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Public Service Commissioner's review

This is my fourth annual report since I became the Australian Public Service Commissioner in December 2009.

Last year, I indicated that we had made great strides towards creating an outward-looking, client-focused and collaborative organisation that adds value to the APS through research and thought leadership and a capacity to disseminate it. The Commission’s new organisational structure, business model and strengthened workforce capability—and the commitment of our people and the willingness of many in other agencies to collaborate in order to improve the effectiveness of the APS—have been key to the delivery of professional support to agencies during 2012–13.

2012–13 in review

The Commission takes a leadership role in working with APS agencies in strengthening APS human capital strategies and workforce and capability planning, and in improving the talent management, leadership and performance culture within the APS. While continuing to enhance and deliver our core services, the Commission made significant progress in fulfilling our expanded responsibilities across the APS. Achievements included:

  • supporting the Minister for the Public Service and Integrity with the passage through the parliament of amendments to the Public Service Act 1999, which commenced on 1 July 2013
  • supporting agencies to implement the legislative changes by publishing detailed advice on action required, delivering information sessions and establishing an interactive question-and-answer page on the Commission’s website in the months before the new provisions came into effect
  • working in partnership with agencies to develop resources to assist agencies to embed the revised APS Values and Employment Principles
  • developing best practice reasonable adjustment principles and the APS Indigenous Employment Strategy 2012–16 to support APS agencies to improve the employment outcomes of people with disability and Indigenous Australians
  • administering the 2012 APS employee census to 159,917 employees, with a 55% response rate, and developing and trialling an exit and entry survey to deepen our understanding of why people join the APS and why they leave
  • completing research on performance management in the APS in partnership with several
    APS agencies, the Australian National University, the University of Canberra and the University of New South Wales, including the development of principles to promote a high-performance culture within agencies
  • completing eight agency capability reviews and publishing four reports
  • publishing the APS strategic workforce analysis and reporting guide developed in consultation with approximately 70 agencies
  • completing the APS Classification Review and commencing work to address its recommendations, including the development of work-level standards applicable to classifications below the (recently reviewed) Senior Executive Service (SES)
  • publishing the APS Remuneration Report, which captures remuneration data from all APS agencies
  • delivering new approaches that support the APS Leadership and Core Skills Strategy 2012–13, including validation of existing leadership development priorities and identification of APS-wide core and management skills to be developed
  • implementing new approaches to cross-APS talent development of SES Band 2 and Band 3 officers
  • commencing work to develop an APS Asia Capability Strategy to support the development of Asia-relevant skills as required by the Australia in the Asian century white paper delivering the APS Human Resources Summit 2012; key themes included the need for human resources to deliver exceptional operational services and contribute to business-wide strategy, as well as the critical role of strategic workforce planning to meet economic, technological and demographic change
  • commencing research and engagement with stakeholders, including unions, the Fair Work Commission, agencies, and state and territory governments, for modernisation of some 51 Australian Government employment awards, most notably the APS Award 1998
  • finalising the evaluation of the 2011 bargaining round and commencing preparations for the 2014 bargaining round for APS agencies.

In addition, we undertook a wide range of business-as-usual activity. This included working with other central agencies to develop APS-wide management policies, support for SES recruitment, ethics advice, learning and development programs, Indigenous graduate recruitment, whistleblowing inquiries and the preparation of the State of the Service Report.

Moreover, the Commission continued in 2012–13 to enhance our people, processes and systems capabilities and:

  • launched a Reconciliation Action Plan in consultation with Indigenous employees, communities, business people and leaders
  • launched including you—APSC Workplace Diversity Program, an initiative that aims to embrace and celebrate the diversity of the Australian community within our workplace
  • completed a comprehensive risk management review to identify risks to the achievement of the Commission’s outcomes and put in place mitigation plans
  • completed a fraud risk assessment and analysis of the Commission’s level of fraud risk and developed a fraud control plan for the period 2013–15 to address the identified risks
  • updated internal policies, procedures and processes, including the Chief Executive’s Instructions, procedural rules, and human resource policies and procedures in preparation for the commencement of the amended PS Act
  • extended 360-degree feedback to include the Executive Level 2 cohort.

It has been an eventful year in which a number of projects, emanating from the recommendations of the Ahead of the game: Blueprint for the reform of Australian Government administration report, came to fruition. The Commission undertook significant work to ensure the passage of the amended PS Act through parliament and to prepare agencies for its implementation on 1 July 2013.

The capability review program completed eight reviews and we will continue, over the coming year, to advance this important work in the remaining participating agencies and to begin a round of ‘health checks’ to assess progress in implementing the agency action plan agreed with the Commission following each review.

The performance framework project delivered a considerable body of research to better understand what constitutes good performance in the APS and contribute to the development of a more comprehensive performance framework. Twelve agencies participated in the initial phase, providing a deep understanding of performance management practices and opportunities for improvement in their workplaces. The Commission will seek to encourage the involvement of a greater number of agencies in the project.

The introduction of the APS employee census in 2012 provided a rich source of data that reflects the views of employees on wide-ranging issues related to their experience of the APS work environment. The census, which is used to inform the State of the Service Report, elicited a response rate of 55% in 2012 and gathered significant momentum in 2013 with a rate of 66%. This was a significant outcome and the research made possible by the high response rate has begun to better inform our understanding of key issues, such as perceptions of bullying in the APS.
I would encourage even better participation in the future as this will provide more reliable results for smaller demographic groups and at an agency level.

Outlook for 2013–14

The last few years have been challenging both externally, with the implementation of the government’s APS reform agenda, and internally as the Commission focused on building a capability to deliver outward-looking, client-focused and collaborative outcomes. Our challenge for 2013–14 will be to find innovative ways to maintain the impetus in a climate of funding constraint.

During the reporting period, the Commission delivered the APS Leadership and Core Skills Strategy 2012–13. This strategy will be further progressed next year. It aims to enhance the capability of APS leaders and the core skills of the APS workforce (for example, in respect of performance management) to meet the challenges of the future and has been well received thus far.

It has also been a year of consolidation to ensure that tools and techniques developed over the last few years are embedded across the APS. Looking ahead, particularly in relation to the performance framework project, there is great value to be gained through adoption of a diagnostic instrument under development to support agencies in embedding a high-performance culture. We will continue to support agencies to build on their strengths and capabilities through such initiatives.

We will also work with agencies on developing guidance to help agencies to embed the revised APS Values and Employment Principles.

Policy work to develop the bargaining arrangements for 2014 is well underway. It is expected that arrangements for the 2014 round of bargaining will be announced in the second half of 2013.

It is expected that the Commission, on behalf of the Commonwealth, will make an application to the Fair Work Commission requesting that it consider modernising the Australian Public Service Award 1998. We will continue to provide advice and guidance to non-APS agencies to support the modernisation of other Commonwealth awards.

I would like to thank all members of the Commission for their continued support and commitment to maintaining innovative and high-quality services to agencies and to acknowledge their support and contribution to many charities, including Boundless Canberra and the Vinnies CEO Sleepout. Through the outstanding efforts of Commission employees who have given their time to fundraising endeavours, we have made—and will continue to make—a significant contribution to the local community.

I would also like to record my thanks to my colleagues on the Secretaries Board and in the wider APS community for their positive support of the Commission and commitment to, and engagement in, the reform process. The Commission is heavily reliant on the goodwill of agencies. Their willingness to assist the Commission with resources and facilities and their preparedness to collaborate on initiatives and share their information and experiences substantially underpinned the successes of 2012–13. More than half of the Commission’s funding is provided by agencies—either on a fee-for-service basis or through subscriptions supported by a memorandum of understanding. It was particularly gratifying that in a tight budget year, agencies have continued to support Commission-based whole-of-APS activities in this way (for example, in respect of activities to support recruitment and retention of Indigenous employees).

Stephen Sedgwick AO
Australian Public Service Commissioner

Last reviewed: 
11 May 2018