APS Talent Management Key Principles
Why Talent Management?
Talent management is an investment in the future capability of the Australian Public
Service (APS). Its purpose is to build strong and diverse pipelines for leadership and other critical roles to ensure the ongoing institutional strength of the APS.
Talent management contributes to Action 3 of the APS Workforce Strategy 2025 by supporting the
APS to adopt a systematic and leader-led approach to the identification, development, engagement, retention and deployment of high potential employees.
What is Talent Management?
Talent management is the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention and deployment of people to ensure they are equipped and confident to make their best contribution to their agency now and in the future in service of the Government of the day and broader community .
The concept of high potential is central to the notion of talent. It refers to the capacity of an individual to move into - and succeed in - roles of greater complexity, ambiguity and scale in the future.
While continuing to support development for all, specific focus is given to those demonstrating high performance and high potential for leadership or critical roles in the future. Taking a systematic approach to managing the career growth of these employees can help ensure the APS has the right people ready for critical roles now and in the future.
Benefits of Talent Management
A range of public and private organisations, both local and international, have been consulted to inform thinking about talent management in the APS. A number of benefits from implementing talent management emerged from these conversations, including:
Individuals with the right capability are better prepared for more senior or critical roles in the future and more likely to make meaningful contributions through those roles.
Creation of a more agile and adaptive workforce that can better respond to future disruption and challenge.
Improved retention and engagement of high potential individuals.
In the private sector, attracting and retaining talented individuals is closely linked to competitive advantage, market positioning, and customer and stakeholder value. Studies suggest private sector organisations who invest in high potential employees financially outperform their competitors over the long-term.
For the APS, a systematic approach to talent management is critical to ensuring the APS has people with the right capabilities to be able to serve government and citizens. Talent management, done well builds our institutional strength by engaging the best and brightest stewards of the APS in the work of the APS, and, through targeted career development, positioning them for critical roles in the future.
Principles for Talent Management
Five principles underpin effective talent management in the APS:
Talent management is owned and led by APS leaders, who are actively engaged in the process with a view to the longer term interests of their agency and the wider APS.
Senior leaders, as stewards of the APS, have a particular leadership role to play in driving effective talent management in their agency and across the APS.
The identification of talent is based on valid and objective assessment of potential with consideration of both the way they approach their work as well as their ability to deliver outcomes. The assessment is critical to ensuring the right people are receiving the right development and focus at specific times in their career. This is consistent with the notion of merit.
Systematic and dynamic
- The process involves regular and active identification, planning and monitoring of high potential individuals: who they are, how they are being developed, the career 'next steps' that will best help them realise their potential.
The process also recognises that an assessment of potential may change over time depending on an individual's circumstances or career stage. As such, potential is regularly monitored and reassessed.
Talent exists outside of the people already well known in and outside of the system. Talent management approaches actively seek to develop a diverse leadership cadre made up of individuals with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives and extends beyond existing staff.
'Do No harm'
- Talent management approaches are person-centred. Considerable effort and expertise are engaged to avoid reducing engagement or causing real or perceived harm to individuals and their careers.
APS Talent Management System
In the APS, corporate and strategic workforce planning processes influence the focus of talent management. Corporate plans set the strategic direction, key priorities and objectives for agencies, and workforce planning assesses the workforce requirements to deliver on strategic priorities, including the roles that are critical to successful delivery. These roles may be generic, for example, senior management or technical roles (e.g. chief finance officer).
Talent management may focus both on individuals with the potential to successfully undertake these critical roles now and in the future, as well as provide targeted development for the wider workforce. The APS Talent Management System is comprised of three stages:
- Talent attraction and identification
- Talent development and engagement
- Talent retention and deployment
The full talent management system and a visual guide will be provided in further detail on the Talent Management System at a later date.
Foundational Arrangements to Manage Talent
The APS experience of talent management since 2015 suggests that there are a number of foundational practices that are critical to supporting talent management to work effectively and deliver desired outcomes.
- Understanding "talent for what?": Organisations consulted by the APSC who have successfully implemented talent management have all had a clear business driver behind their talent strategy. It is important to have an understanding of the future workforce gaps, for example, leadership or data professionals that talent management approaches will focus on. Without a clear objective of why an agency is developing talent, talent management can become seen as a 'nice to have'.
- Leader-led: Talent management has been most successful where senior executive have actively sponsored and led the work.
Senior executive sponsorship encourages whole-of agency support for talent management, it ensures the focus for talent management aligns to the strategic direction of the agency and that decisions about talent are made at a level where there is agency support for their implementation. For example, a decision to place a high potential individual in another role to broaden their skills and experience. A leader-led approach also unlocks high value development opportunities such as mentoring for talent.
- Strong human resources capability: Talent discussions at the senior executive level should be supported by the Human Resources function who can provide information and advice on the identification, development, and career progression for high potential individuals. To effectively support talent management, HR professionals should also have a deep understanding of the business, the critical roles and what is required to succeed in those roles. HR expertise is critical to avoid reducing engagement or causing real or perceived harm to individuals and their careers.
- Constructive feedback and career conversations: Honest and open career conversations are central to successful talent management. Meaningful conversations clarify the individuals current priorities and future aspirations, and ensure they receive constructive feedback and genuine challenge to focus their development. Where feedback capability is less mature in managers, external professionals or internal HR can make a valuable contribution to support consistent messaging and developmental feedback.
Governance Arrangements for Managing Talent
A leader-led approach is critical to the successful implementation of talent management. A clearly established mechanism for senior executive to come together regularly to discuss talent is an important part of a leader-led approach. This can be across the APS or within an agency. This mechanism can take the form of:
- A Talent Council or equivalent talent specific council or group
- A regular talent agenda item as part of an existing Executive Committee forum.
A talent council or equivalent works to ensure that the agency’s talent strategy connects with its business strategy. The benefits of holding talent council discussions regularly include:
- Involvement of business leaders in talent and succession management strategy and decisions, ensuring connection with business strategy.
- Ensuring business leaders understand and support the assessment method and emphasis so they’re confident to endorse and sponsor/coach/mentor identified talent as needed.
- Development plans are regularly reviewed to ensure relevance to a future critical role.
- Career movement of talent can be mapped to potential for future critical roles.
- Leaders are held accountable for follow through.
Talent councils usually have a strong focus on succession management to ensure that the development planned for each individual meets a specific business need. A Talent Council Terms of Reference guide and example is available in the APS Talent Succession Process.
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