A high-performing APS relies on a skilled and confident workforce, including employees with a diverse range of skillsets. In addition to the fundamental capabilities defined as APS Craft, agencies may require specialist skills. The skillsets considered ‘specialist’ can vary across the APS, depending on the nature of each agency’s work.
The guidance below helps agencies to identify and manage specialists in their workforce. It addresses a key finding of the APS Hierarchy and Classification Review, which noted the need to provide career pathways for specialists that allow them to progress in the APS without necessarily supervising staff.
This work sits within the existing APS classification system and does not confer any additional entitlements for specialist staff. The guidance should be read in conjunction with the 2023 guidance on Optimal Management Structures and Workforce planning resources.
Definition of a specialist
The Agency Head or their delegate will determine which staff are specialists in their agency. Specialists within the APS:
- have capabilities that take time to build, are difficult to replace, and are essential to delivering the enduring work and priorities of the agency, and
- are essential to allowing the agency to manage critical risks, and
- must deliver positive impact to the achievement of the agency’s goals.
Agencies will determine how best to attract, deploy and retain specialists in their workforce, within the current classification structure. Specialist roles do not entitle employees to additional salary or allowances.
A specialist role can be at any suitable level.
Senior specialist roles
The Agency Head or their delegate may create roles for senior specialists with few or no direct reports (called Executive Specialist roles at the EL level, or Senior Executive Specialist roles at the SES level). This will be at the agency’s discretion.
Agencies should consider two principles:
- The role should meet the definition of a ‘specialist’, and
- An Agency Head or their delegate must determine a senior specialist role is best delivered with few or no direct reports in order to maximise the value of the skills and expertise for the agency.
While such roles are expected to be limited, they can provide opportunities for specialists to continue directly applying their skills as they progress in the APS. This can provide career pathways for specialists that do not require them to become generalist people managers.
Senior specialist roles are enabled by the existing Work Level Standards (via the Professional/Technical functions at Executive Level and the Professional/Specialist provisions at SES level). When work level standards are next reviewed, the APSC will consider whether additional clarity is needed regarding senior specialist roles.
The Optimal Management Structures guidance supports agencies to establish modern structures that suit their agency. This includes the ability to create specialist and taskforce roles with no or few direct reports, at agency discretion.
Considerations for senior specialist roles
A senior specialist role is not necessarily a permanent arrangement. Timeframes for the role and the role design will be determined by the agency’s needs, which may change over time.
While a senior specialist role may have few or no direct reports, there remains an obligation to provide level-appropriate leadership in the field of specialist expertise. This may involve playing a leadership role in critical decision-making, nurturing APS capability in the field, or delivering impact as an individual contributor, rather than directly supervising staff.
In creating a senior specialist role, an agency should consider:
- What level-appropriate leadership looks like in the role
- How the employee will apply their deep knowledge and expertise to have impact
- How long the role is expected to be required
- The implications for future mobility, noting senior roles in that specialisation may be limited within the APS.
It is essential that these considerations are discussed with the successful candidate prior to them commencing in the role.
An agency’s existing performance framework must ensure effective performance management is applied to senior specialist roles. Where the role is at an SES level it must be consistent with the SES Performance Leadership Framework.
Senior specialists are expected to demonstrate leadership commensurate with their seniority and to share their knowledge, skills and insights and to bring that to bear in agency decision-making. A senior specialist is expected to model APS values and behaviours, in line with the Secretaries Charter of Leadership Behaviours and must adhere to the APS Code of Conduct.
Please direct comments or enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Workforce Planning Community of Practice on GovTEAMS.
Making best use of specialist expertise
Alongside career pathways, the Hierarchy and Classification Review highlighted the need to better recognise specialists for the value of their work.
Further guidance will be published shortly, highlighting the options available to managers to attract, develop, deploy and retain specialists in the APS.