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APSC News August 2015: fostering a flexible, efficient, high performing APS

Welcome to the August edition of APSC News.

This month’s edition has items on better management of employee attendance and initiatives to reduce red tape. There’s an outline of our new approach to the 2015 State of the Service Report, and an update on enterprise bargaining. The APSC Centre for Leadership and Learning also announces new learning and development opportunities for employees at all levels, including leadership programs for EL2s outside Canberra.

Enterprise Bargaining

We have seen significant progress in enterprise bargaining over the past month. Five new agreements have been reached. Show more

These cover employees in The Treasury, Department of Communications, Australian Office of Financial Management, Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the Australian Public Service Commission. Nine enterprise agreements have now been made in this bargaining round.

This progress is encouraging. Employees win pay increases and agencies benefit from agreements better suited to achieve productivity improvements. It is also good to see employees and employers in a position to enjoy the benefits of more streamlined and flexible agreements.

A number of other agencies are close to finalising their new agreements and putting these to their staff for a vote. Employees are encouraged to consider carefully what is being offered, and to participate in the process.  Hide content

2014-15 State of the Service Report

The 2015 APS employee census attracted responses from over 91,000 (or 66 %) of APS employees. Show more

The agency survey once again drew a 100% response rate. This is a great outcome. The data and its analysis provide rich insights into workforce trends at the agency level and across the wider APS.

To date, the Commission has published this information annually with the tabling of the State of the Service Report. This year, we are taking a different approach. Firstly, we will publish key APS employee census results in advance of the tabling. We will then highlight specific areas of interest in a series of short papers to encourage discussion. Finally, we will table the 2014-15 State of the Service Report in Parliament in November 2015.

We are releasing this information in this way to provide agencies with material that may help timely decision-making on employment strategies.

Any questions or comments can be directed to angie.sturrock [at] apsc.gov.au (Angie Sturrock)  Hide content

A positive culture of attendance

The APS has devoted considerable attention over recent years to unscheduled absence. Show more

A positive culture of attendance is fundamental to any high-performing organisation and critical to productivity. Agencies have made significant efforts to reduce rates of preventable absence, with mixed success.

The Commission has worked with agencies to develop a series of practical tools to support organisations, their managers and their employers to reduce unscheduled absences. The impact of these tools is being measured as part of a managed trial. At the same time, we are analysing the results of the annual capability surveys completed by agencies, and the employee census data for 2015. Together, these will help us better understand what initiatives are being implemented, how effective they are, and how measures of organisational climate like leadership and engagement relate to attendance rates.

More regular collection of absence data commences this month. This will allow us to develop a regular APS-wide picture of what’s happening, and report comparative data back to agencies quickly. Strategies can then be evaluated and adapted progressively.

There is no silver bullet to “fix” this issue. Rather, we are developing a holistic approach that addresses all elements of the system, from organisational culture and manager capability through to internal agency processes and requirements.

For further information, please contact tony.cotton [at] apsc.gov.au (Tony Cotton) and lucy.poole [at] apsc.gov.au (Lucy Poole)  Hide content

Optimising our management structures

One of our priorities this year is to assist APS agencies to delayer their organisations and increase the spans of control of their managers. Show more

That may not sound very sexy, but it’s another key characteristic of high-performing organisations.

Management structures with fewer layers and broader responsibilities improve decision-making, accountability and communication. They ensure the best use of people and resources in the interests of efficiency and productivity.

To this end, the Commission has produced the APS Framework for Optimal Management Structures. It draws on the experience of individual agencies and sets benchmarks for optimal organisational structures. To support agencies to implement this framework, the Commission has also designed guidelines that are available on the Commission website.

Agencies will conduct a self-assessment of their existing management structures against the framework’s principles and benchmarks. Each will develop a plan to achieve improved management structures over the next three years.

If you would like to know more, please contact anne.baz [at] apsc.gov.au (Anne Baz).  Hide content

Website redesigned

The Commission’s website has a fresh new look. Show more

It has been designed so that you can view it on desktop, tablet and smartphone devices. The dynamic interface will keep you up to date with all the latest information, news and events. We have also upgraded the search function to ensure quicker and more targeted results. We will continue to find ways to improve the technology so that we can keep providing you with the best possible online experience. webmaster [at] apsc.gov.au (Please let us know what you think).  Hide content

Whistleblowing and leaking: there's a very big difference

Following misleading reporting in the Canberra Times on 30 July 2015, the Commissioner set the story straight in an article published the following day. Show more

The bottom line is simple and clear. Employees who report misconduct through proper means, including through whistleblowing processes, have been and will continue to be fully supported. Leaks will continue to be investigated with rigour, and those found responsible will be held to account. There is no reason and no excuse for anyone in the APS to leak information.  Hide content


  • Over forty per cent of EL2 employees are based outside Canberra. To bridge the distance, we are bringing two new EL2 Leadership Programs to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
    Leadership Practice has a focus on people and team leadership. Leadership Expansion explores strategic leadership and influencing skills. Both programs are practical in nature. A current leadership challenge that participants are grappling with is used to test new leadership approaches and enhance skills.
  • New performance cycles are starting in many agencies. It is an ideal time to consider opportunities for managers to upgrade their skills. Two learning programs are available to assist: Performance Management and Coaching and Developing Others.
    These programs are available on your agency’s online learning calendar or you can book a program with the Commission.
  • The Merit Protection Commissioner is joining the battle against red tape. A new fact sheet has recently been published on the Information for HR staff web page to help agencies identify the information they need to provide for review of performance management cases. There’s also streamlined information for applicants and agencies on the merit function on the Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner’s web page. Any questions or comments can be directed to barry.jenkins [at] apsc.gov.au (Barry Jenkins).

  • SES Band 2 Leadership Program: Nominations are now open. The program is designed to strengthen leadership practice in working across boundaries, driving change and leading others.
    It commences on 1 September 2015, runs over 6 months and includes a 4 day residential, two 2 day workshops and 5 learning group sessions. Nominations are sought by 21 August.
  • Empowering women to lead in the APS: Wednesday 2 September 2015. This event will provide a greater understanding about the leadership opportunities that exist for women. Registrations are now open and spots are filling fast.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018