Talent management: six questions for building the best and brightest

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday February 2, 2016

The Australian Public Service Commission says agencies must keep “overhauling” the way they attract, recruit and manage the most talented personnel in 2016 — and it’s optimistic that enterprise bargaining won’t drag for another year.

The APSC is “positioning talent management as a fundamental part of business” this year and pushing for more reform of human resources systems and processes to give agencies “the authority and flexibility to act” on talent and performance, according to its first newsletter of the year. The APSJobs website will be revamped as part of a push to re-brand the federal government’s employment proposition.

The commission will be “collaborating and partnering more closely with agencies of all sizes and shapes” over the next year, aiming to make their HR teams “more mission-driven and people-focused” than they are now.

Talent — how to recognise it and put it to good use — is also the focus of the 2016 APSC human resources summit, to be held on February 26 with the theme “Growing Tall Poppies”.

The conference will explore ways public service managers can “differentiate and invest in” the most talented employees and get them “working on the most complex challenges and in the most critical roles”. There will also be a series of “short, targeted HR-focused events designed to build capability and expand the networks of APS HR staff” throughout the year called HR Snippets.

For those who aren’t considered the best and brightest, there’s always performance management. The commission advises a proactive approach on the basis that “good performance conversations” are the key to “unlocking” one’s latent potential as a public service high-flyer:

“For many of us, the new year brings with it mid-cycle performance discussions. But, even if it doesn’t, there’s never a bad time to have a discussion about your performance. This time, go in prepared.”

The APSC’s ideal — which public servants may or may not recognise — is regular on-the-job feedback from managers and conversations about performance every few months. It gives six guiding questions to make sure they’re good ones:

  1. What are my strengths? What areas do I need to develop? What do I need to do to develop in these areas?
  2. Am I performing at my best? What do I need in order to perform at my best?
  3. How have I contributed to my organisation’s success? How could I contribute more in the future?
  4. What motivates me? What de-motivates me? What makes me feel valued at work?
  5. Am I suited to the job I’m currently doing? In what ways am I suited/not suited?
  6. Where do I want to take my career in the next 12 months? Five years? 10 years?

Meanwhile, the federal government’s peak HR agency is hopeful that the long and acrimonious enterprise bargaining periods that have afflicted most of the APS will be mostly over soon, sensing “increasing momentum towards concluding bargaining” in 2016:

“As of 1 February 2016, 35 new agreements have been finalised. Employees in most of the remaining agencies will have an opportunity to vote in the coming months. Wrapping up negotiations as quickly as possible will enable employees to shift the focus back to their work and planning for the future.”

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