Major APS workforce strategy goes live

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday March 18, 2021

The strategy is developed in line with the government’s APS workplace reform agenda.
The strategy is developed in line with the government’s APS workplace reform agenda. (Adobe/Image: Monkey Business)

The Australian Public Service Commission has launched its awaited whole-of-service APS workforce strategy, which aims to boost the capabilities of the workforce and improve service delivery over the next four years.

APS commissioner Peter Woolcott on Thursday said the APS workforce must be agile and collaborative in order to effectively respond to complex challenges in the future, and the strategy has aimed to promote that.

“The strategy outlines a one-APS approach to managing our workforce, with a focus on mobilising capability and developing the capabilities we need more of, for example data and digital skills,” he said in a statement.

“We must work as one enterprise, across traditional boundaries and jurisdictions — taking an outcomes-based approach to delivery.”

With a key focus on the concept of One APS and delivering for Australians, the strategy puts forward three areas of action:

  • Attract, build and retain skills, expertise and talent — recruit and develop the capabilities and skills needed to be a diverse, high-performing workforce that facilitates career pathways across an outcomes-focused enterprise.
  • Embrace data, technology and flexible and responsive workforce models — lead digital transformation and deploy skills, expertise and talent to where it is needed to deliver the outcomes that the government and public expect.
  • Strengthen integrity and purposeful leadership — ensure leadership continues to shape the APS’ behaviour, purpose and delivery of outcomes. Ensure the APS is highly regarded for its integrity and citizen-centric focus.

The plan identifies a number of short-term measures of success, ranging from a strong learning culture to capable leadership pipelines for APS leadership roles.

Long-term measures of success, on the other hand, range from a workforce that maximises data and technology for decision-making, to flexible and responsive workforce models that can be deployed quickly to adapt to changes in the operating environment.

READ MORE: Federal Budget 2019: incoming APS workforce strategy to ‘have regard’ to APS Review

The need for a whole-of-service workforce strategy to build and sustain the way the APS attracts, develops and utilises its people was identified in the 2019 Independent Review of the APS, led by David Thodey.

The strategy has been developed in line with the government’s APS reform agenda, and has been informed by extensive research and benchmarking, as well as consultation with agencies and hackathons.

Lessons from the APS’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic have also informed the strategy, with the document to continue to be updated and adapted into the future.

The document noted that the APS must understand its workforce — both at an agency and system level — in order to implement the strategy’s activities.

“Many APS agencies have, or are developing, their own workforce plans or strategies relevant to their specific operating context, business objectives and priorities,” the strategy said.

“Agency-level workforce planning is a key enabler of this strategy and a priority within a broader APS planning system.”

The APSC has established a Workforce Planning Centre for Excellence to strengthen APS workforce planning capability and to build the enterprise workforce planning ecosystem.

“Agencies will be supported to have modern, data-driven workforce management practices integrated as a key component of business planning and delivering workforce transformation aligned to business needs,” the commission said.

READ MORE: New APS professional stream to lift data capability across workforce

The strategy is a living document, with secretaries and other key governance bodies such as the Chief Operating Officers’ Committee to regularly assess outcomes through to 2025.

Implementation of the strategy will be led by the Secretaries Board, with progress to be publicly reported in the annual State of the Service Report .

A number of initiatives outlined in the strategy are already underway, including the establishment of Professional Streams, the APS Academy, the APS Mobility Framework, and several diversity and inclusion strategies.

Woolcott noted that a lot of effort has gone into creating the strategy.

“Bringing this strategy together has been a significant exercise,” he said.

“It reflects the valued contribution of many stakeholders both within and outside the APS. I thank all those that have shaped this thinking during the extensive consultation and engagement processes.”

READ MORE: Agencies to share their expertise through APS Academy


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