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Unlocking potential: APS workforce management reform

"More than any other factor, the quality of the people in the APS will determine how well [it] meets the challenges of the future".

Sandra McPhee AM, author, Unlocking Potential

In 2015, Sandra McPhee AM, with the support of the Australian Public Service Commission, conducted a review of APS workforce management practices. The report from the review is titled Unlocking  Potential.

Unlocking Potential provides a rich set of ideas to accelerate the modernisation of the APS workforce. It is framed around four key areas for change:

  • optimising talent and driving high performance
  • attracting and recruiting
  • increasing flexibility, and
  • redesigning HR.

Unlocking Potential was launched in April 2016 by Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Minister for Women and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service.

List of proposed actions

Optimising talent and driving high performance
i Ensure Secretaries are visibly accountable for talent management and succession
ii Introduce formal talent management for SES Band 3s and 2s, to be led by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Public Service Commissioner
iii Introduce a centrally designed approach to talent identification
iv Roll out APS-wide talent councils to make decisions about developing and deploying critical talent
v Centrally develop design principles for a positive high performance culture
vi Introduce a centrally designed induction module that can be adapted by agencies
Attracting and recruiting
vii Renew APS jobs
viii Examine the legislative description of merit, with a view to simplifying
ix Allow a modified approach to merit for promotions in defined circumstances
x Apply merit through simple and appropriate recruitment processes
xi Review the APS classification system
xii Centralise transactional recruitment activity for some cohorts
xiii Review the system of appeal for management decisions, including promotion decisions
Increasing flexibility
xiv Consider the legislative provisions on specified period employment arrangements
xv Increased use of specified period employment arrangements for SES
xvi Implement an APS capability interchange
xvii Develop a central secondment brokerage service
xviii Consider the legislative provisions for separations. Allow greater flexibility for no-blame separations.
xix Support a culture where separation is not punitive and is an accepted part of workforce renewal
xx Reinforce use of the probation period to confirm fit
Redesigning HR
xxi Agencies to ensure HR has an equal seat at their executive table
xxii Assess agency HR delivery models to align them with the needs of the business
xxiii Transition to alternate delivery models for all non-strategic tasks
xxiv Invest in people - conduct a HR skills audit and get the right capability mix
xxv Invest in technology - improve workforce data and enhance the experience of HR customers
xxvi Review the model for APS L&D
xxvii Clarify the role of the APSC
Last reviewed: 
26 June 2018