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Part 2: Performance review

In this part, the Commission reports on its performance against its outcome and its three programs, including achievements during the year, key performance results, and activities undertaken during the year.

Outcome and program structure

The Commission’s outcome is:

Increased awareness and adoption of best practice public administration by the public service through leadership, promotion, advice and professional development, drawing on research and evaluation.

In 2010–11, the Commission delivered this outcome through three departmental programs:

  • 1.1: APS people and organisational performance
  • 1.2: Investing in APS development and capability
  • 1.3: Australian Government employment workplace relations

and the parliamentarians’ and judicial office holders’ remuneration and entitlements administered program.

Summary of financial performance

Table 1 summarises the Commission’s financial performance in 2010–11.

Table 1: Summary of financial performance, 2010–11
  Budget estimate
($ million)*
Actual result
($ million)
* Full-year budget, including any subsequent adjustment made to the 2010–11 Budget.
Departmental
Program 1.1: APS people and organisational performance 20.1 21.0
Program 1.2: Investing in APS development and capability 20.0 20.3
Program 1.3: Australian Government employment workplace relations 8.3 9.3
Total departmental 48.4 50.6
Administered
Parliamentarians’ and judicial office holders’ remuneration and entitlements 36.9 35.7
Total administered 36.9 35.7
Total Outcome 1 85.3 86.3

Table 1 should be read in conjunction with Table A2: Expenses and resources for Outcome 1, 2010–11 on page 179. The actual result includes the expenditure associated with fee-for-service activities in excess of the budget estimate.

Program 1.1: APS people and organisational performance

Objectives

The government relies on the APS to undertake a broad range of activities related to policy, regulation, program implementation and program delivery.

The Commission’s objectives under this program in 2010–11 were to:

  • provide advice to government on developing, coordinating and conducting surveys of citizens’ views on government services
  • consult and provide policy advice on a new set of APS Values, promote systems and approaches to embed the new Values, and promote public service ethics and integrity
  • articulate the roles and responsibilities for departmental secretaries and revise their employment arrangements, as well as establish new governance for people management in the APS, including the Secretaries Board and APS200
  • ensure a more systematic approach to APS-wide human capital and workforce planning through development of a human capital framework and a workforce planning framework
  • streamline and improve APS workforce attraction, recruitment, induction, retention, mobility and diversity strategies while upholding the merit principle
  • support the development of a performance framework for secretaries and all APS employees
  • establish an agency capability review mechanism to assist agencies to improve institutional capabilities and strengthen accountability of agency performance
  • support the review, inquiry and reporting functions of the Public Service Commissioner and the Merit Protection Commissioner
  • provide quality policy advice, and employment services, on matters covered by the Public Service Act 1999
  • provide evidence-based analysis of performance to inform debate on the state of the APS
  • deliver the strategies detailed in the APS Employment and Capability Strategy for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Employees, including increasing the employment and retention of Indigenous employees in the APS; building the skills and capabilities of Indigenous employees; and improving the representation of Indigenous employees across agencies.

Achievements

During 2010–11, the Commission:

  • conducted national workshops with 56 APS agencies and 400 employees as part of a project to streamline recruitment and improve induction that arose from recommendation 7.2 of the report Ahead of the game: Blueprint for the reform of Australian Government administration (the Blueprint)
  • focused on raising human capital awareness across the APS in the context of key Blueprint initiatives such as workforce planning, capability reviews, talent management, leadership development and innovation. The Commission also worked to document the concept of human capital, identify the benefits of a human capital framework, gather the evidence base and develop the tools to support the framework, and outline and test the key elements of the framework with agencies
  • as part of its workplace planning function, began developing an APS-wide workforce planning framework that can be used by agencies to develop fit-for-purpose workforce plans
  • significantly increased the sample size for the State of the Service employee survey, which will allow more agencies to receive benchmarking reports that compare their agency against the APS more broadly
  • for the first time, published calendar year data from the APS Employment Database (in addition to the financial year data published in the State of the Service Report and APS Statistical Bulletin). This initiative will provide more up-to-date and useful information for analysis and benchmarking
  • developed a methodology and model for conducting agency capability reviews. The first pilot capability review was completed with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and a second pilot review commenced with the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
  • managed 22 machinery of government changes, including preparing and executing the legislative instruments that move staff between agencies. These instruments gave effect to the government’s decision to move functions and were implemented within timeframes set by the government and by individual agencies
  • developed an enhanced APS redeployment policy and guidelines to support the redeployment of excess ongoing APS employees
  • continued a major project to amend the Public Service Act 1999 in line with recommendations of the Blueprint, to support the APS workforce and leadership and embed new practices and behaviour in the culture of the APS
  • completed a process of wide-ranging consultation on the proposed new APS Values with Commonwealth agencies, the parliamentary departments, employees, academics, unions, industry groups, community bodies, professional associations and others.

Key performance indicators

Table 2 summarises program 1.1 performance against its key performance indicator for 2010–11 and the previous two years.

Table 2: Summary of program 1.1 performance against key performance indicator, 2008–09 to 2010–11
  2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Key performance indicator Actual Actual Target Actual
Note: Results refer to the financial year in which the State of the Service Report was tabled not the reporting period on which the report is based.

High level of use and satisfaction with the State of the Service Report and other research and evaluation reports by the SES, agencies and other clients

90% 90% 70% 90%

The 2010–11 Portfolio Budget Statements included two new key performance indicators for the program:

  • degree of satisfaction of Minister and agency heads, as expressed through feedback about the quality and timeliness of services provided by the Commission

During 2010–11 the Commission focused on improving the quality and timeliness of information provided to the Minister, including through the appointment of a departmental liaison officer in the Minister’s office. The outcome has been a more effective delivery of information to the Minister.

  • developing programs and strategies to assist APS agencies with recruitment, training and retention to reach at least 2.7% of Indigenous representation across the APS workforce by 2015 (pages 34–5).

Deliverables

The Commission’s key deliverables for program 1.1 in 2010–11 were:

  • options for consideration by government in the 2011–12 Budget for identifying views on citizen satisfaction with government programs, services and regulation to inform government business (pages 22–3)
  • a revised set of APS Values and frameworks and models for embedding them, supported by an Ethics Advisory Service (page 24)
  • the establishment and operation of a Secretaries Board and APS200 (page 30)
  • guidelines on secretaries’ roles and responsibilities, and support for the development of a performance framework for secretaries (page 29)
  • advice for government on amendments to the Public Service Act 1999 (page 31)
  • human capital, workforce planning and capability frameworks and benchmarking processes to be reflected in the APS human capital framework and the annual learning and development strategy for the APS (pages 31–2)
  • best practice standards for recruitment, induction, mobility and diversity, and provision of a model for more effective induction and transition programs (pages 32–3)
  • a performance management framework and training and communications strategy (pages 75–6)
  • annual agency capability reviews, reports and capability improvement plans (pages 35–6)
  • accurate, quality and timely review and employment services (pages 36–8)
  • data analysis on APS employment delivered through the State of the Service Report and other reports, including international comparisons where appropriate, to assist in its advice to government and the APS (pages 39–42)
  • strategies to address Indigenous recruitment, vocational training and retention issues across the APS, including increased employment and retention of Indigenous employees in the APS, and to achieve a positive trend in APS Indigenous employee satisfaction as reported in the State of the Service Report (pages 34–5).

Table 3 summarises program 1.1 performance against its deliverables for 2010–11 and the previous two years.

Table 3: Summary of program 1.1 performance against deliverables, 2008–09 to 2010–11
  2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Deliverables Actual Actual Target Actual
na = not applicable; nm = new measure.
* The Merit Protection Commissioner’s annual report, at Part 4, addresses the performance of the review function against timeliness targets and measures to address challenges in meeting targets.
** Numbers include completed fee-for-service employment activities, including Independent Selection Advisory Committees, Selection Advisory Committees and scribe assignments.
† Secretariat services to the Secretaries Board and APS200 have been added to this deliverable.
‡ Because agency capability reviews are planned to commence in 2011–12, no target was set for 2010–11 for this deliverable and therefore no result is reported.
Reviews finalised on behalf of the Merit Protection Commissioner
(pages 103–15)
217 264 235 151
Reviews conducted on behalf of the Merit Protection Commissioner completed within published timeframes (page 105)* 86% 81% 70% 40%
Responses to whistleblowing reports made to the Public Service Commissioner or the Merit Protection Commissioner (pages 27–8) 3 24 22 25
Whistleblowing reports responded to within six weeks with any further investigations conducted promptly (page 28) 100% 96% 70% 92%
State of the Service Report and associated publications (pages 40–1) 2 2 2 2
State of the Service Report tabled in accordance with tabling requirements (page 40) 100% 100% 100% 100%
Fee-for-services employment-related services (page 38)** 430 451 500 530
Secretariat service provided to the Secretaries Board, APS200 and Public Service Commissioners’ Conference (pages 30 and 31)† 2 2 15 13
Agency capability reviews (pages 35–6)‡ nm nm na na

Citizen survey

The Commission was given the responsibility under the Blueprint to provide advice to government on developing, coordinating and conducting a survey of citizens’ views on government services. The citizen survey was part of a broader reform theme in the Blueprint to deliver better services for citizens. Other APS agencies are responsible for implementing the other reforms in this area, including simplifying Australian Government services for citizens and developing better ways to deliver services through the community and private sectors.

The Commission completed its analysis of options for the survey, with assistance from a reference group comprising 11 APS agencies (the Australian Bureau Statistics, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Taxation Office, Centrelink, Medicare, Comcare and the departments of Finance and Deregulation, Immigration and Citizenship, Veterans’ Affairs, Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) and the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Queensland, the New Zealand State Services Commission and ORIMA Research (statistical and surveying consultants).

Options for the survey were informed by practice in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia’s states and territories and were assessed against six criteria:

  • Would the option provide useful information that informs citizens, ministers and parliament about overall citizen satisfaction with government services at the whole-of-government level?
  • Would the option provide useful guidance to assist managers at the agency level to improve citizen satisfaction and increase agency accountability?
  • Would the option help to drive and support a culture within Australian government agencies that focuses on improving service delivery and citizen satisfaction?
  • What are the costs (both at the agency and central level) and what is involved in implementing the option?
  • What is the respondent burden for the option?
  • Could the option be extended to other Australian jurisdictions?

The analysis was also informed by APS agencies’ existing practice in conducting client surveys.

A proposal to government is expected to be made later in 2011, subject to budgetary considerations.

Ethics and integrity

The integrity of the APS is underpinned by its employees’ capacity for ethical decision-making. The Commission supports this capacity in a number of ways: by promoting the APS Values and Code of Conduct; by providing policy advice on ethics matters; and through its Ethics Advisory Service, which provides information, advice and resources to promote understanding and awareness of the APS ethical framework.

Ethics Advisory Service

The Ethics Advisory Service continued to provide expert advice to APS employees and agencies throughout the year, consistent with its client service charter. Eighty per cent of queries were made by telephone and 20% by email, which may indicate a preference for a more direct, personal approach in dealing with ethical concerns. The number and nature of inquiries to the service are reported in the Commissioner’s State of the Service Report.

Ethics Contact Officer Network

Ethics Contact Officers support agencies by providing a point of contact for discussion and resources on matters relating to ethics in the APS, and for sharing information, experience and good practice advice on ethical decision-making. Nearly 100 agencies are represented on the network.

The network is supported by an online discussion forum on GovDex, the Australian Government’s secure, web-based collaborative space. Ethics Contact Officers use the forum to share ideas on ethics issues and maintain their link to the network between meetings.

Meetings of the network are chaired by the Merit Protection Commissioner and take place three times a year. The themes in 2010–11 included the APS Code of Conduct framework, APS employees’ use of social media as private citizens, and issues concerning bullying and harassment.

Promoting a culture free from harassment and bullying

In June 2011 the Commission released a fourth edition of its publication Respect: Promoting a culture free from harassment and bullying in the APS. The publication (available both in booklet form and online on the Commission’s website) is a good practice guide that sets out steps that agencies can take to develop, promote and maintain a culture free from harassment and bullying. The new edition takes into account recent changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, in particular, a new definition of sexual harassment.

Guidelines for online media participation

The government response to the report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce committed the Commission to reviewing regularly its guidelines on online engagement, using Government 2.0 approaches to ensure the process is open and transparent. The Commission’s current guidance for APS employees participating in online media is included in its publication APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice: A guide to official conduct for APS employees and agency heads.

The Commission has monitored the implementation of these guidelines over the past 18 months, and in December 2010 commenced a process of review and consultation within the APS.

The consultation took into account the need to address APS employees’ use of social media in an unofficial capacity as the popularity of social networking continues to grow. The revised guidance will reflect the principle that making comment online is not in itself prohibited or discouraged, but that APS employees should consider such comment in light of their obligations under the APS Values and Code of Conduct.

The guidance material is not intended to be prescriptive; instead, it highlights questions that employees and agencies may need to consider in deciding the appropriate parameters for making public comment, and, in the case of agencies, for developing policies in this area.

The new guidance will be published later in 2011.

Information sessions and assistance to agencies

Part of the role of the Ethics Advisory Service is to provide advice on ethics and ethical decision-making in the APS. The service presented information sessions to a number of groups and organisations during the year, including:

  • ‘A values-based approach to integrity in the Australian Public Service’, Corruption and Integrity Mission, Jakarta
  • ‘Using a values-based approach to develop a positive workplace culture’, National Public Sector Fraud and Corruption Congress, Canberra.

Whistleblowing reports and other allegations

APS employees are able to report alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct to their agency head or a person authorised by the agency head.

Whistleblowing inquiry functions are handled by delegated senior staff in the Ethics Group, with the Commissioner reserving for his personal consideration matters that raise serious public interest issues.

During 2010–11, the Commissioner received 14 whistleblowing reports from APS employees and three complaints from former public servants. Table 4 shows the number of cases received and finalised. Four complaints were carried over from 2009–10. All whistleblowing reports were acknowledged and many substantially responded to within six weeks.

The complaints from public servants concerned poor administration, the handling of internal investigations, and allegations of misconduct by senior managers including allegations of bullying and harassment.

Eleven matters were finalised in 2010–11, including two of the four matters carried over from the previous year. Table 4 also shows the action taken by the Commissioner in response to these cases. The one investigation undertaken found that there was insufficient evidence to warrant recommending an investigation into an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct. In most cases, however, the employee was advised to refer the matter to the relevant agency head for investigation.

While the number of whistleblowing reports lodged is low, they often concern complex interpersonal matters and the issues can take a long time to assess, including whether any or all of the matters have been investigated by the agency in the first instance.

The Commissioner also handled 16 allegations against agency heads made by APS employees and members of the public under section 41(1)(f) of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act). The complaints commonly featured allegations that agency decision-makers had failed to comply with their legislative obligations or not exercised their decision-making powers properly. Only one of the ten cases finalised warranted an inquiry.

In previous years the data for agency head and whistleblowing complaints was aggregated. This year they are reported separately, so no comparison with previous years is provided.

Table 4: Whistleblowing reports received by the Public Service Commissioner, 2010–11
  2010–11
Number of reports
On hand at the start of the reporting period 4
Received 17
Finalised 11
On hand at the end of the reporting period 10
Source of reports
Current APS employees 14
Former APS employees 3
Action by Commissioner
Referred to agency head for consideration 7
Investigated under whistleblowing powers 1
No further action or referred elsewhere 3

Parliamentary committee inquiries: Submissions and hearings

The Commission provided input to two parliamentary inquiries during the year.

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

In May 2009, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) initiated an inquiry into the operation of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006. The Commissioner made a submission at that time and the Merit Protection Commissioner appeared before the committee on the Commissioner’s behalf.

The committee’s interim report was handed down in February 2010, and the government agreed to two of its recommendations in September 2010. (This had the effect of bringing the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service under ACLEI’s jurisdiction.)

The Commissioner appeared before the committee on 11 February 2011, with the Merit Protection Commissioner and the Group Manager, Ethics. The Commission made a supplementary submission to the inquiry in March 2011.

Senate Standing Committee of Privileges

In May 2011 the Commission made a submission to the Senate Privileges Committee’s inquiry into the adequacy and appropriateness of current guidance for officers giving evidence and providing information. The inquiry focused particularly on the appropriateness of the guidance for APS employees who appear before parliamentary committees.

Strategic leadership

Roles and responsibilities of secretaries

Reform 4 of the Blueprint made recommendations and set out actions for reinvigorating strategic leadership in the APS. These recommendations encompassed:

  • amending the PS Act to better recognise the roles and responsibilities of secretaries, including clearer accountabilities and a stronger stewardship role
  • strengthening the framework for assessing the performance of secretaries against these roles and responsibilities
  • revising the processes for appointing and terminating secretaries, with an enhanced role for the Australian Public Service Commissioner
  • setting five years as the normal appointment period for secretaries
  • formally establishing the Secretaries Board as the new APS-wide leadership body supported by a senior leadership group, the APS200.

The Commission, working with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, developed a series of proposals for implementing these recommendations, with a particular focus on articulating in more detail the roles and responsibilities of secretaries, including whole-of-APS leadership, and on enhancing the independence of appointment and termination processes.

The proposals were agreed by Cabinet and will be included in a package of proposed amendments to the PS Act which will be introduced into Parliament in the second half of 2011.

Secretaries performance framework

Working with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Commission has developed a strengthened performance management framework for secretaries. The framework includes 270-degree feedback and an assessment against APS-wide stewardship responsibilities and will serve as a driver of APS reform from the top down. Elements of the framework (eg the 270-degree feedback instrument) will be trialled with a pilot group of secretaries during 2011, ahead of a fuller trial of the performance assessments arrangements that will be conducted
early in 2012.

Secretaries Board and APS200

Reform 4 of the Blueprint made recommendations and set out actions for reinvigorating strategic leadership in the APS. These recommendations included formally establishing the Secretaries Board as the new APS-wide leadership body supported by a senior leadership group, the APS200. The Secretaries Board and the APS200 were established in 2010–11 and the Commission works in collaboration with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to provide secretariat services to both bodies.

The Secretaries Board, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and comprising all portfolio secretaries and the Public Service Commissioner, is the pre-eminent forum for the discussion of issues affecting the APS. The board meets monthly, and is formally responsible for:

  • making decisions on public sector management and reform issues
  • identifying and progressing strategic priorities for the APS
  • setting the annual work program for board subcommittees.

The APS200, comprising the members of the Secretaries Board, SES Band 3s and selected agency heads (equivalent to SES Band 3), has been established as the new senior leadership forum for the APS. The APS200 has a leading role in communicating the vision of the future APS and building the understanding, engagement and commitment of staff to the reform agenda. The Commission organised four events during 2010–11 for the APS200 audience on a range of topics from high-profile speakers, including an address by Prime Minister Julia Gillard that attracted an audience of more than 120 people.

Public Service Commissioners’ Conference

The Public Service Commissioners’ Conference is held twice a year. The conference is a cross-jurisdictional forum for Commonwealth, state and territory public service commissioners and New Zealand’s State Services Commissioner. The conference provides opportunities for commissioners to discuss contemporary challenges in public administration. It also serves as a forum for exchanging information and sharing experience.

The Commission provides secretariat and research support to the conference.

Legislative change

In 2010–11 the Commission continued a major project to amend the PS Act in line with recommendations in the Blueprint. The Blueprint outlined a broad reform agenda to position the APS to serve the Australian Government and the Australian community better.

These reforms aim to support the APS workforce and leadership, and embed new practices and behaviour in the culture of the APS. The proposed amendments include changes to the functions of secretaries and the Public Service Commissioner, as well as a revised set of APS Values. A number of other largely operational amendments are proposed that have been informed by agency feedback over the last decade and are consistent with the Blueprint’s objectives. Subject to parliamentary approval, the amendments are expected to take effect in 2012.

Human capital and workforce planning

Human capital framework

The phrase ‘human capital’ is used in the Blueprint to signal a distinct shift in the approach the APS should take to build and sustain workforce capability–an approach that is not only more systematic, but also more holistic and future oriented. The importance of human capital is emphasised throughout the Blueprint.

Recommendation 5.1 of the Blueprint allocated the Commission a new role with responsibilities to lead the APS. Recommendation 7.1 tasked the Commission to develop a common APS human capital framework to guide and inform human capital reform across the APS. Developing the framework requires the Commission to build the planning infrastructure; develop the intellectual understanding of human capital across the APS; facilitate agency planning and collaboration to include consideration of human capital; and ensure the sustainability and longevity of the framework.

During 2010–11 the Commission focused on raising human capital awareness across the APS. The Commissioner delivered several keynote speeches that explained human capital in the context of key Blueprint initiatives such as workforce planning, capability reviews, talent management, leadership development and innovation. The Commission’s executive was active in addressing key internal corporate and human resource forums on human capital and related topics. The Commission also worked to document the concept of human capital, identify the benefits of a framework, gather the evidence base and develop the tools to support the framework, and outline and test the key elements of the framework with agencies.

Developing and implementing the framework requires the Commission to lead and manage a program of long-term cultural change and reform. At each step, the Commission intends to proceed deliberately in implementing the framework. The framework is a whole-of-APS human capital reform initiative, and the Commission will seek input from and collaborate with all agencies throughout the process.

Workforce planning framework

As part of its workplace planning function, the Commission is developing an APS-wide workforce planning framework that can be used by agencies to develop fit-for-purpose workforce plans.

The Commission’s focus for 2010–11 was on monitoring, evaluating and reporting on progress against the Whole-of-Government ICT Strategic Workforce Plan 2010–2013. The plan was developed in early 2010 to address the critical shortage of ICT professionals. It provides a focus for identifying the ICT workforce capacity and capabilities required to effectively deliver government priorities, and to develop a strategic APS-wide understanding of these issues, including workforce planning.

A key activity under the ICT workforce plan was the provision, by agencies, of agency-wide ICT workforce plans by December 2010. The Commission’s review of agencies’ plans identified a number of issues that require further consideration and development. Some of the issues identified include:

  • the largest agencies are clearly in a period of major transition with their ICT systems
  • workforce plans need to clearly articulate how and when resources are going to be delivered for current and planned ICT projects
  • agencies need better access to quality workforce data related to skills and capabilities
  • agencies access to relevant environmental and labour market workforce analysis.

These issues are not unique to ICT workforce planning but are consistent with known challenges to APS workforce planning in general. The progress made in establishing a solid foundation for ICT workforce planning over the past 12 months has positioned agencies well to address these issues.

The Commission developed two documents to assist agencies to address critical skill shortages
in their ICT workforce plans:

  • Whole-of-Government ICT Strategic Workforce Plan 2010–2013: Update report
  • Whole-of-Government ICT Strategic Workforce Plan 2010–2013: 2011 supplement.

The lessons learned from the ICT workforce planning process will help inform the development of an APS workforce planning framework in 2011–12.

Recruitment, induction, mobility and diversity

Recruitment and induction project

The project to streamline recruitment and improve induction arising from recommendation 7.2 of the Blueprint commenced in September 2010.

National workshops were conducted with attendance by 56 APS agencies and 400 employees. Extensive consultations were held with industry, other jurisdictions, the private sector and international experts to identify common themes and best practice standards. In addition, graduate portal workshops were conducted with 20 agencies to explore how technology can further support APS recruitment.

Analysis of the workshop findings identified common themes and suggests that APS agencies continue to face challenges similar to those described in previous Commonwealth research into APS recruitment. The next phase of the project will focus on enhancing the APS brand through the development of an APS recruitment portal to be piloted with graduate recruitment processes. The project will consider the pace of technology change and how agencies can capitalise on new opportunities to deliver better recruitment outcomes for the APS.

Recruitment advertising policy and website

In 2010–11 the Commission completed its evaluation of FMA Act agencies’ recruitment advertising. The Commission, in consultation with the Department of Finance and Deregulation, conducted the evaluation to closely monitor the impact, if any, that the Guidelines on non-campaign recruitment advertising (published in July 2010) are having on the efficiency and effectiveness of FMA Act agencies’ recruitment advertising.

The evaluation sought to determine how and where potential employees become aware of vacant positions, and to consider how efficient the various advertising sources are at providing the best candidates from a pre- and post-guidelines perspective.

To gather data for the evaluation, the Commission conducted two surveys in 2009–10 and one survey in 2010–11. The first survey conducted in 2009–10 collected data from a pre- and post-guidelines perspective. Analysis of the data indicates that the guidelines have improved the efficiency of recruitment advertising in FMA Act agencies without impacting on the quality of the applicant pool.

Employment of people with disability

The Commission continued to work actively with agencies to promote the recruitment and retention of people with disability.

In August 2010 the Commission held an event managed jointly with the Australian Network on Disability called Tapping the Talent of People with Disability, to promote best practice for the recruitment and retention of people with disability across the APS. Speakers included the Commissioner, the CEO of Comcare, Mr Paul O’Connor, and a panel made up of APS employees with disability who spoke about their experiences. Feedback about the event was very positive and will be used for planning future events on the same and similar topics.

The Commission also organised an event for APS secretaries and agency heads to promote dialogue on improving the attraction, recruitment and retention of people with disability in the APS. The event was hosted by the Commissioner and featured Mr Graeme Innes AM, Race and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and Ms Suzanne Colbert AM, Chief Executive of the Australian Network on Disability. It provided an opportunity for the highest levels of the APS leadership to discuss the issue and share their thoughts on strategies for improving the performance of departments and agencies. The views and suggestions of participants have been incorporated into the work of the Commission and it continues to seek the active engagement of senior APS leaders.

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. This change gives agencies the flexibility to shape a position to the capacities and skills of a person with disability.

The amendments also require agencies to work in partnership with a disability employment service provider in engaging people with disability, which ensures that they, their managers and their peers get the support and assistance they need to make it work. Importantly, the Commission believes that over the longer term the use of disability employment service providers for recruitment and retention assistance will become standard practice and the disability confidence of APS agencies will be greatly improved.

Indigenous employment

The Commission continued its work under the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation, through the ongoing implementation of the APS Employment and Capability Strategy for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Employees. The strategy aims to deliver improved recruitment and retention outcomes for Indigenous employees, and improve the representation rate of Indigenous employees across agencies. The Australian Government has committed to an Indigenous employment target of 2.7% of the public sector workforce by 2015.

In March 2011 the Commission, in partnership with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, hosted a delegation of senior officers from the Canadian Aboriginal Human Resource Council. The council was formed in 1998 to develop inclusive workplaces to increase employment opportunities for Canada’s Aboriginal people, and to aid in the development of relationships and partnerships with Aboriginal businesses and communities.

During their visit to Australia, the delegation conducted a number of meetings and workshops including with the Commissioner, the Deputy Public Service Commissioner, deputy secretaries from various APS agencies, the Commission’s Chief Human Capital Officer, representatives from the Indigenous Governance Network, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Reconciliation Australia and a range of private sector organisations and public sector agencies.

The council’s experiences, and the strategies and tools it has used in improving employment outcomes for Canada’s Aboriginal people, will provide important insights as the Commission progresses its Indigenous employment agenda.

Target for Indigenous representation

The Commission continued to work with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to support agencies in developing strategies to meet the Indigenous employment target. In March 2011, the secretary of the department, Ms Lisa Paul, and the Commissioner addressed the Secretaries Board to provide an assessment of the strategies proposed by agencies to meet the Commonwealth target. These discussions will continue as agencies further refine and implement their approaches.

The 2010–11 State of the Service Report will report on progress towards the target by APS agencies.

Pathways into APS employment

In 2010–11 the Commission worked in partnership with more than 50 agencies to provide targeted recruitment programs under the pathways to employment program. The program provides entry-level opportunities for Indigenous trainees, cadets and graduates, and promotes the APS as an employer of choice to Indigenous job seekers. In 2010–11:

  • 37 trainees were employed in 12 agencies (36 in 15 agencies in 2009–10)
  • 67 cadets were employed in 24 agencies (45 in 16 agencies in 2009–10)
  • 33 graduates were employed in 17 agencies (32 in 17 agencies in 2009–10).
Supporting Indigenous employees

The Commission continued to provide support to Indigenous employees through a range of professional development and networking opportunities:

  • The Indigenous career trek program delivers tailored learning and development programs to Indigenous employees across Australia. In 2010–11, 387 Indigenous employees participated in the program, and targeted development opportunities were provided for a further 60 Indigenous employees.
  • In November 2010, the Commission hosted its third National Indigenous Employees Conference in Melbourne.
  • Indigenous APS Employee Networks (IAPSENs) are run by Indigenous employees for Indigenous employees. In 2010–11 the Commission supported a series of regional workshops for IAPSEN members, and hosted a meeting of network chairs to discuss common issues and proposed activities
  • The Commission continued to support alumni network events for new and former graduates, cadets and trainees.

The Commission also placed a renewed focus on improving retention rates of Indigenous employees, which was highlighted as a significant issue in the 2009 Census of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander APS employees and past State of the Service Reports. The Commission commenced a series of discussions with Indigenous staff across Australia which provided valuable insights into strategies to improving Indigenous retention rates.

Supporting employers

Working in partnership with agencies to improve Indigenous employment outcomes continues to be a priority for the Commission. In 2010–11 the Commission worked with more than 80 agencies in supporting their strategies to assist with the recruitment, retention and development of Indigenous staff. The Commission’s Indigenous Liaison Officer continues to work actively with agencies on developing tailored strategies, and support is provided to employers more generally through the exchange of information and ideas in the Indigenous Employment HR Coordinators Forum.

Capability reviews

In response to recommendation 8.1 of the Blueprint, the Commission established the capability reviews program. The objective of the program is to support agencies to build a strong and capable APS. The reviews will provide an APS-wide assessment of capability and identify gaps that require further development as well as examples of better practice that can be highlighted and shared.

The program is currently in the development phase, which involves three pilot reviews to test and refine the review approach. Based on the results of the pilot reviews, a submission will be developed for government consideration.

The first pilot review was completed with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the final report on the review was delivered in June 2011. A second pilot is currently underway with the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, and the third pilot review is expected to begin in September 2011.

Policy advice and employment services

The Commission provides a range of policy advice and employment services to APS employees and agencies to help them meet their legislative responsibilities, including on matters covered by the PS Act.

The Commission also delivers a job seeker website (APSjobs.gov.au) and statutory services, including advising the SES on staffing matters and machinery of government changes.

SES engagements, promotions and termination of employment casework

The Commissioner has a number of responsibilities that relate to SES staffing arrangements, including endorsing selection exercises, agreeing to amounts proposed to be paid as incentives to retire under section 37 of the PS Act, and termination.

In 2010–11, 213 selection exercises were submitted for the Commissioner’s consideration, all of which were endorsed. There were 35 PS Act section 37 retirements with an incentive agreed, compared to 64 in the previous year. These cases were spread across 25 agencies.

Before an SES employee’s employment can be terminated under one of the grounds listed in section 29(3) of the PS Act, the agency must request the Commissioner to issue a certificate under section 38 of the PS Act, certifying that the Commission is satisfied that the requirements of the Commissioner’s Directions have been met and the termination is in the public interest. In 2010–11 the Commissioner issued three certifications allowing an agency head to proceed with the termination of an SES employee.

Machinery of government changes

The Commission managed 22 machinery of government changes in 2010–11. The majority of these involved the movement of functions between agencies arising from the changes to the Administrative Arrangements Order that were made following the 2010 federal election.

The most significant changes included:

  • the establishment of a new Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government
  • the establishment of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) as a new executive agency
  • the establishment of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner as a new statutory agency.

The Commission provided advice to agencies on the implications of terms and conditions of the machinery of government changes. It prepared and executed the necessary legislative instruments to give effect to these changes to meet the timeframes set by the government and by individual agencies.

Merit-based selection of APS agency heads and statutory office holders

A Commission policy document, Merit and Transparency: Merit-based selection of APS agency heads and APS statutory office holders, outlines the transparent and merit-based assessments required for the selection of most APS agency heads and other statutory office holders working in, or in conjunction with, APS agencies.

Selection processes conducted under the policy in 2010–11 resulted in 53 appointments to agency head and other statutory offices.

Employment Policy Advice

The Commission provides advice to Commonwealth employment agencies on a range of employment policy matters through the Employment Policy Advice. The Commission responded to 2,220 inquiries in 2010–11.

Table 5 details the main categories of Employment Policy Advice inquiries in 2010–11 and the previous two years.

Table 5: Main categories of Employment Policy Advice inquiries, 2008–09 to 2010–11
na = not applicable. The new APS Bargaining Framework commenced on 31 January 2011; see program 1.3 for more information.
  2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Inquiry categories
Agency head/statutory office holder selection 19 14 8
Staffing matters 831 813 825
General legislative issues 136 134 157
Separations 218 215 195
Conditions/entitlements 398 193 110
Review matters 161 75 50
APS Values/Code of Conduct 225 102 77
Workplace diversity issues 42 31 51
SES matters 86 95 55

Mobility/reciprocal mobility with other jurisdictions

23 24 34
Competencies/qualifications 8 5 12
Bargaining matters na na 305
Other 524 323 341
Total 2,671 2,024 2,220

APS redeployment policy and register

The Commission released an enhanced APS redeployment policy as announced by government on 21 April 2011. The policy contains eight principles and supporting processes for the redeployment of excess ongoing APS employees.

An APS-wide online redeployment register was established for employees who have been advised that they are excess, or likely to be excess, to the requirements of their agencies. The redeployment register was launched on 23 May 2011. By 30 June 2011, 12 excess employees had registered for redeployment, three of whom were placed in an agency.

The Commission published guidelines to assist agencies to implement the policy. The guidelines provide information about the legislative and industrial framework underpinning the policy and describe how the new processes interact with existing recruitment and excess staff arrangements.

Senior Executive Service advisory service

The Commission’s SES adviser provides SES employees across the APS with an avenue to seek advice from a senior member of the Commission about employment matters. Discussions are generally confidential.

In 2010–11, 47 queries were raised with the SES adviser (59 in 2009–10).

Agency employment services

In 2010–11, the Commission continued to provide employment services to APS agencies. These services are provided on behalf of the Commissioner and the Merit Protection Commissioner and include activities related to the recruitment and selection of staff and the provision of advice that promotes best practice and ensures that legislative requirements are met. The employment services function is managed through the Commission’s New South Wales regional office and assignments are undertaken by a national team of non-ongoing, casual staff.

A total of 571 employment-related requests were received in 2010–11 and 530 requests were completed during the period. The number of completed requests includes requests lodged in 2010–11 and requests lodged but not finalised in 2009–10. A further 43 requests were actioned but withdrawn by the agency prior to completion. Requests included the constitution, convening and membership of Independent Selection Advisory Committees, provision of panel members for Selection Advisory Committees and scribing assignments.

APSjobs–the electronic APS Employment Gazette

The Commission’s APS Employment Gazette–APSjobs–is an online employment portal for the APS. APSjobs has a user-friendly search system for job seekers and other users who are interested in a career in the APS. It notifies the public of all employment opportunities, recruitment outcomes and other APS employment decisions. Fifty editions of APSjobs are published each year.

In 2010–11 the number of notices lodged increased by 20.8% compared to the number lodged in 2009–10 (see Table 6).

Table 6: Comparative number of gazette notices lodged, 2007–08 to 2010–11
  Number of notices lodged Percentage difference on previous year
2007–08 55,418 –4.52
2008–09 41,670 –24.81
2009–10 38,214 –8.29
2010–11 46,163 +20.8

There was an increase in registered users to more than 188,000 (130,000 in 2009–10), and interactive email alerts for job seekers were regularly sent to more than 8,600 users per week (5,000 in 2009–10).

Career expos and trade fairs

The Commission actively promoted the APS as an employer of choice at various career expos and employment trade fairs during the year.

Data analysis and benchmarking

In 2010–11, the Commission enhanced its statistical analysis and research capability in order to better support the APS reform agenda, and, in particular, the development of the human capital framework. This capability positions the Commission to advise the APS and its leadership on emerging workforce challenges and develop guidance and recommendations for change. The Commission continues to look for opportunities to benchmark APS performance against that of comparable overseas public sector jurisdictions.

APS Statistical Bulletin

The APS Statistical Bulletin 2009–10 provides a snapshot of APS-wide staffing as at 30 June 2010, and of staff movements during 2009–10. It also provides summary data for the past 15 years.
The bulletin contains information useful to agencies in benchmarking themselves against APS-wide trends. It is distributed to all APS agency heads, state and territory public service commissioners, New Zealand’s State Services Commissioner and leading public and tertiary education libraries. It is available in hard copy and electronically from the Commission’s website.

Enhancing APSED

The Commission collects and analyses workforce statistics to assist in identifying significant workforce challenges for the APS and help agencies to develop and benchmark their workforce planning strategies. The Commission maintains the APS Employment Database (APSED), which is the central information source on trends in APS employment.

APSED is an important tool for ensuring cross-service accountability, especially for the State of the Service Report. It is also used as the sampling frame for the State of the Service employee survey.

APSED is also used extensively for research. For example, during 2010–11, APSED was used to support the Deputy Public Service Commissioner’s review of employment outcomes for APS women in the Department of Defence, as well as analysis of progression for employees who were part of the Indigenous pathways program, and research on workforce trends for the Senior Executive Service.

The APSED specifications were revised in June 2011 to clarify reporting requirements. Overall, the quality and timeliness of agencies’ reporting to APSED improved during the year.

This year, for the first time, the Commission published calendar year data from APSED. A selection of summary tables for December 2010 was made available on the Commission’s website. This initiative will ensure that more up-to-date information on APS staffing numbers is available for analysis and benchmarking.

Improving APSEDII

The APSED Internet Interface (APSEDII) promotes better practice in workforce planning and benchmarking by enabling users to produce data similar to that published in the APS Statistical Bulletin. APSEDII users can also produce cross-tabulation data and download the results for further analysis. More than 100 users in some 50 agencies can access more detailed information on APSEDII through a secure logon and password procedure. Designated users can examine unit record information for employees in their agency to improve workforce planning and enhance data quality. In 2010–11, more than 4,200 queries were run.

Time series data for a range of variables was added to APSEDII in 2010–11.

Scoping work has begun on adding a number of metrics to APSEDII. The additional functionality is expected to be implemented in November 2011 as part of the June 2011 data release.

State of the Service Report

Under section 44(2) of the PS Act, the Commissioner is required to report annually on the state of the APS. The 2009–10 State of the Service Report was tabled in Parliament in November 2010. The report highlighted three new themes for the APS as a whole: leadership and culture; capability, innovation and collaboration; and human capital management.

The report is an authoritative source of data and information on the changing workforce trends of the APS. It is frequently cited by public policy academics nationally and internationally, and is an important reference for the APS more generally, including departmental executives, human resource managers and Commission staff.

The 2009–10 report provided an important baseline for informing implementation of the Blueprint initiatives as well as many activities that were underway within APS agencies. The report highlighted an overarching need for a more cohesive and agile APS.

Data sources

In compiling the report, the Commission drew on a wide range of data sources. These included the Commission’s own research and databases (particularly APSED), published and unpublished material from other agencies, Australian National Audit Office reports and, where available, comparable data from other Australian and international jurisdictions.

The Commission also conducted two surveys that contributed to the report:

  • The agency survey provided information on a wide range of management and capability issues in agencies with 20 or more APS employees. The Commission conducted the agency survey online and achieved a response rate of 100% from the 98 agencies in scope.
  • The employee survey, sent to randomly selected APS employees, provided data on employee attitudes to, and understanding of, a variety of issues, including work–life balance, job satisfaction, working with external stakeholders, the APS Values and Code of Conduct, diversity, individual performance management, and harassment and bullying. The 2010 survey had a high response rate, for a voluntary survey, of 64%.
Survey reports

The Commission also produced two publications in association with the 2009–10 State of the Service Report: the APS Statistical Bulletin 2009–10 and the State of the Service employee survey results 2009–10. A summary pamphlet, The State of the Service 2009–10 at a glance, was also produced. All publications are available on the Commission’s website.

Following the success of agency-specific employee survey reports in previous years, the Commission again provided these reports to heads of all agencies with at least 400 employees. These reports summarised the agencies’ own employee responses and compared them with the APS-wide results. Statistically valid differences were identified as appropriate. Small and medium-sized agencies were provided with a benchmark summary of all similarly sized agencies.

A separate agency benchmarking report was distributed to agencies with 400 or more employees. The report provided each agency’s results benchmarked not only against the APS average, but also, for the first time, against the United Kingdom and United States civil services.

The national and international benchmarks provide agencies with a rich context for understanding their results in relation to leadership, work–life balance, learning and development, performance feedback and accountability, and career progression. These areas have been identified across the APS as requiring targeted effort to improve levels of employee engagement.

Evaluation

To evaluate readers’ perceptions of the 2009–10 State of the Service Report, a short questionnaire was made available through the Commission’s website. The questionnaire asked readers for their general impressions of the report, the usefulness of the chapters and any additional comments. The feedback–from 42 respondents–was generally positive. Around 90% of respondents agreed that the report is a valuable resource and more than 80% were satisfied with the quality of the report and agreed that it adequately evaluated the state of the APS.

Planning for next report

One of the key considerations in the development of the 2010–11 State of the Service agency and employee surveys has been the requirement to provide further baseline data on key organisational capabilities that the Blueprint has identified as critical to the APS to meet future challenges. Future State of the Service reports will be an important evidence source for assessing how well the APS is performing in the key areas of reform identified in the Blueprint.

Specific areas of investigation for the 2010–11 State of the Service Report are workforce planning, talent management, learning and development, performance management, and recruitment and retention strategies. Agencies have been asked not only to identify areas of skill shortages, but also to assess the impact of the shortages on their agency’s operations.

The 2011 State of the Service employee survey, which was in the field for a month, achieved a response rate of 59%. The Commission significantly increased the sample size for the 2011 survey. This will enable more medium-sized APS agencies to be provided with agency-specific employee survey reports, which compare their results against the APS more broadly. In previous years these reports were only available to agencies with at least 400 employees. In 2011, reports will be available to all agencies with 200 or more employees.

Merit Protection and other services

The Merit Protection Commissioner’s functions are set out in section 50 of the PS Act. The Merit Protection Commissioner and the Public Service Commissioner have a memorandum of understanding for provision of staff necessary to assist the Merit Protection Commissioner in performing her statutory functions.

Since 1 July 2010, support for the Merit Protection Commissioner’s review and fee-for-service functions has been provided by staff in the Ethics and Client Engagement Groups in the Commission’s Sydney office. The Ethics Group in Canberra provides coordination and policy support for the Merit Protection Commissioner.

A report on the performance of these functions is contained in the Merit Protection Commissioner’s annual report in Part 4.