Queensland public servants feeling more engaged and secure

By David Donaldson

August 14, 2017

Queensland public servants are feeling more engaged at work and much more secure in their jobs than during the Campbell Newman era, a survey has revealed.

While only 31% of government employees said they felt their job was secure in 2013, that number has jumped to 56%, according to the 2016 Working for Queensland survey recently released by the Queensland Public Service Commission.

Positive responses among public servants on questions related to engagement have increased since 2013. This includes things like whether you would recommend your agency as a good place to work (from 47% to 61%), whether you are proud to tell others you work there (58% to 68%), and if you feel a strong personal attachment to your workplace (54% to 61%).

Premier Campbell Newman was voted out in January 2015. While an upward trend across many indicators could be seen in the 2014 figures, positive responses increased further after the election across areas such as innovation, workload and health, organisational leadership and learning and development.

Overall the results support what others are saying about Queensland’s largest and most diverse employer, which recently ranked tenth in Randstad’s 2017 list of the 25 most attractive employers in Australia.

Fewer of the survey’s almost 90,000 respondents across 58 agencies report being burned out or overloaded by their work, and more say their workplace culture supports a good work-life balance.

The biggest rise for any single question since 2013 was the number of public servants agreeing that they would be taken seriously if they make a complaint, up from 43% to 60%. More people believe poor performance will be addressed in the workplace, increasing to 40%, through 34% of respondents still disagree that this is the case.

Public servants now have more faith in their managers and departmental leaders. Positive responses went up on questions about managers modelling the behaviour expected of other employees, leaders acting with integrity, and the organisation being well managed.

While only 31% agreed recruitment and promotion decisions were fair back in 2013, this had risen to 40% by 2016.

Around 44% of public servants said they have taken advantage of some kind of flexibility in their work, such as part time, flexible hours or job sharing.

Telecommuting and hot desking are only used by a small number, around 2% each.

Among those who did not request flexible arrangements but would like to, one-third said their workplace culture was not supportive.

The Queensland Public Service Commission told The Mandarin it puts the mostly positive results down to a range of initiatives:

  • Queensland public sector inclusion and diversity strategy 2015-2020
  • Queensland public sector gender equity strategy 2015-2020
  • comprehensive workplace package to address domestic and family violence
  • leadership capability development programs
  • conduct and performance management workshops.

More to be done

But it’s not all good news.

Although more are satisfied with the career development opportunities on offer than previously, at 44%, nearly one-third of respondents said they were not.

The proportion of people intending to leave their organisation in the next year has improved a bit — 62% said they had no intention to leave in 2013, which grew to 66% in 2016.

When asked, “if you could make one realistic, practical and implementable change in your organisation, what would it be?”, public servants gave a wide range of responses. The most common were:

  • A reduction in red tape and bureaucracy (13%)
  • Greater career development opportunities (9%)
  • Improved work/life balance/flexible work arrangements (8%)
  • Better management of workload/stress (7%)
  • Improved senior or middle management (7%)

On questions regarding barriers to success in the public sector, there were relatively few responses indicating government had a problem: 9% disagreed gender presented no barrier to success, 7% for disability, 5% for cultural background, and 3% for sexual orientation. It does not appear responses were restricted to those affected, however, so those figures may or may not give a misleadingly positive picture.

When it comes to sexual harassment, 27% said they had witnessed it in the workplace within the previous 12 months, while 1% said they had experienced it. Two-thirds said they had not reported being harassed, most commonly because they did not think any action would be taken, and not wanting to upset relationships in the workplace.

16% of respondents said they had been bullied at work. Colleagues are the most frequent culprits, followed by your immediate manager and then a senior manager. More than half said they had not reported it, with the most common reasons stated as not expecting it would be taken seriously, and worrying it would affect your career.

Public service commissioner finally confirmed

In other news from the Queensland PSC, Rob Setter was last month appointed as public service commissioner — after doing the job for nearly two and a half years.

He was named acting commissioner back in February 2015, taking over from Andrew Chesterman, who is now the CEO of Redland City Council.

The commission has a few things on its plate. In line with the QPS 10 year human capital outlook, the following are soon to be released:

  • Be healthy, be safe, be well framework — which actively plans and positions the sector to create healthy workplaces where people thrive and are at their best.
  • Flexible by design framework — to disrupt the status quo and traditional approaches to work.
  • Workload management guide for employees and managers — a tool to guide workload discussions, planning and issues resolution.

“The end game is to plan for our future and make the Queensland government the very best place to work, where employees are supported by healthy and positive cultures to collaborate, innovate and deliver the best results for the state,” Setter said in a statement.

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