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Section 6: Innovation and social media

Innovation comprises new or significant changes to the processes, products or services offered by the agency. The APS’ Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration emphasises its importance in meeting future challenges and stresses the need for agencies to develop a culture of innovation. The growth in technology, particularly in areas such as social media and online service delivery, has also provided a diverse range of new ways for the APS to interact with stakeholders and clients.

Innovation

Overall, 51% of employees reported that their work group had implemented some form of innovation in the 12 months before the Micro-Agency Snapshot. Respondents were also asked how the innovation had impacted their workplace; Table 9 shows the areas affected by the single most significant innovation introduced by the workgroup.

Table 9: Areas affected by innovation
Percent
Your administrative or organisational processes 74.48%
The way you provide your services (not including the way you interact with stakeholders) 52.60%
The way you interact with stakeholders 49.48%
Your services 48.96%
The way you look at problems or challenge assumptions 30.73%
Your policy thinking 29.69%

Only 27% of employees reported that the innovation had only impacted one aspect of business. The remainder indicated that their innovation had had a range of impacts on the agency. While three-quarters of the innovations introduced had an effect on internal business processes, approximately half reported that the innovation affected outward looking practices including service delivery and communication with stakeholders.

Figure 21 shows the sources of ideas leading to the most significant innovation ranked by importance. These data would suggest that innovation in Micro-agencies is primarily an internally driven activity with most ideas for innovation coming from other workgroup members or agency senior leaders.

Figure 21: Sources of innovation

While innovation can have both positive and negative effects the majority of respondents reported that their most significant innovation had been beneficial to their workplaces (see Figure 22).

The most commonly reported benefits were to the quality of work produced, improved client access to information and streamlined administration. By contrast, approximately half of respondents believed the innovation reduced costs for the agency.

Figure 22: The impact of innovation

Despite the success of micro-agency employees in introducing new practices, 51% still believe there are barriers to innovation in their agencies. As Figure 23 shows, the biggest perceived barrier was budget restrictions, closely followed by a perceived lack of support from managers and a perceived unwillingness on the part of managers to take risks.

Figure 23: Barriers to innovation

Use of social media in micro-agencies

Results from the Micro-Agency Snapshot suggest that all 13 agencies use social media for business purposes. Table 10 shows the percentage of employees who reported using social media and for what purpose they used social media. It also shows the percentage of users who felt that social media tools helped them do their job more effectively. Only a small proportion of respondents had used these tools and levels of satisfaction with them could best be considered mixed.

Table 10: Use of social media
Percent of respondents Percent of users satisfied
No 60.93%
Working with government stakeholders (e.g. within your agency or with other commonwealth, state or local government agencies) 17.20% 52.13%
Working with non-government stakeholders (e.g. community groups, industry/business, members of the public) 16.62% 54.17%
Not sure 5.24%

The use of social media is a complex issue in a large organisation and one way this is addressed is by providing guidance to employees regarding the appropriate business and personal uses of social media tools. Table 11 shows the numbers of micro-agency respondents who have received guidance on ethical use of social media tools from their agency; only one-third of all respondents have access to guidance on the ethical use of social media for work purposes.

Table 11: Advice provided regarding use of social media
Percent
Not sure 26.80%
Received advice on work use 33.51%
Received advice on personal or home use 15.46%
Received no advice 12.89%

When social media users are examined in isolation, results are less satisfactory. Figure 24 shows those employees who use social media for work broken down by whether they had access to guidance on its appropriate use. Over 20% of work users reported they did not have access to guidance. A further 22% were unsure. This may suggest a need to improve the availability or visibility of this advice.

Figure 24: Social media users with access to guidance on acceptable use

Results from this section are quite favourable for the micro-agencies, with employees reporting they are able to introduce new practices which improve business practices despite the presence of some obstacles. While all agencies appear to be adopting social media tools such as Twitter, views on the their effectiveness are mixed and access to guidance on the appropriate use of these is limited with only just over half users having received such guidance.

Conclusion

A response rate of 62% is a good result for Micro-Agency Snapshot and suggests that a high degree of confidence can be placed in the results. The Snapshot identified both organisational strengths and potential weaknesses for the agencies.

Strengths include:

  • High levels of employee engagement.
  • Favourable health and wellbeing outcomes.
  • Agency leaders and supervisors are respected for their integrity and honesty.

Potential weaknesses include:

  • A lack of confidence in agency grievance resolution processes.
  • A perception that managers are do not deal well with underperforming employees.
  • Over half of respondents believe there are barriers to innovation in the agency.