Go to top of page

Part 1: Overview

This part of the report includes the Public Service Commissioner’s review and an overview of the Commission’s role and responsibilities, outcome and program structure, organisational structure and financial performance.

Public Service Commissioner’s review

This is my second annual report since I became Public Service Commissioner in December 2009. In my report last year, I noted that the Commission’s work consisted of its traditional core responsibilities for supporting a high-performing Australian Public Service (APS), as well as undertaking initiatives to respond to the challenging recommendations of the report Ahead of the game: Blueprint for the reform of Australian Government administration (the Blueprint).

I also indicated that the Commission was transitioning to a new organisational structure, business model and workforce capability to build its capacity to respond to the APS-wide demand for an outward-looking, client-focused Commission.

Looking back on our year of transition, two things deserve attention: first, that rapid and significant progress has been made in developing a Commission capable of delivering the quality and level of services demanded. Important building blocks have been put in place in terms of our structures, our skills, our organisational culture and our people. The Commission’s resource base is settled, and supports a set of strategic, business and workforce plans that are in turn linked to a performance management framework. We have built on the Commission’s existing capabilities by recruiting highly skilled senior executives and employees with specialised skills to contribute to the Commission’s new priorities. Substantial efforts have also been directed towards establishing a new client engagement model to support core and new business processes. These developments provide the foundations for further work in 2011–12, to develop the Commission’s relationship and knowledge management frameworks and its role in thought leadership for the APS.

Second, in parallel with the Commission’s transformation, we have made substantial progress in taking up the broader, central role in providing expertise, guidance, performance monitoring and some centralised services envisaged by the Blueprint, while continuing to develop and deliver our core services.

The transition to the Commission’s new role is based on a shared understanding with portfolio secretaries about those Commission-led APS reforms that are expected to yield the highest returns over the next year or so in addressing key APS workforce risks. Portfolio secretaries and agency heads have agreed to greater collaboration and sharing to exploit economies of scale and make more informed choices while retaining control over their spending on matters such as the scale and priorities for learning and development. I am particularly grateful for their agreement to invest in the Commission to deliver a range of services, including leadership and skills development, talent management, and a program of reviews of work-level standards, the classification structure and workforce planning to help establish the workplace bargaining framework in 2014.

This investment does not come without risk to the Commission. Agencies rightly have an expectation that the Commission will deliver high-quality services that reflect the new paradigm where relationships are better managed to achieve common outcomes supported by a Commission knowledge management capacity available to all agencies.

Secretaries and heads of agencies have also agreed to collaborate with the Commission on a program of more systematic and business-driven approaches to workforce planning, together with a focus on developing APS capacity through recruitment, retention, development, mobility and partnering arrangements.

APS reform

The APS reform agenda aims to embed a culture of continuous improvement. With better data, more responsive systems and regular reviews, the APS will become a more flexible, innovative organisation that is alert to the needs and preferences of the community. It will also be better placed for future evaluation of performance.

The 2010–11 Budget provided funding to the Commission to support APS reform for three years commencing in 2010–11. However, Commission funding for the APS reforms was scaled back for 2010–11, 2011–12 and 2012–13 as part of the implementation of the 2010 election commitments, with the bulk of the remaining reform funding made available in 2010–11. It was therefore important for the Commission to prioritise its lead-agency reform initiatives, identify alternative ways of funding those initiatives and gain agency-wide support for the revised strategy.

APS reform implementation progress

The Commission has undertaken a significant amount of work in addressing the challenging APS reform agenda. A number of reforms have been substantially completed and are now part of, or becoming, business as usual for the APS.

During 2010–11 the Commission:

  • focused on raising awareness across the APS of the development of an organisation’s capability and its human capital in the context workforce planning, capability reviews, talent management, leadership development and innovation
  • commenced developing in conjunction with agencies an APS-wide workforce planning framework that can be used by agencies to develop fit-for-purpose workforce plans
  • consulted broadly, including with APS employees and stakeholders from the government, the community, the private sector and relevant unions, on revised APS Values and their supporting framework
  • established the Centre for Leadership and Learning, to focus on leadership development and a core skills development strategy in line with the APS’s core skills needs; to manage a high-potential development system; to provide quality assurance of program providers; and to centrally broker and procure learning programs
  • developed for government consideration and implemented the government’s decisions in respect of a revised APS Bargaining Framework and supporting guidance material
  • commissioned a review of the size, capability and work-level standards for the Senior Executive Service (SES)
  • consulted extensively with APS agencies, international experts, state and territory governments and the private sector to identify where best practice recruitment, induction, mobility and diversity is currently occurring
  • commenced development of options for an APS mobility and exchange program with state and local government, academia, and the private and not-for-profit sectors
  • developed a methodology and model for conducting agency capability reviews and completed the first of three pilot reviews of agencies’ institutional capabilities covering strategy, leadership and service delivery
  • completed an analysis of options for a national citizen survey. However the government’s consideration has been deferred in view of budget constraints.

2010–11 in review

The Commission’s work is centred on our vision to lead and shape a unified, high-performing APS.

The Blueprint for reform of the APS argued that a high-performing APS meets the needs of citizens, provides strong leadership and direction, contains a highly capable workforce and operates efficiently and at a consistently high standard.

Against this background, the Commission identified five strategic priorities for 2010–11:

  • One APS–build a unified, citizen-centric APS by leading APS organisational and human capital strategies
  • APS agencies–lead APS agencies’ adoption of best human capital practices and assure agencies’ organisational capability
  • APS leaders–develop outstanding leaders and shape a cohesive leadership network
  • APS values–instil and enliven APS ethics and values to inspire excellence
  • APSC capability–invest in and grow the Commission’s capability to deliver its expanded role.

This review addresses our achievements in 2010–11, including progress on implementing the APS reform agenda under each of our strategic priorities.

New responsibilities

During the year responsibility and funding for the following functions were transferred from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to the Commission:

  • agreement making, classification structures, Australian public service remuneration arrangements and work-level standards advice
  • the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal and the Remuneration Tribunal
  • the parliamentarians’ and judicial office holders’ remuneration and entitlements administered program.

Build a unified, citizen-centric APS by leading APS organisational and human capital strategies

The Commission has a leadership role to strengthen APS human capital strategies and workforce and capability planning, and to improve talent management, leadership and the performance culture of the APS with the objective of achieving a unified, highly effective APS.

Human capital and workforce planning

During 2010–11 the Commission focused on raising human capital awareness across the APS. This included a number of presentations by senior Commission staff that explained human capital in the context of key Blueprint initiatives such as workforce planning, capability reviews, talent management, leadership development and innovation.

The most effective focus in the short term is to enhance workforce planning practice across APS agencies and improve our analytical capability, through practical workforce analysis and reporting using existing APS data sources. A number of communities of practice and other groups have been established to progress this work in collaboration with agencies.

State of the Service Report

The 2009–10 State of the Service Report was tabled in November 2010. The report provides a snapshot of APS workforce trends and areas of focus in addressing future challenges.

The report notes that APS performance compares well with that of its peers in other countries. Yet there is always room for improvement, particularly in our approaches to managing and developing the APS’s human capital, leadership and culture and improving capability, innovation and collaboration.

The 2010–11 report will continue to build on the directions outlined in the Blueprint, with more targeted analysis in the areas where there is evidence that the APS needs to build its human capital capability to meet future expectations.

Lead APS agencies’ adoption of best human capital practices and assure agencies’ organisational capability

The Commission has a role in assisting agencies to enhance APS organisational capability to provide stronger policy and delivery support to government and citizens.

Capability reviews, reports and capability improvement plans

The Commission is trialling a capability review program, with one pilot completed in early June 2011, a second pilot in progress and scheduled for completion in August 2011, and a third due to commence in September 2011. The pilot reviews provide each agency with an impartial assessment of its capability to meet current and future challenges against a common framework adapted from a successful model developed in the UK. The evaluation of the pilots is expected to be presented to the government for consideration in due course.

Recruitment, induction, mobility and diversity

Australia’s ageing workforce, combined with a tight labour market and skills shortages, means that it is increasingly important for the APS to find more effective ways to recruit appropriately skilled people. The Commission is working to streamline recruitment and improve induction processes for the APS as a whole.

The Commission is working in partnership with agencies to pilot and evaluate new and innovative approaches across all areas of recruitment, including job design, marketing and advertising, assessment methods, selection decisions and induction. The knowledge and experience gained through this process will be shared across the APS through an online community of practice.

The APS has a history of running successful bespoke mobility programs, and recruitment into the APS is open, such that almost a third of SES appointments last year came from outside the APS. Work is now underway to link the APS talent management and leadership development reforms to the improvement of skills and knowledge transfer between the public and private sectors.

Employing people with disability

During 2010–11 the Commission continued to work actively with agencies to promote the recruitment and retention of people with disability across the APS.

In July 2010 the Commission amended the APS employment framework to make it easier to employ people with disability, specifically those people with disability who find it difficult to enter the APS because they are unable to succeed in an open selection process.

APS Bargaining Framework

The Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework and the associated supporting guidance have been enhanced to better support the concept of one APS and help the APS move towards greater consistency of terms and conditions.

In January 2011 the Commission issued the government’s APS Bargaining Framework and supporting guidance material, which formed the basis for the negotiations to establish a large number of enterprise agreements that will come into effect in 2011–12. The Commission has played a significant role in supporting agencies’ implementation of the framework.

SES review and work-level standards

The Commission completed a review of the size, capability and work-level standards of the Senior Executive Service and reported to the Minister in March 2011. New work-level standards for each SES classification level have been developed in consultation with secretaries and relevant stakeholders.

Develop outstanding leaders and shape a cohesive leadership network

APS leaders play a dominant role in shaping organisational culture and behaviour. A culture of high ethical standards, innovation and collaboration flourishes when it is supported and demonstrated by leaders.

Centre for Leadership and Learning

The Commission’s Centre for Leadership and Learning commenced operation in July 2010. It is working in close collaboration with APS agencies to provide thought leadership in learning and development, leadership development and talent management; lead initiatives and programs for leadership and talent management; and advise agencies on standards for and quality of learning and development offerings. The work of the Centre for Leadership and Learning is overseen by an advisory board that includes a number of secretaries, agency heads and two external experts.

Learning and development services

The Commission continued to work in partnership with APS agencies to build capability by strengthening the knowledge, skills and experience of APS employees. Approaches included a suite of core technical skill and leadership programs, offered through public programs and tailored in-house delivery.

Instil and enliven APS ethics and values to inspire excellence

Senior leadership is particularly critical to driving change. It is incumbent upon all leaders to champion the APS Values.

Revised set of APS Values

The APS Values make explicit what the APS stands for, and guide employees in their dealings with everyone and in all that they do. As a service, we need to ensure that we bring the right set of values to our work–values that meet contemporary demands, but also endure, unifying the public service across time and across agencies.

During 2010–11, the Commission completed a process of consultation on the APS Values and their supporting framework, with the aim of developing for government (and ultimately Parliament’s) consideration a smaller set of core values that are meaningful, memorable and effective in driving change. Legislative amendment to implement the proposed new APS Values, as well as other proposed changes to the Public Service Act 1999, will be introduced into Parliament in the second half of 2011.

Invest in and grow the Commission’s capability to deliver its expanded role

The Commission faces a significant challenge to build the internal capability and capacity necessary to deliver a wide range of reforms over a short period, while continuing to develop and deliver its core services.

In 2010–11 the Commission implemented a revised organisational structure that better responds to the challenges confronting the APS and the Commission in delivering on its ongoing business. The structure reflects a significantly enhanced focus on stakeholder and client engagement. It aligns our work into the new portfolios of human capital, the Centre for Leadership and Learning, agency capability, workplace frameworks, ethics and merit protection, and corporate. The year therefore was one of ongoing significant change and transition.

The Commission developed a client engagement strategy in response to feedback provided by Commission clients. Feedback from three value creation workshops and views gathered from a broader series of consultations, helped to inform the development of the strategy. The strategy formally commenced in July 2011.

A new enterprise agreement for the Commission was developed under the revised APS Bargaining Framework. The new agreement will commence on 15 August 2011 and expire on 30 June 2014.

Outlook for 2011–12

At the conclusion of 2010–11 the Commission had in place a revised organisational structure that better responds to the challenges facing the Commission. However, the cultural change required to attain the business model we aspire to should not be underestimated and will continue in 2011–12. There is more to do.

To provide a focus for 2011–12 and beyond, the Commission has developed a strategic plan for 2011–14. The plan includes objectives for the life of the plan and actions necessary in 2011–12.

In 2011–12 we will continue to work with our people to design and implement our knowledge-management and information-sharing capabilities, so that we can provide a stronger evidence base for APS workforce policies and better metrics and data for the APS and agencies more broadly. We aim to build on the consultative approaches taken for the development of the new APS Values and to apply them to the other reforms for which we are responsible, building these capabilities into our core business model.

This is an opportunity for the Commission to demonstrate to agencies that, consistent with its new role, it is outward-looking, client-focused, collaborative and an organisation that bases its services on knowledge of best practice and a preparedness to share that knowledge for the greater good of the whole of the APS.

The Centre for Leadership and Learning’s work on an annual, contemporary and fit-for-purpose leadership development and core skills strategy, and its work with agency partners to achieve better returns from the current annual spend on learning and development are important elements of our 2011–12 strategy.

The Commission will also undertake a program of reviews to establish whether there are benefits to be realised from greater consistency in remuneration and classification principles for the APS workforce. Strong, contemporary workplace relations frameworks can contribute to improved delivery and implementation by more efficiently matching abilities and skills with key roles within and across agencies.

It has certainly been a very busy and productive year. I owe deep thanks to all members of the Commission for their cheerful, professional and committed work to maintain the high quality of service delivery during a year of significant uncertainty and change and in helping the Commission to respond well and quickly to the opportunities for reform presented by the Blueprint. I also thank colleagues in other agencies for their support as we have effected this transition.

Stephen Sedgwick
Public Service Commissioner

Last reviewed: 
11 May 2018