Work level standards: Senior Executive Service
The following Work Level Standards (WLS) have been developed as a basis for determining classification of Senior Executive Service (SES) roles within the Australian Public Service (APS). They are intended to provide a broad framework that will apply to all SES roles across the APS. Definitions should be regarded as general in nature and will require some level of interpretation depending upon specific role circumstances.
The SES provides leadership at both agency and whole of APS levels. All SES must demonstrate behaviours and actions that model and promote the APS Values and Code of Conduct. Similarly, the SES represents the APS and government externally to stakeholders. All SES roles are characterised by a high level of accountability for outcomes. The Integrated Leadership System (ILS) identifies the skills and behaviours required at each of the three SES levels.
These WLS are structured to provide a degree of differentiation between the levels of SES roles, i.e. at SES Bands 1, 2 and 3, including in those dimensions where the degree of differentiation may not be obvious. For this reason, the WLS are intended to be viewed in their entirety for purposes of making a classification determination. To assist this process, particular distinguishing characteristics have been identified at each SES level, which seek to capture the fundamental differences.
The diversity of roles that comprise the SES structure is significant. SES roles, at Bands 1 and 2 in particular, may include the direction of program or project based delivery functions, development or implementation of public policy, development and implementation of compliance and enforcement programs, or the provision of expertise which ensures the integrity of decision making and planning processes of government. Typically, although any single SES role may incorporate many of these elements, the role may have been established on the basis of a more significant contribution in one of these directions. Material contained in the SES Bands 1 and 2 WLS often logically relates more strongly to one of four streams, and it is useful to consider where a given role has a stronger fit with one of these four contribution areas. When considering a specific SES role at these levels, it may be useful to identify this natural alignment in order to ensure that the most value can be gained from the content of the WLS and interpretation of descriptors. Consideration of secondary contributions may then provide useful verification of the initial interpretations.
The four streams are:
- Delivery: The most significant contribution of roles is outcome delivery and/or effective resource management. This may include development of delivery responses for policy objectives. Roles are accountable for a measurable impact on the agency or APS as a whole (e.g. achievement of objectives through the management of financial, human and physical resources). This may be directed to an ongoing delivery program, integration of multiple programs for delivery or to a finite government initiative.
- Public Policy: The most significant contribution of roles relates to the provision of policy advice. This advice reflects research and analysis of financial and other implications and stakeholder views obtained through consultations, and articulation of policy in policy statements, regulatory or financial measures and legislation.
- Regulatory: The most significant contribution of roles relates to information gathering and risk assessment, and the design and implementation of compliance and enforcement programs within a governance framework.
- Professional / Specialist: The most significant contribution of roles is the provision of technical, professional, specialist, or strategic advice. This advice has a primary influence on adopted strategies, plans and targets and outcomes in terms of effectiveness or efficiency.
Work level standards
SES Band 1
Policy and professional/specialist roles provide advice and recommendations within the framework of broad policy parameters and required standards of professionalism and objectivity.
Roles at SES Band 1 are usually expected to perform an important leadership role in the control of a branch or group and are responsible for the achievement of results in line with corporate or professional goals.
Roles develop the strategic direction for the branch/group ensuring elements integrate to support higher level agency objectives. Roles require the collection and analysis of information, policies and procedures in order to describe the status quo and develop or modify systems, operational plans, broader agency-wide policies and/or specialised projects.
In smaller agencies or parts of agencies, roles at this level may assume accountability for a number of recognised functions, activities or programs; however it is not uncommon for SES roles at this level to be more singularly focussed on one program or initiative, providing comprehensive leadership and direction on that area of focus.
A key feature is the need to work to higher level senior leaders within the agency in order to achieve outcomes, influence processes and build the capability, including the people of the branch/group.
Roles may have leadership or managerial responsibilities for a range of professional / specialist roles.
Roles usually embrace several related activities that need to be coordinated with other activities within a related function, or other functions not under the control of the role.
Professional / specialist roles operate across the full range of a recognised discipline or as a specialist.
Roles are actively involved in influencing and convincing others in the pursuit or achievement of specific and set objectives and representing the agency and government authoritatively.
Stakeholder engagement on sensitive issues, in order to share or seek information, and/or to advocate a particular position, is a regular feature of roles at this level. Focus tends to be at a detailed level involving high order technical or content appreciation.
Roles actively build sustainable relationships within the agency, within the Minister’s office, across the APS and with external parties. Roles are responsive to stakeholder needs and engage stakeholders during times of change, resolving conflict and managing sensitivities within constrained timeframes. The focus is often on achievement of desired objectives and ensuring negotiations remain on track.
Job Context and Environment
The operating environment is both complex and diverse. Direction is specified in terms of broad agency objectives. Roles may embrace a range of activities and/or operate in a complex, specialised environment. Focus can be national and/or international, representing the agency or government.
Roles are required to understand a range of external factors affecting the agency, and regularly monitor and respond to a changing operating environment ensuring that there is a high level of integration with the broader context, including the agency’s direction and role within government. This extends to understanding contemporary and emerging cross-jurisdictional and international issues.
Focus on an environment that can respond to changing needs and circumstances.
Work is characterised by the regular requirement to improve or revise established techniques, methods, systems or policies, or the relating of precedent to new situations to propose solutions that usually have enduring effects which extend beyond the immediate work environment. For many roles there will be a requirement to adapt or develop new systems, methods and processes.
Judgements and Independence
Role objectives and operating policies are broadly defined with established methods, procedures and processes.
At this level a variety of alternatives must be considered before judgements and/or decisions can be made. Problem resolution may need to take account of established management systems, professional standards, budget parameters or known equipment capacity.
Complete information may not always be available, requiring roles to make effective judgements under pressure, anticipate and manage risk, consider alternative courses of action, address problems in the work environment, devise action plans and advocate new approaches.
Delivery roles are governed by clear objectives and/or budgets. Compliance with regulatory and reporting requirements is a key feature. Within this framework, the role independently manages the day-to-day activities of staff to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery and proposes creative solutions to problems.
Delivery roles build and maintain the capability of a branch/group to ensure the effective delivery of government policies, strategies and programs aligning with the corporate plan and within budget parameters, for example:
- Achievement of performance standards and measures.
- Financial and human capital and other asset management.
- Leadership in implementation and delivery of strategic/major agency activities and initiatives.
- Collaboration and negotiation with State/Territory governments.
Policy roles provide intellectual leadership and where necessary marshal expertise in the area of operation, while also understanding the impact of the environment, whole-of-government priorities, and community and stakeholder influences and interactions, for example:
- Lead policy development and review activities.
- Provide expert advice in one or more areas of government policy.
- Analyse policy options and prepare material for policy statements.
- Consult on policy options and assess stakeholder feedback.
- Prepare and/or sign off on briefs/advice to Ministers within broad policy parameters within a defined area of government policy.
Regulatory roles build and maintain the capability of a branch/group to effectively implement compliance programs, gather and assess intelligence and manage risk and threat, for example:
- Stakeholder education to support implementation of regulatory requirements.
- Lead enforcement and compliance programs.
- Contribute to the establishment and maintenance of governance frameworks.
- Foster and maintain standards of independence and professionalism in audit and assurance.
Professional / Specialist
Specialist roles provide intellectual leadership and where necessary marshal expertise in the use of complex, though conventional, methods and techniques of a particular area, for example:
- Exercise influence within the agency and across the APS.
- Provide a key escalation point for professional/technical matters related to the specific discipline.
- Participate in cross-agency coordination/collaboration.
- Provide advice on legislative interpretation.
- The focus of interactions, while often across the agency or directed inwardly with staff reporting to the role, extends to broader corporate leadership, and cross-government and external representation.
- Takes responsibility for performance outcomes for a specific program, initiative, or for quality of advice provided.
- Takes responsibility for the management and development of all staff in a branch/group.
- Leads a branch/group in implementing programs, projects and initiatives.
- Contributes to one or more elements of agency governance.
- Recommends decisions on performance improvement initiatives and options.
- Plans and manages budgeted resources.
- Influential source of advice related to a specific area of knowledge or practice, which will form a key input to agency decision making processes.
- Primary planning focus assumes an immediate current year but with an understanding of future implications.
SES Band 2
Roles are characterised as requiring extensive knowledge and skills, and advanced professional/specialist/public administration expertise.
Roles would typically include heads of divisions/groups with extensive corporate resource accountabilities, and/or policy advisory accountabilities, and/or substantial or specialised knowledge demands.
Roles at SES Band 2 strategically lead the implementation of programs and initiatives. It is rare that roles will operate within a single frame of reference, as they are more likely to drive a range of activities and initiatives, with a requirement to strategically balance resources in order to optimise both the efficiency and effectiveness of activities and functions under their control. Some roles will have a more limited range of focus to deal with particular issues of high complexity or risk, often for a specified time frame.
Roles are largely focused on strategic activities which align with government objectives and anticipate future requirements.
Roles focus on activities that support agency sustainability, including the development of people, the facilitation of information accessibility and sharing, monitoring of resourcing pressures and implementation of strategies to ensure the best results are achieved. Roles accept full accountability for projects or funding in their charge.
Role occupants are seen as influential leaders within the agency, and contribute significantly to the development of agency strategies to meet government objectives.
Roles manage a total function or professional discipline at a whole-of-agency level with accountability for the integration of a number of functions. Roles are likely to oversee the implementation of multiple, integrated change initiatives with outcomes that significantly impact communities, stakeholders and services.
Roles effectively lead and oversee stakeholder engagement and influence outcomes, including through leading and motivating others to cooperate over priorities, the use of resources, management decisions, policy frameworks and technical concepts and processes.
Roles proactively develop productive working relationships across the broader APS and actively engage, inform and advise a diverse range of major stakeholders about various complex issues. As a principal representative of government and an advocate of key roles, interactions extend to external stakeholders domestically and internationally. While content appreciation is important, the focus is largely on achieving satisfactory outcomes through effective interactions with stakeholders.
Effectively responding to and anticipating the needs of key stakeholders are an important feature. Roles provide persuasive advice in an environment of time pressure, divergent views and conflicting priorities.
Job Context and Environment
Roles operate in an environment where there is a requirement to identify long-term opportunities, consider emerging trends and the whole-of-government agenda, and formulate strategies, plans and priorities which are underpinned by robust analysis and investigation.
The issues are complex and may be characterised by any one or combination of the following: problems and issues arising frequently; new methods are regularly required; resolution of issues breaks new grounds of knowledge; or there is no available source of advice or guidance.
Roles are required to consider multiple options to resolve complex problems and develop innovative and realistic solutions. Roles will efficiently and effectively assess environmental factors, identifying relationships between complex issues and developing contingency plans to mitigate risks to the achievement of government priorities.
Judgements and Independence
Roles work with a large degree of independence as to methods, procedures and processes within a framework of broadly established policies, priorities, and goals.
Roles are often responsible for significant change initiatives that will have agency and/or cross-agency impacts. Whilst operating within an existing policy and practice framework, roles have considerable freedom to determine how to achieve results.
Roles make statements of behalf of the agency in accordance with policy parameters. Roles are accountable for program development and planning, including resource negotiation, implementation, effectiveness review and professional and objective standards of assurance.
Roles directly influence the development of policies, and initiate new developments in either policy and program delivery, or professional practice, which establish precedent for the agency.
Delivery roles will either substantially influence the allocation of resources or allocate resources in the short term, and make medium to long-term commitments where there are defined precedents.
Delivery roles manage the capability and resources of a function at a whole-of-agency level, for example:
- General management and broad executive direction.
- Responsibility and accountability for a defined part of the agency’s outcomes.
- Financial, physical and human capital management.
- Major program management.
- Leadership in implementation and delivery of strategic and/or major agency initiatives.
Policy roles provide highly critical advice in the area of operation and represent the agency on those matters, for example:
- Establish policy development frameworks.
- Provide authoritative policy advice in one or more areas of government policy.
- Consult on policy options to achieve outcomes.
- May provide direct advice to the Minister on a specific program or policy issue.
Regulatory roles provide highly critical advice in compliance, risk management and intelligence gathering and assessment, for example:
- Lead evaluation of effectiveness of regulatory policies, operational frameworks and guidelines.
- Engage stakeholders during analytical stages of problem solving and risk assessment.
- Assess emerging issues and trends which may impact on regulation management.
- Establish and maintain standards of independence and professionalism.
Professional / Specialist
Specialist roles provide highly critical advice in the area of expertise, for example:
- Exercise influence cross-APS, or cross-jurisdictional.
- Ultimate escalation point for professional/technical matters related to the specific discipline.
- Drive strong external peer network within function/discipline.
- These roles usually require extensive professional/administrative management experience.
- Integration of diverse activities or multiple functions at agency level.
- Contributes to agency leadership and to overall governance processes.
- Compared to Band 1, the focus is more often across agency or on the external context.
- Contributes to shaping and implementing overall corporate strategy.
- Places divisional activities into broader whole-of-APS and environmental context.
- Primary planning focus assumes a 4 year horizon and beyond.
- Recommends decisions on significant strategic alternatives to Secretary/Deputy Secretary.
- Authority to plan and manage agency resources, linking capability to business planning.
- Typically represents the level accountable for aggregation of functions and activities to determine priorities, and argue the case.
- Impacts on whole-of-agency performance outcomes.
- Principal and authoritative source of advice related to a specific area of knowledge or practice upon which the agency and Ministers depend.
SES Band 3
Roles at SES Band 3 are characterised as requiring knowledge that is developed as a result of extensive and advanced professional or executive management experience. Workforce accountabilities would typically be extensive. Role occupants would be seen as policy/program innovators.
Roles require considerable proficiency in management in a multi-disciplinary and diverse context and provide strategic leadership in building agency capability. In some cases, roles may involve overall responsibility, under the agency head/Secretary, for most or all aspects of agency management.
Roles at this level would be accountable for a number of integrated functions or operations and the comprehensive integration and coordination of major line and/or staff functions in a large complex, agency-wide or APS-wide activity. Some roles will have a limited range of focus to deal with particular issues of very high complexity, innovation, political sensitivity or risk, often for a specified timeframe.
Roles manage a function or professional discipline with a whole-of-government focus with accountability for the integration of a number of functions where operations may be diverse in terms of geographic location, program/service and clients.
Some roles may have high level cross-agency, cross-sector, national or international coordination responsibilities.
The focus is largely on strategic longer term outcomes or particularly sensitive/contentious matters with whole-of-government impacts.
Roles are principal government representatives, with authority to negotiate and/or resolve conflict with stakeholder leadership. Negotiation often occurs in an environment of conflicting positions, technical, policy and legal complexity and divergent views amongst government’s most critical stakeholders. Roles require sensitivity and advanced skills to understand the positions of all parties, gain participation in resolving issues and effectively advocate a preferred course of action.
Direct liaison and advice to Ministers is expected, often spanning multiple agency outcomes.
Job Context and Environment
Roles at this level operate within an environment where there is a strong requirement to identify and define corporate issues or emerging issues of major community, professional or government concern. Roles at this level are highly adaptable in order to define core agency service delivery strategy or policy positioning, develop new programs or policy initiatives and to manage strategic change with government-wide, community-wide, whole-of-sector, national or international impact.
Roles are often required to develop strategies and policies to supplement and reinforce existing policy direction and frameworks and would regularly advise and brief at Ministerial level. Conceptual challenges arise from the need to provide clarity and direction, and identify critical long term risks and strategies for mitigation in the context of significant ambiguity.
Roles are subject to broad policy, operational and commercial constraints, budgets and practices. Roles have substantial freedom to draw upon resources to achieve planned results.
Judgements and Independence
The absence of precedent and clarity of direction within an ambiguous context are key features.
Role objectives are broadly established through agency or government policy, although guidelines or strategies may lack clarity, allowing for considerable flexibility in interpretation and adaptation. Existing guidelines or policies may be inadequate in dealing with complex or unusual problems and it is likely that the lack of precedent is a significant feature in the majority of activities pursued, thereby requiring the management of risk and innovation.
Roles assure the quality of advice provided to Ministers by establishing and articulating appropriate frameworks for others.
Roles may exercise substantial independence in the management of a significant professional office or division, which operates separate from other divisions in the agency and which accounts for a substantial proportion of agency operations.
Policy experts give guidance on, and make judgements about, proposed new standards and new areas of policy or expertise put forward by subject and technical experts. This includes making judgements about the value of alternative sources of advice.
Specialised professional roles may be required to challenge, establish or alter standard concepts, theories, objectives or previously formulated requirements, and may be responsible for the integrity of overall legislative and regulatory frameworks.
The major activity is forward planning or strategic decision-making. For example, evaluating the environment and identifying the fundamental issues to be resolved. Influencing factors are diverse. Problem resolution will focus on complex matters which have substantial, strategic impact for government. This requires a synthesis of facts, detailed analysis, interpretation, the conceptualisation and evaluation of alternative approaches to the problem. Projects require versatility and innovation to define/redefine strategy, develop standards, guidelines, methods, new techniques or criteria.
- These roles usually require highly advanced professional/executive management experience.
- Substantial contribution to agency governance and culture.
- Integration of diverse activities or multiple functions in largest agencies, with key impacts on whole of agency strategy and planning.
- Provides whole-of-agency leadership.
- Focus of role largely on broader and more complex issues of external context with national/international influence.
- Decide corporate strategies within policy parameters, with a long term focus.
- Strategic development and evaluation of long term alternatives and decision making.
- Authority to plan and manage whole-of-agency resources.
- Impacts on whole of agency or whole-of-government performance.
- Principal and authoritative source of advice upon which the organisation and Ministers depend, spanning multiple agency outcomes or on issues of very high risk and complexity.
- Effective management of parliamentary, political, and public service environment.