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Your APS workforce reform questions answered

Last week the federal government released the final report from the Australian Public Service workforce management practices review conducted by private sector director Sandra McPhee.

That report, Unlocking Potential, represents a comprehensive set of principles and reforms for the APS to modernise and be responsive to government needs. It focused on three areas of the APS employment framework: recruitment and induction; employee mobility; and employee separations. The review also identified reforms to HR delivery models.

The Australian Public Service Commission explains how this will impact the APS workforce, and what still isn’t decided yet:

Will there be changes to performance management in the APS?

Yes. Consistent principles to support a positive, high performance culture will be centrally developed and used across the APS to:

  • assist agencies to refocus performance management to be a positive conversation that fits the rhythm of the business
  • support managers and employees to have honest and useful discussions
  • support managers to consider risk rather than avoid it.

This will help to streamline current processes, provide flexibility for agencies in their approach to performance, and encourage a strong performance and continuous improvement culture.

The Optimising Talent and Driving High Performance section of the review, from page 21, sets out the evidence for a high performing APS.

Will there be changes to APS recruitment practices?

Yes. We are committed to reducing unnecessary red tape in APS recruitment practices and addressing common myths that limit potential applicants and delay the recruitment process. This does not mean the APS will move away from the principle of merit.

The Attracting and Recruiting section of the review, from page 36, explains the reasons for changing recruitment practice, why it should occur and how, in more detail.

Will there be an increased use of non-ongoing (temporary) staff in the APS?

Perhaps. What we know is that how staff are employed — be it ongoing, non-ongoing or contract or labour hire — should be directly related to business requirements, and recruitment within the APS needs to be easier for all involved, including applicants.

The APSC will examine the rules around engaging individuals on a non-ongoing basis, where this matches business or project needs.

Will there be changes to how the APS advertises jobs?

Yes. The APSC has commenced a project to modernise the apsjobs.gov.au website to make it more attractive, accessible and user-friendly for all Australians. This will improve the APS brand positioning and provide a better, more engaging experience. This will give the APS better reach and greater access to talented applicants.

Does the APS have the right HR capabilities?

Yes and no. The Review found that, overall, the APS lacks capability in the more strategic HR functions such as business strategy, workforce planning and talent management. Moving to a more business-focused, strategic HR function will require a change to the mix of skills required.

The Re-Designing HR section of the review, from page 67, goes into more detail about necessary changes to the HR function.

Will the APS outsource HR services?

Low-value and high-volume, transactional HR activities could be outsourced or moved to a shared services arrangement. The APS has already started to consolidate some services in-house through the ongoing Shared and Common Services Programme. Shared service and outsourcing models free up HR functions to focus on strategic activities, and are commonly used in the private and other government sectors.

Will the APS liaise with the private sector in the reform process?

Yes. The APS will need to look outside to learn from the experience of others.

The APS will work with the private and non-government sectors, as well as other government jurisdictions, to share insights and experiences to assist with the change process.

The senior reviewer of Unlocking Potential consulted extensively throughout the Review with private sector organisations — such as ANZ, Australia Post, NAB, Telstra and Qantas — who excel at what the APS is aiming to achieve.

Will the release of the Review affect the current round of enterprise bargaining?

No. The Review focuses on a high performing APS that attracts and challenges with very best people through best practice in workforce management.

Most of the Review’s actions focus on cultural change within the APS. These actions will be embraced and implemented over the coming years.

There will be no impact on the terms and conditions employees currently enjoy.

What is the role of the APSC?

The APSC has been restructured and is changing the way it works with agencies. It is taking on a more consultative-based business model in some of its services, including co-designing and developing products and guidance with agencies, and partnering with agencies in implementation. This is consistent with the actions proposed in the Review.

Is the APS on board with the changes recommended in the Review?

Yes. The Review and its actions were endorsed by the Secretaries Board in March.

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