Tasmanian State Service review interim report calls for One APS-style concept to unite workforce

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday November 25, 2020

Tasmanian Parliament House, Hobart. Adobe.

The Tasmanian government must build a culture that allows it to move towards a single, united state service that has a strong capacity to better address whole-of-government priorities, according to the review of the Tasmanian State Service’s interim report.

Premier Peter Gutwein said the report, tabled on Monday, has highlighted the “many strengths” of the state service, including good people who are committed to delivering high quality services.

“It also provides some early insights into lessons learnt from the recent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, given the need for state service employees to be flexible and agile in their response during this challenging time. It also highlights the significant transformation that the state service will need to undergo to successfully respond to future demands in the coming years,” he said.

The interim report makes 13 recommendations to government, including for the development of “One State Service”, like that recommended for the Australian Public Service in the 2019 Thodey review of the APS.

“This review considers the concept of ‘One TSS’ to be a foundation stone for helping to create a more unified culture for the future success of the organisation and meeting the current and future needs of the Tasmanian community,” the report said.

“The overall significance of ‘One TSS’ is to promote a sense of purpose and build a culture where all employees work together. As the APS example shows, such a shift will not occur immediately and will most likely be achieved through a series of modest, yet meaningful changes over time.”

The report noted that other jurisdictions have undertaken reform to unify the workforce, including the Queensland government’s #BeHere4Qld and NSW’s ‘I work for NSW’ initiatives.

“Both initiatives outline overarching state service values with the aim of creating a sense of unity and attracting talent,” it said.

Establishing the concept should be a priority over the next 12 months, and should be led by the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

“It should recognise the importance of engaging and sharing ideas, communicating with all TSS staff, regardless of profession, sector or level about what the concept should mean to them and listening to their response. It should be facilitated in a way that gives employees a real and meaningful opportunity to contribute to the development of ‘One TSS’,” the report said.

The review has also encouraged decentralisation by calling for a business case for the development of regional office hubs, to be prepared by the Premier’s Department in consultation with the Department of Treasury and Finance.

According to the report, hubs are “flexible, readily available and technology-equipped office spaces for any TSS staff members who are outside city centres and need to come into an office, but don’t need to come into the CBD all the time”.

These hubs could “capture the benefits of working remotely”, and provide alternative gathering points for ‘virtual’ teams collaborating on projects.

“Physical co-location has traditionally been a good way to bring people together, to share expertise, build understanding of interrelated work and create a common culture,” the report said.

“This was done successfully as part of the government’s Safe Homes, Safe Families initiative, where officers from multiple agencies co-located for assessing and providing support to victims of domestic violence. Flexible accommodation arrangements that allow co-location, along with principles and technologies that can support ‘virtual’ teams, are potential enablers for sharing of expertise between staff from different agencies whose functions or objectives overlap. Decisions about flexibility and accommodation should ensure such options are open.”

Other recommendations include the establishment of a state service-wide talent development and management program, for the TSS leadership to collectively address a small number of ‘premier priorities’, an increase in the number of placements in graduate programs, and the creation of a review and evaluation function in the Premier’s Department to annually review programs that it considers high risk or critical.

Gutwein said the government will respond to all recommendations following the release of the final report. The interim report will form the basis of further consultation with stakeholders before a final report is handed to the government in March 2021.

Read more: Tasmanian State Service review not an opportunity to cut jobs, says Gutwein


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