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The State of the Service Report (SOSR) has been produced annually for the last 15 years as a requirement of Section 44 of the Public Service Act 1999. Its purpose is to identify the year-to-year trends in workforce participation and capability across the APS. The SOSR also details the initiatives and human resource management practices of Australian Public Service (APS) agencies.

The primary sources of information for the SOSR include:

  • the agency survey which looks at strategies and practices and requires approval by the agency head before submission[1]
  • the employee survey which looks at the attitudes and experiences of individual APS employees.

Historically, the employee survey has been administered to a stratified random sample of employees. In 2011, 17,865 employees from agencies with more than 200 staff were invited to take part[2]. Employees from agencies with fewer than 100 employees (Micro-agencies) were excluded. In 2011 the 13 Micro-agencies collaborated with the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to carry out a survey of their staff, the Micro-agency Snapshot survey, to assist address this. The resulting survey report[3], delivered in February 2012, gave Micro-agencies—for the first time— access to a similar level of information regarding their workforce that had previously been given to larger agencies.

In 2012, the methodology of the employee survey was changed to a census (referred to as the employee census). Rather than offering the survey to a random sample, all employees from all agencies regardless of size were invited to take part. This brought the Micro-agencies into the scope of the SOSR.

While the Micro-agencies were categorised as small agencies[4] in the State of the Service Report 2011–12 (SOSR 2011–12), the employee census allows for a more detailed examination of this segment of the workforce. This builds on the Micro-agency Snapshot by including all 32 APS Micro-agencies.

State of the Micro-agencies Report 2011–12

Nine hundred employees (ongoing and non-ongoing) from the 32 Micro-agencies completed the employee census. Overall, this is a response rate of 71%[5]. Demographics and agency response rates can be found in Appendix 1.

This report will be organised around the same three key workforce capability themes used in the SOSR 2011–12: 

  • Leadership and culture
  • Human capital management
  • Organisational effectiveness.

Results are generally reported as the percentage of respondents who agreed with a statement or who were satisfied. For example, 79% of Micro-agency employees agreed they enjoyed their work. Furthermore, the employee census included a number of open-ended questions and the most frequently cited themes are reported. Direct quotes from employees are used to illustrate these themes.

Results from the Micro-agencies are compared with those from the remaining 79 APS agencies where relevant. Where the Micro-agencies are compared with the wider APS, the difference has been analysed statistically. Differences which are statistically significant and sufficiently large in magnitude to have practical significance have been flagged[6]. Survey and analysis methodologies can be found in Appendix 2.


[1] In 2012, Micro-agencies completed a shortened version of the agency survey consisting of sections A, B, C, D, G, H and N.

[2] Further detail on the survey and sampling methodology can be found in Appendix 2 of the SOSR 2010–11 (pp. 269–279).

[3] APSC, APS Micro-agency Snapshot Survey Report, Canberra, 2012.

[4] Small agencies had 250 or fewer employees.

[5] Compared to the 55% response rate for the employee census as a whole.

[6] Practical significance has been set at a minimum effect size of small, as defined by J. Cohen, Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, Psychology Press, New York, 1988.