Video: how the Department of Comms is fixing performance management

By Stephen Easton

Thursday March 9, 2017

As part of last week’s celebration of the current Australian Public Service reform gospel, Sandra McPhee’s Unlocking Potential, the APS Commission asked agencies to demonstrate how they had put some of the report’s recommendations into action — in video form.

The APSC was overwhelmed by the number of agencies that enthusiastically agreed, according to deputy commissioner Stephanie Foster, who said all the entries would eventually go online. Three were shortlisted as finalists, showed and judged by a small audience shortly before the new APS “employment brand” slogan was unveiled at the event last week hosted by the ACT chapter of the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources won the audience vote for a vibrant and fast-paced collection of jump cuts, punchy audio and beautiful aerial footage from various natural environments around Australia. Beaming staff members describe the department’s mission in idealistic terms and their own role in it with the line, “That’s my story” — inspired by McPhee’s recommendation that the APS needs to refresh its employment proposition and attract a larger and more diverse field of candidates.

But it was an animation about performance management from the Department of Communications and the Arts that got The Mandarin’s vote out of the three finalists, because it got right into the nitty-gritty of public administration and fulfilled the APSC’s brief — to “showcase” how the report was already inspiring change inside the department — to a tee.

It’s also the only one that’s made it to the APSC YouTube channel thus far.

The March APSC newsletter reports IP Australia has also progressed a new approach to performance management, a process neither managers nor their staff enjoy enjoy when it’s not done well, but which is central to creating a more modern and attractive workplace:

“IP Australia has also implemented a performance management approach that removes tick-and-flick cyclical reviews and focuses instead on regular conversations. Called Achieve, it has proven to be a winner for both managers and employees at IP Australia.

What the staff at IP Australia like most about Achieve is how it moves away from the annual performance review approach towards regular ongoing conversations. They say it has turned performance discussions into positive exchanges that empower staff to be equal partners in how they reach their goals.”

A longer report from IP Australia explains how its staff designed the Achieve program using high performance management principles, communicated the changes to staff and implemented them using “a modified version of the ‘Agile’ methodology” and includes various anonymous perspectives, including from one member of the agency’s “people services” team:

“When talking about performance management, we kept coming back to the question, ‘Why are we doing this?’ and decided that if it was to provide a report to management, and not to encourage people to be more engaged and productive, why bother?”

The third finalist in the APSC’s miniature public service reform film festival was the Australian Taxation Office, which also focused on recruitment and showed off a virtual careers fair.

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