Our people

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Body text for: Our people

Our People Plan

During 2016–17, we reviewed our People Plan. Our plan sets out our people strategies to ensure we have the organisational culture, capability and capacity to deliver quality outcomes for the Government. The plan was developed with input from staff and leaders to respond to the practical issues and challenges presented by our environment. The plan is supported by a roadmap that outlines specific actions and timelines.

The key areas of focus in our People Plan include deepening our culture and engagement, a greater focus on strategic workforce planning, continuing to strengthen our capability and optimising our talent. We will create an environment that enables an agile and high-performing workforce and ensures equality, diversity and inclusion.

Staff engagement

We continue to be focused on 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) and key human resource 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.

Key areas of focus for the taskforce in 2016–17 included:

  • supporting the move of Canberra-based staff to the Nishi building, including engagement activities to personalise the new workspaces
  • development and implementation of the Culture Hub, which brings together material and insights on organisational culture on the intranet
  • facilitating a cultural ‘hypothetical’ event
  • providing #thankyou Keep Cups for staff who were nominated by their peers as part of our Reward and Recognition Program.

Secretary’s seminars on leadership in 2016–17 saw presentations from David Thodey (Chair of CSIRO and former Chief Executive Officer (CEODefinition:Chief Executive Officer) of Telstra and a member of Male Champions of Change) on innovative leadership, and Andrew Stevens (former Managing Director of IBM Australia and a member of Male Champions of Change) on adaptive leadership.

Staff engagement measures from the Australian Public Service Commission’s employee census show increased levels of engagement with job, supervisor, team and agency. The Department’s engagement levels in each of the four measures exceed the APSDefinition:Australian Public Service results.

Capability development and performance improvement

In 2016–17, our approach to developing capability focused on leadership and management, public policy and core workplace skills. Across several programs there was a strong focus on the integration of neuroscience theories and strategies to enhance understanding of, and improve approaches to, communication, addressing unconscious bias, motivation and performance, peer coaching and team leadership.

We continued to build capability in the area of performance conversations. The CONNECT: Continuing Performance Conversations Program helped managers to build the capability and confidence to drive improvement, lift engagement and increase staff performance. This year CONNECT was delivered to five cohorts of managers with a total of 53 participants. Ninety per cent of respondents to the program evaluation indicated they felt better equipped to have conversations that grow and develop their direct reports. The Effective Interactions Program helped staff to enhance their conversational intelligence and skills. This year, the Effective Interactions Program was delivered to three cohorts of staff with a total of 30 participants, who learnt strategies to apply to everyday interactions, managing upwards and enhancing trust and rapport. Program evaluation shows that 97 per cent of respondents said the program enhanced their knowledge and understanding, and that they were able to apply their learning at work.

The Leading Public Policy series provided experienced policy practitioners with opportunities to extend their expertise and consider policy-making in a broader national and international context. Delivered by leading Australian National University academics, five workshops were delivered to 63 staff and covered topics including stakeholder engagement, policy development and communication.

Our bespoke Leadership and Management Program (LAMP) continued with two cohorts of EL1 and EL2 managers participating this year. Pre-and post-program data show positive shifts in a range of measures, including collaboration, resilience and confidence, decision-making, understanding the strategic context of the Department and proactively engaging with teams. There are broader cultural and engagement benefits from this program, including increased manager confidence, greater awareness of work across the Department, and opportunities to collaborate and connect.

The highly interactive DECIDE Program provided staff with an opportunity to learn about unconscious bias. Participants learnt to use a three-step strategy—accept, label and mitigate—as well as several neuroscience models and tools. These strategies are helping staff identify ways to remove bias from organisational processes and build new habits. In addition to workshops and information sessions, staff are supported to continue learning throughout the year with a series of ‘deep dive’ intranet stories and links to external research, readings and tools.

Our secondment program continued to be a valuable mechanism for building our capability and enhancing organisational relationships and connections. Fifteen of our employees took secondments to external organisations in 2016–17 and 13 employees joined us from other agencies.

In addition to a broad range of events, programs and workshops, our Learnhub system continues to provide flexible access to online learning. This includes eLearning modules, Mind Tools resources and Lynda.com1 videos, which are well used by staff—6,500 Lynda.com videos were viewed this year by 402 staff.

We also provided assistance to 44 employees who were undertaking external study activities. For approved staff, assistance included study leave and financial support to undertake formal qualifications.

Our 2017 Graduate cohort participated in a range of development activities to support their internal work rotations, including effective conversations; project management and Information Management System (IMS) training; visits to Parliament House, including the Senate, the House of Representatives and Senator Nash’s Office; team communications workshops; GradHack; and the 21st Century Service Program, which is focused on responding to a new age of smart machines and disruptive technology.

In 2016–17, we continued our focus on embedding and maturing our Performance Conversations Framework (see ‘Focus on performance conversations’ in Section 2 of this report).

Workplace diversity

In 2016–17, we focused on implementing our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016–19.

Our aim is to improve access, diversity and inclusion within the Department to ensure that each employee can achieve their full potential, and that we have a rich workforce that reflects the community we live in and serve. Inclusive leadership, a respectful culture, and flexible work and digital technologies will help us to attract, recruit, develop and retain a diverse workforce.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee met for the first time in October 2016. The committee, made up of SESDefinition:Senior Executive Service-level diversity champions, staff representatives and staff network representatives (Gender Equality Network and the Indigenous Staff Network), is chaired by the First Assistant Secretary, Corporate. The committee is responsible for implementing our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. Since October 2016, the committee has met every six weeks to discuss themes including gender equality; disability; cultural and linguistic diversity; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and other (LGBTIQ+) matters; and Indigenous issues.

The SES-level diversity champions lead a subcommittee of staff who are passionate about promoting and supporting diversity in the Department.

The Department is a member of a range of working groups across the APS to ensure engagement with diversity at a whole-of-government level. This includes the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council, the APS Equality and Diversity Working Group and the APS Disability Champions Committee, which all aim for a unified approach to implementing whole-of-government strategies.

Our previous Secretary, Dr Heather Smith PSM, represented the Department on the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council, and as the Disability Champion on the APS Disability Champions Network, and was a member of the Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Implementation of each of the following action plans that underpin our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy was progressed through 2016–17:

  • Gender Equality
  • Disability Access and Inclusion
  • Indigenous Employment
  • Carers
  • Generational
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALDDefinition:culturally and linguistically diverse)
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and other (LGBTIQ+).

Implementation of our Gender Action Plan was a key focus in 2016–17. Overall progress and specific initiatives are presented in detail in this section.

In October 2016, we launched our Domestic Violence Policy at an event where staff heard from Rosie Batty, 2015 Australian of the Year; Libby Davies, CEO of White Ribbon Australia; and Robyn Martin, Manager of Beryl Women Inc., a Canberra-based women’s refuge. A range of domestic and family violence support resources were also provided through Health Hub on our intranet.

We continued our involvement with the Australian Network on Disability, again sponsoring their annual conference and continuing our participation in the Stepping Into Program. We celebrated International Day of People with Disability in December 2016 with Nas Campanella, newsreader on radio station Triple J, sharing her experiences with staff in an event streamed to all of our office locations.

Our 2018 Graduate Program recruitment campaign was advertised under the new affirmative measure for recruiting people with disability. We were the first APS Department to advertise a position under this new measure. The Graduate Program was also promoted to over 45 university-based disability and inclusion centres, with centres promoting the program to students.

We have continued to focus on Indigenous employment and implementing the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy. Our contribution to increasing the representation of Indigenous employees to meet our target of 4.5 per cent by 2018 is progressing. As at 30 June 2017, we have 19 employees who identify as Indigenous (3.6 per cent of our workforce). In 2016–17, we welcomed two new employees through the Indigenous Australian Government Development Program and the Indigenous APS Graduate Development program.

We also participated in the Work Experience Program Expo 2017, promoting the Department’s potential career pathways to 52 high-performing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from across Australia, currently completing their final years of high school. Students were captivated with stories of our Indigenous language, arts and repatriation programs. The Australian language and arts centre project map was also popular with students pointing out their local art centre and family connections.

The Department’s approach to addressing unconscious bias at work seeks to increase awareness of, identify and mitigate biases in decision-making and business processes. Our approach includes:

  • blended learning, featuring a range of online and face-to-face development, such as videos, articles, podcasts, research reports, eLearning modules and workshops
  • phased delivery over several months, which allows for optimal information retention, recall and accessibility
  • integration of information about unconscious bias into other initiatives, such as our LAMP, Induction and the recruitment online module.

We celebrated Harmony Day in March 2017 with a panel discussion, which included staff from CALD backgrounds. CALD staff also shared their stories—#everyonebelongs—through a series of intranet articles. Staff then hosted international food stalls.

Disability reporting

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 www.apsc.gov.au. From 2010–11, entities have no longer been required to report on any of these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy was superseded 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 www.dss.gov.au.

Reward and recognition

Our Reward and Recognition Program — #thankyou—supports and encourages us to recognise and reward each other when we demonstrate desired values, behaviours and performance levels, and contribute to an innovative, collaborative and high-performing culture.

The #thankyou initiative underpins a strong culture of informal recognition, where recognising and rewarding each other’s efforts and behaviours is regular, consistent and part of our day-to-day way of working.

More formally, #thankyou recognises the highest of achievements and most significant contributions to our culture. There are two formal components: the annual Australia Day Awards, held in January, and the Secretary’s Award, held in August. In 2018, these two awards will be merged and held in January.

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 26 nominations for 18 individuals. The 2017 Secretary’s Award went to Adrian Daley, an EL2 officer from the Human Resources Branch, for his commitment to enhancing our positive workplace culture.

There were 16 nominations received for the 2017 Australia Day Awards. Four individuals and five teams were formally recognised for their outstanding achievements in working collaboratively and innovatively, showing exemplary leadership and delivering publicly recognisable results.

Workforce planning

In 2016–17, work commenced on designing a skills database that will provide for the capture and assessment of employee capabilities. This will give the Department a detailed understanding of our current employee capabilities, and enable more evidence-based approaches to staff development, establishment of project and surge teams, and succession planning.

We continue to improve our employee value proposition so that we are well positioned in the labour market as an employer of choice in the APS. We offer staff the opportunity to contribute to public policy and programs in an ever-evolving sector with a wide range of engaging content—our work touches almost every individual, household and business in Australia.

Our entry-level programs, which contribute to our supply of innovative, collaborative and skilled employees who will develop into future leaders, continue to grow. In 2017, we welcomed 11 Graduate employees—an increase of three when compared to 2016. We are looking to further increase the number of Graduate employees in 2018.

Flexible work

In 2016–17, we reviewed our Flexible Work Policy and Guidelines. Workplace flexibility encompasses how we work, where we work and when we work.

The Department’s commitment to working flexibly is clearly articulated in our People Plan, and our 2016–17 Corporate Plan states that ‘Our workplaces are flexible by default’. In addition, as part of our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, we have agreed to adopt an ‘if not, why not’ approach to flexible work. Working flexibly is also a key component of our Gender Action Plan.

Workplace flexibility encompasses how we work in the office and allows staff to match their workspaces with their work type, through use of quiet spaces, collaboration places and technology. It also includes structures to manage surge capacity, and flexible job design and work practices.

Our leading-edge technology—which includes laptops for all employees, soft phones and Skype for Business—was rolled out in July 2017. This strongly underpins and enables flexible working arrangements in the Department.

Workplace health and safety

In 2016–17, the Department’s priority on prevention strategies, through its health, wellbeing and early-intervention programs, has resulted in a reduction in Comcare premiums and resolution of both compensation and non-compensation claims. Initiatives that have supported this include:

    • an early-intervention approach and associated fund
    • centralised management of reasonable workplace adjustment
    • Healthy Living Month
    • Health Hub
    • flexible working arrangements (enabled by our ICTDefinition:information and communications technology mobility)
    • the introduction of the online case management portal—Case Manager
    • active social and workplace networks such as the Health and Safety Committee.

A Comcare audit of the Department’s Rehabilitation Management System in 2016–17 demonstrated a significant improvement in compliance with the system.

We received no provisional improvement notices and had no notifiable incidents during 2016–17.

Terms and conditions of employment

Enterprise Agreement

Our Enterprise Agreement, which came into effect on 7 August 2015 and nominally expires on
7 August 2018, covers all non-SES staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999. In accordance with the Secretary’s determination of 1 April 2016, eligible staff received a 2 per cent pay increase with effect from 7 August 2016. As at 30 June 2017, the Agreement covered 553 staff.

Senior Executive Service (SES) remuneration

The terms and conditions of employment for SES staff are contained in individual determinations made under subsection 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 payment of an allowance in lieu of a motor vehicle.

To ensure a consistent level of transparency of senior executive remuneration the Department has published the salary ranges and number of employees within those ranges, on our website. This will continue to be updated each financial year. This information can be found at www.communications.gov.au/who-we-are/careers/enterprise-agreement.


1 Lynda.com is an online learning platform available to our staff.