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APS Human Resources Summit 2012

The full report of the HR Summit is also available on this website.

Held on 4th/5th September 2012

Achieving business goals – showcasing human capital strategies in the Australian Public Service

1. Executive summary

From the outset it seemed ambitious. One event that would offer all agencies – be they small, medium or large – the chance for their most senior HR practitioner to participate and contribute.

We envisioned an opportunity to showcase HR best practices and promote the sharing of ideas, expertise, tools and processes in an environment of increasing complexity, challenge and opportunity for all public servants.

In the words of the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Stephen Sedgwick AO:

“HR professionals have a vital role to play in supporting business managers to bring out the best in our people and build the capability of our organisations.”

This theme, and a spirit of collaboration and contribution, was evident throughout the summit. The relevance of HR to the ongoing success of the APS was confirmed by the participation and support of Secretaries and Agency Heads and experts from across the APS.

The summit covered many aspects of human resources utilising both presentations and panel discussions to stimulate discussion and understanding. Key themes included the need for HR to deliver exceptional operational services as well as contributing to business-wide strategy, the critical role of strategic workforce planning and, the importance of HR as an advisor to an agency’s executive team on succession planning and demographic change.

Over two days the summit covered much ground, from examining HR as a strategy enabler, how we can enhance our collective performance management capabilities, to the place of HR in APS reform.

The summit provided an opportunity for the most senior HR practitioners to learn and contribute to a discussion on some of the most critical issues facing HR professionals in the APS, namely:

  • Re-shaping workforces and strategies as budgets change,
  • Enhancing performance management capability,
  • Leadership strategies that work,
  • A contemporary approach to graduate recruitment,
  • APS bargaining,
  • The merits of a guaranteed interview scheme for people with a disability,
  • Bring the new APS Values to life,
  • Creating transformational change,
  • What does this all mean for the APS’ HR functions, and
  • The Commissioner’s perspective on what lies ahead for the APS.

This report of the summit contains material from the presentations and panel discussions and, as such, provides the reader with an insight into the thinking of senior public servants and HR practitioners.

Ian Fitzgerald
Chief Human Capital Officer

2. Table of contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Table of contents

3. Introduction

4. Main report

5. Summit Evaluation

6. What’s next? (including review PIR of this year’ event and planning for the next one)

Appendix A – Summit evaluation – Detailed results

3. Introduction

We already know that the capabilities of people within our organisations will determine whether, or not, the right strategies are pursued and how well they are executed. This is true for the Australian Public Service as it is for any other organisation.

And as much as we need to equip our HR functions to deal effectively with this challenge, the strategic foresight discussion at the summit identified five key exogenous challenges that will affect the APS:

  1. The pace of technological change will increase and will continue to transform the way people connect, where and how they work, whilst offering powerful and predictive analytics based on new ways of linking and modelling ‘big data’,
  2. Organisation and work structures, as well as systems, designed for last century are being, and will continue to be, transformed in this century as people seek new ways to access skills on a global platform,
  3. Privacy, identity and security will be some of the most critical issues for public sector (and other) managers to grapple with, within this social networking and media age,
  4. Ongoing demographic change, its effect on our economy, the effect of participation rates and an ageing population, and
  5. As well as labour market impacts of an ageing population, public sector budgets will require critical decisions around resource prioritisation as health care costs increase.

There are more of course, which makes being a human resources leader in the APS a very challenging and exciting proposition. In fact, the leadership behaviours for the APS that we so often talk about are the very behaviours that need to be embodied and exemplified by its senior HR professionals. Without them we can hardly be expected to lead change.

A small group of volunteers with these very qualities made this inaugural event such a success and, I am sure, they will have some part to play in future events. Taking this concept of a business orientated and strategy focussed summit that could be done ‘in-house’ and ‘at cost’ were a small but well supported team and it was a pleasure working with them. Thanks to:

  • Jacqui Curtis, Department of Human Services,
  • Carl Murphy, Department of Finance and Deregulation,
  • Ben Neal, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and
  • Jo Cantle, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

To paraphrase Steve Sedgwick AO, Public Service Commissioner, in his address:

“Our focus on leadership is important as we pursue APS reform and, a key role of human resource practitioners is to help the APS adapt to tighter budgets.”

In closing I would also like to publicly thank all of the presenters and panellists, without whose contributions the summit would have been little more than a great idea.

I look forward to the next APS HR Summit.

Ian Fitzgerald
Chief Human Capital Officer

4. Main report

4.1 Why?

Increasingly, human capital, or HR functions in the public service are being called upon to demonstrate the value of their contribution to the achievement of agency goals. Ongoing technological changes, including the widespread and increasing use of social media and networking are changing relationships and potential ways of working within and across agencies, and with stakeholders and citizens.

The global context, which is often described as complex, ambiguous and made up of multiple interlinked systems are also changing and as a result we need to anticipate and develop new options to respond well.

These issues have been extensively described in reports produced by The Treasury, the CSIRO, the World Bank, the Australian DAVOS Connection and many others.

One way that these trends are playing out is through economic changes. The most obvious manifestation of this for the APS is that, through efficiency dividends and financial challenges, we are being called upon to adapt constructively to an environment of reduced expenditure, as the new norm, not a temporary aberration. And we need to respond constructively, not defensively. This was a strong summit theme.

Given these and other drivers, there is an increasing important view that we need to review structures, systems, processes and cultures to ensure public sector agencies remain fit to serve citizens in the 21st century and keep their trust and confidence in successive governments and the public services that support them.

The Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration started a conversation and most of its key recommendations have either been implemented, will be implemented soon or have become “business as usual”. The question now is “what next?” as the Blueprint envisaged that the capability development we are now doing would lead to a better understanding of the important drivers of change and more individual and collective innovation in response.

For the APS HR profession we need to ask:

  • How do we maintain momentum?
  • What’s on the horizon, and how should we respond?
  • What’s our role in building high performing agencies?
  • As a profession, what capabilities do we need to strengthen?

4.2 What was the big idea?

Against this backdrop, the goal of the summit was to promote an exchange of ideas about the role of HR professionals in the APS role in:

  • building a highly capable HR profession: business-oriented, analytical, adaptable & evidence-driven
  • creating a future-oriented APS equipped with capable leaders and managers
  • identifying the challenges, revealing the opportunities, and aligning our human capital initiatives
  • working together to improve individual or collective outcomes and reduce agency costs
  • sharing expertise, tools and processes

4.3 Who came?

In the end around 60 agencies were represented and there were over 160 registered attendees. We were also pleased to have a representative from the ACT Public Service. Section 6 provides an analysis of participant feedback.

4.4 What we did

The following sections provide a summary of each of the summit sessions and outputs of working sessions when they were undertaken. The detailed information can be found via the hyperlink in each section.

4.4.1 Welcome to Country

Aunty Jeanette Phillips welcomed participants to the Ngunnawal Country.

4.4.2 Secretaries Panel – HR as a strategy enabler

  • Mr Blair Comley PSM
    Secretary, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
  • Mr Peter Baxter
    Director General, Australian Agency for International Aid Development
  • Ms Carol Mills
    Secretary, Department of Parliamentary Services

Panel members were asked to reflect on critical business trends and issues that will impact their agency, the related people and performance implications and, comment on the value of HR within their business.

Select key points

Blair Comley

  • HR must position itself as both a business partner and a strategy enabler

Peter Baxter

  • HR has been critical to achieving transformational change in AusAID over the last three years as the organisation expanded the programs it delivers including a 50% in budget and 30% increase in staff

Carol Mills

  • HR is viewed as a strategic enabler in the Department of Parliamentary Services with a particular focus on assisting the Executive manage change, specifically in relation to succession planning and managing demographic challenges as a result of the workforce profile

Read the full report on section 4.4.2

4.4.3 Strategic foresight session: what lies ahead? (Expert Panel and working session)

Expert Panel
  • Paul O’Connor
    CEO, Comcare
  • Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan
    High Tech Crime Operations, Australian Federal Police
  • Trevor Moore
    Head of Organisation and People Practice, Australia and New Zealand, IBM

Read the full report on section 4.4.3


This session was intended to start a strategic conversation, prompted by three stimulating speakers, and then to tap into the skills and experience of participants to think about the critical trends and issues and what they might mean for the public service and our role as senior HR managers.

Select key points

Trevor Moore

  • There are three key technological forces for change and five areas of Human Capital Management that are pertinent to this panel discussion

Neil Gaughan

  • The Internet is changing the way people identify themselves as individuals, and increasingly there is a need for APS managers to be aware of the many potential implications including those related to privacy

Paul O’Connor

  • Key issues for the future include higher participation rates are required as an economic imperative; increased diversity; an older workforce; true equality for women in practice at all levels

4.4.4 Reduce, redesign and redeploy: reshaping your workforce—case studies from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Health and Ageing

  • Mr Andrew Stuart
    Deputy Secretary, Department of Health and Ageing
  • Mr Craig Farrell
    Chief HR Officer, Department of Immigration and Citizenship

Read the full report on section 4.4.4


As departments deal with the impact of efficiency dividends and the need to reprioritise expenditure, it is critical to ensure the workforce is constantly aligned with current and emerging needs in terms of size, structure and capabilities.

Select key points

Andrew Stuart

  • The DHA National Alignment (DNA) reform program was implemented to streamline business activity, improve efficiencies and make savings.

Craig Farrell

  • Provided an overview of a recent DIAC change reform project – “Redesign, Stabilise and Redeploy”

4.4.5 Enhancing our collective performance management capabilities

  • Dr Damian West
    Group Manager, Client Engagement, Australian Public Service Commission

Read the full report on section 4.4.5


The purpose of this session was to update attendees on work currently being done with agencies and academic partners to lift our collective performance management capability.

Select key points
  • There are four phases to current performance management work program being undertaken in partnership with University of Canberra, the ANU and UNSW.

4.4.6 Leadership development strategies that work—APS agency case studies

  • Dr Jane Gunn
    Group Manager, Centre for Leadership and Learning , Australian Public Service Commission
  • Rosemary Holloway
    Regional Director, Australian Customs and Border Protection Services
  • Marissa Purvis-Smith
    General Manager, People and Organisational Strategy, The Treasury

Read the full report on section 4.4.6


The presentation outlined existing APS-wide leadership and talent development work being led by the Centre for Leadership and Learning.

Select key points

Jane Gunn

  • What are the business drivers of leadership development?
  • What this means for a contemporary view of leadership?
  • What are we doing to address these needs?

Rosemary Holloway

  • Introduced the leadership model build specifically for Customs – Listen, Respect and Lead, building a better workplace through better engagement

Marissa Purvis-Smith

  • Marissa provided the forum an overview of their Women in Treasury Review and the recommendations that they implemented, in particular un-bias training

4.4.7 Opportunity knocks—improve recruitment outcomes with good design and technology

  • Ms Jo Talbot
    National Manager, Workforce Planning and Diversity, Department of Human Services

Read the full report on section 4.4.7


A presentation that showed how social media has been used in a contemporary recruitment campaign and how much this was valued by graduates

Select key points
  • Social Media played a key part in the attraction and candidate management processes for the Graduate recruitment program for DHS

4.4.8 Indigenous Attraction and Recruitment in the APS

  • Mr Ross Dickson
    Branch Manager, Workforce Supply, Australian Taxation Office
  • Mr Jason Orchard
    Director, Ramp Up Project, Australian Taxation Office

Read the full report on section 4.4.8


Showcase work done in the ATO to successfully lift the intake of Indigenous staff.

Select key points
  • In the last financial year ATO hired 41 new indigenous staff, increasing numbers from 148 to 189, a 28% increase for the year

4.4.9 Power up your critical thinking and creative skills

  • Ms Jacqui Curtis
    General Manager, People Capability Division, Department of Human Services
  • Ms Jo Cantle
  • A/g Assistant Secretary, People, Capability and Performance, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Read the full report on section 4.4.9


To learn about and use a number of tools and frameworks to aid critical thinking.

4.4.10 APS bargaining—lessons learnt and future directions

  • Ms Helen Bull
    Group Manager, Workplace Relations, Australian Public Service Commission

Read the full report on section 4.4.10


An update was provided on the last bargaining round and participants were asked to answer several questions about the next round of bargaining.

Select key points
  • A number of improvements have been identified from the previous round of bargaining including identifying policy goals, the need for improved technical capacity, and clearer roles and responsibilities of the APSC

4.4.11 How a guaranteed interview scheme can change our employment thinking

  • Mr Graeme Innes AM
    Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Dr Rhonda Galbally AO
    Chair of the National People with Disability and Carers Advisory Council
  • Ms Carmel McGregor
    Deputy Secretary, Defence People, Department of Defence

Read the full report on section 4.4.11


The aim of the scheme is to increase capabilities of people with a disability by increasing experience and skills, and confidence. It will also increase awareness and educate HR by increased involvement with people living with a disability

Select key points
  • The aim of the scheme is to increase capabilities of people with a disability by increasing experience and skills, and confidence. It will also increase awareness and educate HR by increased involvement with people living with a disability

4.4.12 Leading from the front—values in action

  • Ms Karin Fisher
    Group Manager, Ethics, Australian Public Service Commission

Read the full report on section 4.4.12


To provide an outline of the importance of APS Values, the progress of legislative reform and steps that are being taken to prepare for the new Values when they are passed by the Senate.

Select key points

  • From inception the Australian Public Service has been required to work ethically, innovatively and efficiently
  • Values-based leadership and management makes good business sense

4.4.13 When incremental change is not enough—HR and transformational change

  • Mr Carl Murphy (Chair)
    First Assistant Secretary, Corporate Services Division, Department of Finance and Deregulation
  • Ms Kate McRae
    Assistant Secretary, People and Service Delivery, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
  • Mr Gerry Linehan
    Assistant Director General, National Library of Australia
  • Mr Neal Mason
    Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission

Read the full report on section 4.4.13


To provide a range of practical examples from a large, medium and small agency concerning business problems where incremental solutions would not work and transformational change was necessary. The focus was on the role of HR within the change processes.

Select key points

Chair: Carl Murphy (FAS, Corporate Services, Dept. of Finance and Deregulation)

Speaker: Kate McRae (Assistant Secretary, People & Service Delivery, DAFF)

  • Drivers for change – increasing volume of trade and passenger movement, resource pressure, outdated information technology, outdated and complex legislation, the need to do more preventative work offshore

Speaker: Neal Masson (Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission)

  • Drivers for change – decreasing levels of enrolment on the electoral role, increasing rates of informal votes, raised population and community expectations

Speaker: Gerry Lineham (Assistant Director General, National Library of Australia)

  • Drivers for change – increasing collection (information explosion), restricted resources (no government funding for growth in the collection), labour intensive industry, ageing assets and need to maintain relevance in an electronic world

4.4.14 Implications for the APS HR professional—strategic conversation

  • Mr Ian Fitzgerald
    Chief Human Capital Officer, Australian Public Service Commission

Read the full report on section 4.4.14


To identify, from participants’ perspectives what strengths and weaknesses they see in the APS HR’s community and some specific ideas about actions to increase our collective capability.

4.4.15 APS Reform—what’s critical for HR in the APS?

  • Mr Stephen Sedgwick AO
    Australian Public Service Commissioner

Read the full report on section 4.4.15

Select key points
  • Short history of the public service beginning with reference to the Public Service Board
  • Debate during the later part of the 20th century about the responsibility of the public service to the government of the day and whether the public service could be accountable for results in the absence of control over employment, pay etc. that culminated in the abolition of the public Service Board.

5. Summit evaluation

  • 160 attendees from 58 agencies (and one from the ACT Public Service) and a good mix of small, medium and large
  • Online evaluation survey completed by over 50% of attendees (85 responses) with the following results
    • 98% agreed the content was relevant to their day to day work
    • 87% said presentations were of a high quality
    • 81% said presentation were engaging
    • 89% said presentations were appropriate to the audience
    • 80% rated the summit as either very good or excellent
    • Over 95% would come to a similar event if it was put on
  • We have also had offers from other agencies to help put the next one on and spirit of collaboration we are keen to encourage.
  • It shows what can be achieved when people show initiative in terms of delivering a highly valued capability building event at a very low cost

6. What’s next

This year’s organising committee will meet in November to generate ideas for next year’s event based on participants’ feedback. At this meeting we will also generate some ideas for how to spend the money left over on professional development activities for agencies that attended the event, but one idea is to put on one or more master classes for practitioners covering some of the key themes: productivity & performance management; building the capability to re-prioritise resources; and/or restructuring organisations.

We will also consider some options for developing an APS-wide response to some of the critical issues summit participants have raised.

The APSC will then call for expressions of interest in helping to organise next year’s summit, starting in February.

Should you have any additional comments or thoughts to please email these to:

ian.fitzgerald [at] apsc.gov.au

Appendix A – Summit evaluation

Key statistics

Quality of presentations

Venue and location

Overall summit rating

Would you come again?

Last reviewed: 
29 May 2018