Erma Ranieri on changing Sth Australia 90 days at a time

The new South Australian commissioner for public sector employment is bringing a new approach to the role, where a can-do attitude has delivered results.

Public service commissions are increasingly not just a steady hand to keep the sector’s workforce running smoothly and oversee enterprise bargaining, but also tasked with devising reforms and culture change. Nowhere has that dual-hat been made more explicit than South Australia, where Erma Ranieri had the enviable opportunity to propose a merger of the state’s existing reform and renewal body and the commissioner’s office, and then be appointed to head it.

Ranieri took over as South Australia’s commissioner for public sector employment in July this year, heading the newly created Office of the Public Sector. It brings together the previously separate bodies responsible for the many human resource areas, workforce analysis, performance management, leadership development, reform and renewal, in addition to the statutory responsibilities of the commissioner in areas such as enterprise bargaining.

Now several months into the role, Ranieri told The Mandarin she has had an opportunity to talk with the sector’s chief executives and already experienced both frustration and relief. “I’m taking the role in a different direction in South Australia,” she said of her change and people-focused leadership style:

“A commissioner’s office in the past has been very much about ‘the act’ and what it is. Most [public service commissioners] are now broadening out their role to include the reform agenda. Ours has been the other way around. I was busy doing that reform in a deputy chief role in an actual government agency. Certainly from experience over 30 years in this kind of change and the hard end of industrial relations, all I know is if you get the proactive stuff right, get the reform right, and you get the hearts and minds of people involved, often your other things start to fall into place.”

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  • Sue Averay

    seems to me that the 90 day approach also delivers on the individual’s need for achievement, and overcomes the frustration that many in the public sector experience when planning never eventuates in implementation and tangible results