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Section 4: Performance management

Effective performance management programs provide guidance to employees on what their agency requires of them to achieve its strategic goals. In recent times, there has been a move toward formalising these procedures and embedding them in the administrative requirements of the agency. The aim is to ensure that employees receive sufficient feedback to maintain their performance and to align employee work tasks with the objectives of the agency.

A second key part of effective performance management is employee learning and development needs. Learning and development improves the capabilities of employees by expanding their skills, which may give them opportunities for career progression in the agency. Coaching and mentoring are also learning and development activities that can focus specifically on addressing poor performance.

A third aspect of performance management in the APS is that the APS Code of Conduct and Values are expected to be explicitly addressed as part of the employee’s performance feedback. The extent to which this is done should be considered alongside feedback and learning needs when looking at agencies’ performance management systems.

Formal performance plans

Overall, 83% of respondents had a formal performance agreement in place for their current job which is slightly less than the broader APS. Most employees with a performance agreement reported that they had received formal feedback in the last 12 months (93%) and, interestingly, of those without a formal performance agreement, half (51%) had also received formal feedback. While 76% of respondents received feedback from only one source, 21% received feedback from two or more sources.

Figure 14 shows the sources of feedback; while the majority of respondents received feedback from their supervisor, 4.5% reported receiving formal feedback from clients. A further 2.4% reported receiving formal feedback from other sources including consultants and service providers.

Figure 14: Sources of formal performance feedback

Figure 15 shows the percentage of respondents who agreed that their feedback sessions were effective. Just over half agreed that the feedback would help improve their performance and just under half reported that the feedback included reference to the APS Values or Code of Conduct.

Figure 15: Satisfaction with performance feedback

A total of 22% of respondents stated that they did not believe the feedback they received would help improve their performance. The most frequent reasons given for this were:

  • the issue wasn’t covered in sufficient detail
  • the feedback was rejected as inaccurate or inappropriate
  • the feedback process was regarded as a “tick-and-flick” exercise and an administrative burden.

Learning and development

Another means of improving the capabilities of employees is to provide access to learning and development opportunities. These may be formal, such as training courses, or informal such as on the job training or mentoring. The growth of e-learning in the last decade has allowed greater flexibility in offering training to employees, although not all agencies may offer this.

Overall, 62% of respondents reported that their learning and development needs had not been fully identified. The most frequent reasons for this were:

  • a lack of time or money for training
  • training had not been fully considered or discussed during performance management discussions
  • a lack of support for training from supervisors.

Generally survey respondents were satisfied with learning and development in their agency (see Figure 16). Half (49%) of respondents reported having access to e-learning and less than a third of those with access to e-learning were satisfied with its effectiveness.

Figure 16: Satisfaction with learning and development

A total of 65 respondents chose to provide comments regarding access to training. The most frequent comments were:

  • access to courses was limited by budget and workload
  • complaints about the processes for nominating for training including needing to find their own courses
  • relevant training courses were rarely offered.

Despite these concerns, only 11% of respondents reported having not been given time for the off-the-job training in the last 12 months (see Table 3). One third had had less than two days and a similar number of employees had had between three and five days for training courses. Employees tended to be positive in their perceptions of learning and development activities, with 80% reporting they were at least moderately effective in improving their performance.

Table 3: Time provided for formal learning and development activities
No time 10.53%
2 days or less 33.16%
3 to 5 days 32.89%
6 to 10 days 15.79%
More than 10 days 7.63%

While a high proportion of respondents had performance agreements in place, respondents were not necessarily satisfied with the level of feedback they received. Learning and development received more mixed results but the majority of employees were satisfied with their access to training and the quality of training.