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Annual Report 2015/16

03 Management and accountability

Our people

Staff engagement

We are continually building an organisational culture in which our values and behaviours make the Department a great place to work. Targeted activities aimed at building staff engagement and embedding culture are delivered through the Departmental Engagement Taskforce (the taskforce), the InFocus program and, more broadly, through key human resources initiatives and programs.

The taskforce provides a forum for groups to collaborate and drive initiatives, enhancing our culture in a coordinated way. The groups and networks represented on the taskforce include the:

  • Social Club
  • Social Media Network
  • Gender Equality Network
  • Innovation Network
  • Workplace Consultative Committee
  • Executive Leadership Team
  • Graduates.

The taskforce meets regularly to ensure individual network/group events are aligned with our broader cultural objectives.

The taskforce worked with the various networks across the Department on events throughout the year designed to support staff development and collaboration in a number of different areas.

This year, the taskforce hosted inspirational speaker, Jill Rigney, whose presentation 'Provoking your perspective—in work and life' challenged staff to look at the possibilities that open up when we look at different ways of doing things in all aspects of our lives.

The InFocus program is designed to encourage staff engagement and collaboration through events, workshops and masterclasses that contribute to culture and build capability and knowledge. This year’s themes included:

  • Innovation: Dream, Dare, Do—a celebration of innovation as part of an APSDefinition:Australian Public Service-wide initiative
  • Risky Business—exploring risk in the context of the work we do
  • Consumer InFocus—shining the light on the consumer as central to government policy and delivery
  • Building our future InFocus—looking at where we are heading as a department

BCRDefinition:Bureau of Communications Research InFocus—the ‘what, when, how and why’ of the Bureau of Communications Research.

Capability development and performance improvement

In 2015–16, we led the way in capability development with the depth and scope of opportunities for staff and managers. We offered a vast array of courses ranging from practical, core writing skills courses to high-level policy development seminars.

A unique flagship program is Policy Essentials—delivered in partnership with the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University to develop the next cohort of policy professionals in the Department. This tailored program covers many aspects of policy work, including economics, policy writing, stakeholder engagement, use of evidence, and data evaluation. Each workshop is delivered by a leading academic supported by our own internal experts. Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive.

Leadership development is a key element of our talent and succession planning. The Leadership and Management Program (LAMP) focuses on enabling managers to build relevant knowledge and skill to be more confident and effective in exercising leadership in different ways as well as performing the operational aspects of their roles efficiently. 

In addition to this internal program, several staff have participated in the APSC leadership programs: the APS EL2 Leadership in practice and EL2 Leadership expansion programs which aim to strengthen the leadership capability of mid-level managers across the APS.

We also supported effective leadership by placing a priority on meaningful, honest and ongoing conversations focused on developing, rewarding and supporting staff at all levels. The revamped Performance Conversations Framework encourages a high performance culture and aligns departmental and individual objectives. These resources will continue to strengthen the capability and confidence of our staff to have conversations that drive improvement, lift engagement and increase performance across the workforce. There was also a strong focus on priority core skills such as parliamentary processes and legislation.

Taking into account the changing nature of work and the skills we need, we provide a blended learning approach. We have continued to enhance Learnhub, our comprehensive learning management system, which has 20 self-paced online training courses. These include e-learning modules on APS foundation programs such as security, fraud, Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), communication and recruitment.

We encourage higher education, providing study assistance through financial reimbursement and leave to staff who are completing relevant formal studies. We supported 20 staff in 2015–16.

Workplace diversity                                                                       

In June 2016, we launched our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016–19. The strategy demonstrates our commitment to ensuring an inclusive and professional workplace that values and supports diversity and outlines our ambition to be an employer of choice. We are focused on attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce, through inclusive leadership, culture and flexible work, and use of digital technologies.

Our strategy is underpinned by action plans to support seven diversity areas:

  • Disability Access and Inclusion
  • Indigenous Employment
  • Carers
  • Generational
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
  • Gender Equality
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex.

The Secretary represents the Department as the Disability Champion on the APS Disability Champions Network and the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Committee. The Secretary is also on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Our Diversity and Inclusion Committee will have an initial focus on gender equality in line with the Balancing the Future: Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19 and disability access and inclusion outlined in As One: Making it Happen, the APS Disability Employment Strategy.

We are well equipped to deliver on our action plans with the support of our digital technologies. In September 2015, we presented to the ICT Accessibility Community of Practice on our workforce mobility project. The presentation outlined how we facilitated collaboration across our Department. It examined how we have created an environment in which staff have access to leading-edge technology and the flexibility and agility to seamlessly interact with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

We also participated in the Inter-Agency Accessibility Support Unit (IASU) pilot. The IASU provided practical support pathways for people with disability who require the use of assistive technology software in the workplace. It also provided advisory and support services for human resources personnel who are responsible for procuring and assigning assistive technology as reasonable adjustments.  

We participated in a range of APS networks such as the APS Disability Champions Network, the APS Disability Employment Working Group and the APS Indigenous Employment HR Forum. We also participated in the whole of government APS Indigenous Graduate Program, although were unsuccessful in engaging a Graduate in 2016.

As at 30 June 2016, we have 19 ongoing and two non-ongoing employees who identified as Indigenous (3.66 per cent of our employees). In 2014–15 we had only three ongoing employees who identified as Indigenous (0.7 per cent of employees).

We have continued to focus on Indigenous employment and implementing the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy with 2.5 per cent representation of Indigenous employees.

We will continue our focus on diversity in 2016–17 by adopting and promoting initiatives including the Panel Pledge and through our involvement in networks such as the Indigenous Employment HR Forum and the Disability Employment Working Group.

Reward and recognition

Our reward and recognition program #thankyou supports a strong culture of informal recognition, where exemplary values and behaviours are meaningfully acknowledged in real time. Our staff have indicated that they value recognition, often in the form of a simple ‘thank you’ for a job well done. Other forms of informal recognition include use of the ‘#thankyou’ for online acknowledgment through our social intranet, sharing stories through an internal newsletter, morning teas to celebrate significant outcomes, an internal video library where staff can upload a thank you to their colleagues and staff, and LinkedIn endorsements for relevant skills.

#thankyou approaches formal reward as a tool to recognise the highest of achievements and the most exemplary demonstrations of our departmental culture. There are two formal components: the annual Australia Day Achievement Awards, held in January, and the Secretary’s Award, held in July.

The inaugural Secretary’s Award was awarded in July 2015. The Secretary’s Award recognises exemplary behaviours and significant contributions that support the development of our desired departmental culture. Staff across all levels and divisions submitted a total of 30 nominations for individuals and teams. The Award went to Cyndee Davis, an Executive Level 1 officer from the Digital Productivity Division, for her significant and ongoing involvement with the Social Club, Workplace Consultative Committee and Innovation Month.

There were 20 nominations received for the 2016 Australia Day Awards, with two individuals and seven teams recognised for their outstanding achievements.

Workforce planning

Following the 2014 organisational restructure and the machinery-of-government changes in 2015, our workforce planning strategy has focused on engaging, sourcing and recruiting employees to ensure that we attract only the most talented candidates.

We have worked with our selection panels to broaden their approach to sourcing and securing talent and have also encouraged our staff to use their networks to reach candidates. By educating our managers on best practice we are ensuring that our recruitment practices are contemporary, efficient and effective and are conducted by skilled panels.

We continue to build and communicate our employee value proposition that will differentiate us in the labour market and position us as an employer of choice in the APS. We work in an exciting and fast-paced sector with engaging content, our work touches every household and business in Australia and we are supported by a leading edge IT Mobility solution and flexible work arrangements.

Another focus continues to be our entry-level programs, which are critical to maintaining an internal pipeline of innovative and skilled employees who can be developed to become future leaders.

Secondment Program

Our secondment program continued to be a valuable mechanism for building our capability and enhancing organisational relationships and connections. Secondments lasted from three weeks to one year: 12 of our employees took secondments to external organisations in 2015–16 and seven employees joined us from other agencies.

Flexible work

Our Flexible Work Arrangements Policy sets out the principles to increase workforce agility and flexibility. It provides employees with the opportunity to enhance work-life balance. Employees are also supported to work flexibly by leading edge information and communication technologies such as laptop computers and access to Skype for Business.

Work health and safety

Work health and safety of staff is always a priority for us. During April 2016, there was an extra focus on wellbeing through Healthy Living Month. This was aimed at encouraging staff to participate in activities that promote a healthy body and mind. During the month there was a range of workshops, seminars and online resources on offer.

During Healthy Living Month, the interactive Health Hub was also launched, providing an online platform for staff to share ideas on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Health Hub hosts a range of resources such as podcasts, case studies, phone apps and tips that can be integrated into everyday life around nutrition and fitness.

We received no Provisional Improvement Notices and had no notifiable incidents during 2015–16.

Disability reporting

We are a member of the Australian Network on Disability (AND). In 2015–16, we raised our membership level to gold. We participated in, and hosted, round-table discussions, we accessed support and advice for managing staff with disability, and we tapped into expertise to ensure our processes are inclusive. This year we sponsored the sell-out AND Annual National Conference, Enabling Change Creating Impact.

Several employees were engaged through the Stepping into program which provides experience for the employee in the workplace and builds disability confidence and skills managing people with disability in the workplace. We hosted two interns in the summer 2015–16 program, and another five positions have been offered for the winter 2016 program.

Since 1994, Australian Government departments and agencies have reported on their performance as policy advisor, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at From 2010–11, entities have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level, two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. The first of these progress reports was published in 2014, and can be found at 

Terms and conditions of employment

Enterprise Agreement

Our Enterprise Agreement came into effect on 7 August 2015 and nominally expires on 7 August 2018. The agreement covers all non-SESDefinition:Senior Executive Service staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999 and allows for an increase of 4.5 per cent over the three-year agreement.

On 1 April 2016, the Secretary exercised her powers under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999, raising the original pay increase to six per cent over three years.

As at 30 June 2016, the Agreement covered 592 staff.

Senior Executive Service (SES) remuneration

The terms and conditions of employment for SES staff are contained in individual determinations made under sub-section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. These instruments set the remuneration and employment conditions for SES staff and provide for non-salary inclusions relating to leave arrangements and entitlements, superannuation, salary sacrifice, travel and either a motor vehicle under the Executive Vehicle Scheme (or payment of an allowance in lieu of a motor vehicle).

See Appendix 4 for statistics on employment instrument coverage and SES remuneration.