offered us some more of their time to actually meet with you outside after our formalities conclude. I think there might be afternoon tea out there which is supplied.
So thank you very much to ATO are assisting us and displaying that. Thanks also to Peter and to Jacqui, and to the reference group members for their personal insights today. And really a special mention to our colleagues in the ATO for hosting this event, and for access to their experts who have helped make today really happen. Events like just don't happen overnight - they involve a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and coordination and it is amazing to see it all come together so perfectly today. So thank you to everyone involved in today's network meeting. I would also like to just briefly acknowledge the team, the engine room that meant it all happen today. So we had a small group of staff from across the APS working very closely with the reference group to make it all happen. So thank you. I think they are all standing at the back there, but thank you to Lina Ranieri and Kate from the ATO.
To Nadia Cooper, from Defence.
And Alana and Fiona from the APSC. Thank you to you all.
So as I mentioned at the beginning of today's event, today is really all about you, HR professionals in the Australian Public Service. We have now reserved some time for you to have an opportunity to network and get to know your colleagues and to talk about what you just heard in today's event. Afternoon tea is provided in all localities for you to be able to do that. So please take some time, don't rush back to work straight away, get to know your colleagues and talk about what it means to have an HR profession. Thank you again for joining us today, this is just the start of many conversations to come. Thank you.
There are a number of external challenges and forces shaping the APS and how we deliver for government and the Australian community. We need a public service that is united, trusted and focused on the people of Australia. Our challenge is to be more adaptive and responsive, ensuring we can attract, develop, mobilise and retain talented and capable people.
We want the APS to be an employer of choice, with a high-performing, diverse and flexible workforce able to be mobilised as needed. Capability will be seamlessly identified and deployed to strategic priorities across the APS for the benefit of the system.
We need to be take action now, as we deal with today’s challenges and build an APS that is fit for the future. The HR function in the APS is a key change leader that can enable us to meet our aspiration as a trusted APS, united in serving all Australians.
The HR Professional Stream will complement work emerging in other areas including the legal, economics, digital and policy streams. The development of professional streams will collectively provide formal, focused professionalisation of the APS workforce.
You can find out more about the initiatives to deliver the APS HR Professional Stream Strategy by joining the APS HR Professional Network GovTEAMS community.