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Public Service Commissioner's review

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

Last year, I indicated that the commitment of our people—combined with the willingness of APS agencies to work with us to build a highly capable workforce to meet current and future challenges—has been key to the delivery of our professional support. During 2013–14, the Commission continued to work in partnership with agencies to ensure that our endeavours are of value and contribute to strengthening capabilities and performance across the broader APS.

I thank the Secretaries Board, agency heads and their staff for their generous support and willingness to collaborate with the Commission in furthering our common aim to maximise the effectiveness and the contribution of the APS. I also most sincerely thank my senior management team and the staff of the Commission for their commitment, flexibility and willingness to ‘go the extra mile’. They are entitled to feel very proud about what has been achieved this year.

2013–14 in review

The Commission takes a leadership role in working with APS agencies to strengthen the capability, and therefore the effectiveness, of APS agencies. The Commission is also committed to improving the talent management, leadership and performance culture within the APS and to strengthening human resource practices. While continuing to enhance and deliver our core services, the Commission made significant progress in fulfilling our wide-ranging responsibilities across the APS. Achievements included:

  • implementing a pilot of the RecruitAbility scheme (a guaranteed interview scheme for job applicants with disability), which was adopted by the Commission and 14 other APS agencies
  • working with 38 agencies to recruit 111 new Indigenous employees through the APS Indigenous Pathways to Employment Program
  • implementing the APS entry and exit survey to collect data that will allow the APS and agencies to better understand the drivers of attraction and retention, with a particular focus on diversity groups
  • completing eight agency capability reviews and publishing 10 reports
  • introducing and managing the staffing arrangements for recruitment in the APS
  • piloting a diagnostic instrument in a number of agencies to support the implementation of a high-performance framework across the APS
  • administering the 2014 APS employee census to more than 150,000 employees, with a 68% response rate
  • releasing the APS Leadership and Core Skills Strategy 2014–15, with the endorsement of the Secretaries Board, in June 2014, and providing core skills learning programs to agencies
  • releasing the APS performance management learning program
  • implementing new Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership programs and continuing to deliver talent development programs
  • coordinating the APS Human Resources Summit 2013, which addressed a range of themes, including what constitutes
  • effective human resource management and its effect on organisational values, culture and performance
  • delivering public sector capability development projects in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia
  • developing the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy,which will underpin productive workplace arrangements across the Commonwealth public sector
  • publishing the 2013 APS Remuneration Report, which captures data from all APS agencies to inform policy development and agency remuneration practices
  • developing the APS classification guideand APS-wide work-level standards for non-SES employees to support agencies in classification management decisions
  • working closely with the Department of Finance on preparing for the commencement of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013on 1 July 2014, including minimising the scope for confusion between the duties of officials set out in sections 25 to 29 of that Act and their responsibilities to abide by the Code of Conduct under section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999.

In addition, we undertook a wide range of business-as-usual activity. This included working with other central agencies to develop APS-wide human resource policies, supporting SES recruitment, providing ethics advice, developing learning and development programs, conducting whistleblower inquiries, and preparing the State of the Service Report.

Moreover, the Commission continued to enhance our people, processes and capabilities. During the year, we:

  • reviewed internal policies and procedures in preparation for the commencement of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act
  • transitioned our financial systems and human resource processing and systems to the Shared Services Centre
  • conducted a business impact analysis of critical business functions and established appropriate response strategies
  • improved our financial reporting processes
  • commenced a significant workforce planning project to ensure our future workforce needs are met
  • delivered programs as part of our Reconciliation Action Plan 2012–14 and started working on the next iteration of the plan.

We also revisited our strategic plan and business functions. The performance framework and the workforce planning guide (both developed in 2012–13 for the APS) were applied internally to facilitate this process. This experience, at firsthand, reinforced the value of robust guidance that is readily available to assist APS agencies that are undertaking similar processes.

It has been an eventful year for the broader APS amid machinery of government changes and interim recruitment arrangements. The Commission supported agencies to manage the impacts of significant staffing changes and implement the revised recruitment policy. We also provided ongoing advice to agencies following the release of the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy in March 2014.

As part of our commitment to contributing to a highly capable public service, we continued to progress two significant initiatives—the capability review and performance management programs. The capability review program provides forward-looking assessments of organisational capability, highlighting both strengths and opportunities. In 2013–14, eight reviews and one health check were completed. As part of the Commission's strategy to create a high-performance culture throughout the APS, a number of agencies piloted a diagnostic process with the aim of gaining a better understanding of their current performance management practices and the potential to strengthen them. This was complemented by the release of the APS performance management learning program to improve managers' capabilities in managing staff performance.

Our collaborative relationship with agencies has enabled the Commission to develop learning programs that are targeted and relevant. In addition, our ownership of intellectual property allows us to provide APS agencies with flexible program delivery and tailoring options. We have taken a practical approach to implementing our core public service skills programs, working with agencies to define their learning needs to ensure the most meaningful and effective interventions. These are excellent examples of the benefits of cross-APS collaboration and the potentially large savings available to APS agencies when we work together to ‘build once, use many times’.

The views of all employees are important to the future development of the APS. These views were captured by the 2014 APS employee census, which elicited a response rate of 68%. This rich source of data helps identify the priorities for workforce development across the APS and informs the annual State of the Service Report. It also contributes to the development of initiatives that focus on specific workplace issues. The APS entry and exit survey and Indigenous retention research program are examples of such initiatives implemented during the reporting period, to allow the APS to better understand the drivers of attraction and retention for key diversity groups.

The Commission now offers a complete suite of SES leadership development programs with the implementation of the SES Band 3 program in 2013–14. We are also close to finalising a new SES Band 1 talent program, having previously successfully delivered programs at Band 2 and Band 3 levels. These programs contribute to the achievement of the goal of the 2011 APS Leadership Development Strategy to develop leaders with the capability to manage and lead in the changing business environment facing the APS. The programs are subject to continuous improvement and we will endeavour to work with our colleagues to ensure that each program continues to meet the needs of the changing APS context and emerging drivers.

Outlook for 2014–15

The coming year will present a number of challenges, not least to address high (and possibly rising) expectations of the value that the Commission can add to ongoing capability development in the APS at a time of continued decline in resources. The Commission is also entering the final two years of a five-year funding deal whereby agencies have contributed cash to support a number of whole-of-APS activities undertaken by the Commission in collaboration with agencies. It will be important, therefore, to continue to deliver on the commitment the Commission has made at the pace and high quality of the last few years.

Agencies have also worked very actively with the Commission on developing the APS's leadership and better managing APS talent, identifying and sharing good practice, and seeking fresh insights into addressing difficult issues. This has also extended to a range of data collection activities.

I encourage the continued participation of agencies in endeavours such as these. This will assist the Commission in our research to provide robust insights about the APS as a whole, and to identify systemic issues. Over time, we hope that these findings generate a wider awareness of significant trends and inspire targeted and innovative approaches to address prevalent issues in the APS. The role of senior leadership across agencies remains key to responding to current and emerging challenges, and the Commission has an enduring commitment to providing relevant strategic and practical support.

Stephen Sedgwick AO

Australian Public Service Commissioner

Last reviewed: 
11 May 2018