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Leading productive people: A manager's seven steps to success

Please note - this is an archived publication.


“Your success as a manager is directly related to how well you lead and connect with your people”

The reality of Australia’s changing demographics—an ageing population, critical skill shortages and a shrinking proportion of younger people entering the labour market—presents ever increasing and acute capability issues for organisations.

The Australian Public Service (APS) workforce itself is also changing. APS employees today are now more likely to pursue higher educational levels. Many expect greater diversity within their careers and more flexible working arrangements. They are keen to pursue jobs that are interesting and to maintain a good balance between work and other aspects of their lives. As a result, agencies are experiencing an increased readiness and capacity of people to ‘move on’ if their work experience does not measure up to their expectations.

The impact of these factors is felt most acutely by line managers, who must balance day-to-day management with ensuring they have an ongoing capability to deliver business results. They face increasing challenges in their ability to attract, develop and retain the people they need to produce those results.

The significance of the line manager's role

Public sector organisations are increasingly focused on addressing employee attraction, performance and retention issues.

The success of these efforts is significantly reliant on the capability of line managers to manage people. Line managers are primarily responsible for delivering results through their employees, consequently they also have a direct impact on the engagement, performance and retention of their employees.

The importance of relationships

There is one pervasive lever to success in people management—the line manager's ability to develop effective interpersonal relationships with people throughout the organisation.

  • Open and effective working relationships with individual staff and the wider team are essential. It is important for you to know what makes your staff tick, and to be aware of factors that could potentially impact on their attendance and/or performance.
  • Effective relationships with human resources professionals, including HR advisors, and recruitment, workforce planning, and learning and development specialists, are also critical. They facilitate you gaining quality and timely advice, and support and coaching in sensitive situations.
  • Your own manager and other senior managers are key influencers—again, developing good relationships here is a good investment of your time.
  • Internal networks support you and your team members in gaining needed assistance and information.
  • In addition, external networks are great for keeping a finger on the pulse, and provide an excellent source of advice, contacts and access to service providers.


Engagement = productivity

Leading productive people has been developed to help new APS managers build their people management skills. It identifies the essential steps and best approaches that managers can take to build the productivity and effectiveness of their people.

This guide serves as a concise and easily accessible gateway or portal for new APS 5/6 and executive level managers. It also highlights the need for new managers to think strategically about, and provide input to, work design and workforce issues.

In some contexts managers may need to seek guidance from, or escalate decisions to, a higher level, depending on the agency’s governance framework. In others, they will be authorised to take the lead and resolve the particular management issues. In any case, the manager should be developing their awareness of and skills in handling people management issues.

Leading productive people provides a self-development tool for managers, with general suggestions for managing and resolving common workplace issues. The tips provided can be interpreted for application within the manager’s specific operating context.

The guide also provides links to further information and people management resources available within the APS.

The employee life cycle

Leading productive people provides concise advice across the ‘employee life cycle’, which consists of three key elements and seven fundamental steps a manager invariably takes with each of their staff.

As a manager, you do not need to follow the cycle in a smooth, sequential manner with each member of your staff. Each employee’s circumstances and career journey are unique, so you may move fluidly between and across the steps depending on the nature of each situation.

The employee life cycle diagram provides a useful tool for cross-checking that you have covered all the necessary actions.

In addition, you should not feel compelled to address every element of the cycle within a short period of time. Specific elements of the cycle will not necessarily occur throughout your duration as manager.

The three elements The seven steps
Find people
  1. Identify and define the need
  2. Select and engage
Get productive
  1. Establish expectations
  2. Understand and develop skills and knowledge
Keep productive
  1. Provide and receive feedback
  2. Manage the work environment
  3. Grow and extend careers

Using this guide

Each step in the cycle contains the following sections:

Did you know?
—interesting facts that challenge assumptions and address misconceptions about managing people in the APS.

Tips and tactics
that can make a big difference in managing your people.

Keep an eye out for
common traps.

Each element ends with a Find out more section that provides more detailed reference to relevant Australian Public Service Commission publications and resources with online links.

More information….

  • Ask HR points you towards agency specific information, approaches or expert advice that will assist you in your planning and decision-making.
  • Find out even more provides links to the Commission’s employment policy advices, circulars and frequently asked questions.
  • To further develop your people management skills provides a list of relevant Commission and Comcare training programmes.

Find people

1. Identify and define the need

2. Select and engage

These steps highlight the importance of:

  • Thinking ahead about workforce needs and gathering good ‘intelligence’ about what’s going on and what’s coming up
  • Thinking creatively about how the required work can be done
  • If recruitment is the appropriate action, clarifying what capabilities and personal characteristics you need and how best to attract the right candidate
  • Determining the best selection process and assessment method
  • Prioritising and planning your work to ensure a timely selection decision

Find People Step 1 : Identify and define the need

“Unless you understand what and where your gaps are, there’s no point recruiting someone to fill them”

Did you know?

  • It is estimated that only 125,000 people will enter the workforce in the 2020s decade, compared to 170,000 a year currently.1
  • Over 80% of agencies reported challenges in 05–06 in recruiting people with the required skills, compounded by higher levels of employee turnover and loss of mature aged employees2 in some agencies.
  • Agencies are noticing skill shortages in the areas of information technology, accounting and financial management, which are having a moderate to severe impact on the ability of a substantial minority of agencies to deliver.

Tips and tactics

  • Think about how your team’s work has changed over recent times, or how it might change in the future. Look out for external issues and challenges that will impact on your recruitment and skill development needs.
  • Regularly consider and explore alternative ways of getting the work done, rather than filling each role as it has been done historically:
    • does the work still need to be done? At the same level?
    • could some tasks be redistributed or technology better utilised?
    • could work be done part-time or as a job share, via a traineeship or graduate opportunity, or by another area in the agency?
    • think about the nature of the work and whether it is ongoing or non-ongoing
    • do you need a particular capability or perspective that is not available within the team now?
    • try to clearly identify the exact skills and capabilities that are needed—use an agency/APS capability framework and the Get it Right capability card set to assist your thinking
    • consider whether you could develop the skills of your current team rather than undertaking recruitment action.
  • If you identify a recruitment need, specify clearly the capabilities you are seeking. This will make it easier to set up a well-designed and targeted process.
  • Improve the quality of your prospective field of candidates: use your networks to get in touch with talented people who are not actively seeking alternate employment. Encourage them to apply for current or future opportunities.

Keep an eye out ...

  • Putting bums on seats. Think carefully about the capabilities and specific skills you need to get the work done now and in future. Avoid recruiting for a role that is no longer needed, or which is based on outdated requirements.

  1. Access Economics 2001, Population Ageing and the Tax Base, found at www.accesseconomics.com.au
  2. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p.172.

Find People Step 2 : Select and engage

“Don’t lose people by delaying your process and decision”

Did you know?

  • Many APS employees believe that selection processes are not completed in a timely manner and that they are difficult for external candidates to understand.3
  • Merit as set out in the Public Service Act 1999, underpins open and transparent selections, and allows the use of innovative and streamlined selection methods consistent with the Public Service Act s10(2).
  • APS vacancies must be advertised in APSjobs4: for non-SES vacancies there is no legislative requirement to advertise elsewhere. However, there is no limitation on the type or number of additional channels you can use to advertise a role.
  • You can target and encourage individuals to apply for a position, without contravening ‘merit’ short-listing and selection decisions. You can also encourage suitable people to transfer ‘at level’ from another area/agency, which does not require a competitive process.
  • Interviews are not the only selection method. You can choose a range of other methods, including work sample tests and verbal referee checks, to test each person’s capability in a thorough way.
  • Selection panels can consist of a single person: there are no gender or classification requirements, and the delegate can also be on the selection panel5. Check your own agency’s requirements when establishing the selection panel.
  • While commonly used, interviews are not mandatory.

Tips and tactics

  • Approach recruitment exercises like any major project. Develop an action plan, identify discrete tasks and stick to identified milestones for advertising, short-listing, assessment and decision making. Keep all relevant parties informed.
  • Carefully target your advertising in order to attract the very best applicant.
  • Recruitment, in part, is a marketing exercise. Try to create a positive first impression of your agency (as ‘a good place to work’) and yourself as a manager (as ‘good to work for’) through your advertising, approach and communication style.
  • ‘Road test’ behaviourally-based interview questions and work sample tests before the actual interview, to ensure they are readily understood by applicants and will accurately assess the capabilities you are seeking. Provide a copy of the interview questions 30 minutes or so prior to meeting with the candidate to enable them to provide thoughtful and quality responses.
  • Minimise applicants’ waiting time. Any process which takes longer than two weeks between applications closing and the actual decision risks losing the best candidate/s, and is probably due to poor planning and/or unnecessary internal processes.
  • For strong candidates, seek referee feedback from a range of people, including the current manager. Ask a range of questions and for examples, to be sure you are getting realistic feedback. Give the candidate an opportunity to respond to adverse feedback, in order to ensure procedural fairness and natural justice.
  • Provide constructive feedback to unsuccessful short-listed applicants, rather than letting them ‘slip away’. This is an investment for filling future vacancies—many applicants have the potential to be ideal for a future role.

Keep an eye out ...

  • Poor planning. If you don’t plan a recruitment exercise well from the start, it could take ‘forever’ to complete. Chances are that the best people will have taken up other opportunities long before you get around to offering them a job. Do not let slippages occur.
  • Selecting the ‘best of a bad bunch’ just to get a body. If no-one meets your criteria it’s better to start again than hire someone who is unlikely to fit the role requirements or your performance expectations. It might be better to use word of mouth or other advertising channels next time around, or revisit alternative ways of getting the work done.

  1. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p.72.
  2. APSjobs incorporating the APS Employment Gazette: see www.apsjobs.gov.au
  3. Management Advisory Committee, 2007, Reducing Red Tape in the APS, Commonwealth of Australia, p.47.

Find out more about Find people

  • Get It Right— A recruitment kit for managers
    A guide, project planner and capability card set which has been designed specifically to assist APS line managers achieve quality recruitment and selection decisions.
  • Ability at Work: Tapping the talent of people with disability
    A good practice guide to assist agencies and managers attract and retain people with disability.
  • Building business capability through workforce planning
    A summary guide and practical approaches to workforce planning.
    See also the Thinking about planning checklist and Consultation questions for Business Unit Managers.
  • ANAO—Planning for the Workforce of the Future
    An overview and better practice guide to workforce planning in the APS.
  • Getting a Job in the APS
    A booklet aimed at Indigenous Australians that helps to de-mystify the APS recruitment process and provides ‘how to’ advice on addressing selection criteria and approaching interviews.
  • Cracking the Code: How to apply for jobs in the Australian Public Service
    A series of fact sheets containing information and tips for external applicants for APS roles, including understanding APS recruitment processes and how to apply.
  • Reducing Red Tape in the Australian Public Service
    A 2007 MAC6 report which presents a framework for ensuring that processes do not become redundant, ineffective or inappropriate over time. In particular, the report presents a sample streamlined recruitment case study and provides answers to common APS recruitment myths.
  • Managing and sustaining the APS workforce
    A 2005 MAC report which identifies the workforce issues caused by an ageing population, skills shortages and tighter labour markets and suggests a range of actions to assist agencies respond.
  • Better, Faster: Streamlining recruitment in the Australian Public Service
    A tool for focused evaluation and streamlining of agency recruitment processes: an approach which can be used for individual or bulk recruitment processes within any agency.
  • Ongoing Employment—Recruitment and Related Issues
    General advice on non-SES, ongoing recruitment and selection issues.
  • Conditions of Engagement
    General advice on the conditions of engagement that may be imposed, excluding probation, when engaging APS employees.

Get productive

3. Establish expectations

4. Understand and develop skills and knowledge

These steps highlight the importance of:

  • Providing a welcoming environment and introduction to the organisation
  • Establishing clear expectations—individually, with the team and across the organisation
  • Focusing on identifying and developing the required capabilities of staff
  • Using a range of methods to develop and build capability
  • Resourcing and following through on individual development plans

Get Productive Step 3 : Establish expectations

“People can’t deliver results if expectations aren’t clear and aligned—yours and theirs”

Did you know?

  • APS employees rate highly, ‘working to realistic performance expectations’ and ‘clear work plans and timetables’ as helping to increase their productivity.1
  • Communication influences employee engagement. Your team needs to understand the connection between their own work and the organisation’s strategy and goals.2 You must explain this connection clearly and involve staff in relevant discussions.
  • New recruits sometimes leave their employers within the first three to six months if the organisation does not deliver on promises made or implied during recruitment, or provides poor induction processes.3
  • Promotions and movements at level for existing APS employees are not subject to probation—if expectations are clear and stated upfront you and the employee are more likely to set off and stay on the right foot.

Tips and tactics

  • Day 1 is important and first impressions do count. But an effective transition to the new role takes place over time. To enable the new person to become productive as soon as possible in an unfamiliar situation, make sure he or she feels welcome and supported in the new environment. The transition is more than the formal induction or welcome morning tea—what happens in the first few months is critical, and demonstrates the value you are placing on your decision to recruit them.
  • If your employee is new to the APS, remember that you will be like an interpreter for them. Do not underestimate how important it is to understand the background and framework to the way you operate (e.g. the importance of the APS Values and Code of Conduct, procurement and financial management guidelines etc). Help to de-code ‘APS-speak’— it may sound like a foreign language.
  • Be clear about your expectations concerning performance/behaviour. Run through the relevant ‘must know’ policies and guidelines, business plans and work plans.
  • Model the behaviour that you expect them to demonstrate: the APS Values guide behaviour and decision making and it is up to you to set the tone for how things should be done.
  • Manage the probation period closely, through weekly discussions with your new staff member. Make a diary note of discussions. Above all, do not cancel these meetings— provide time, advice, coaching and feedback to make sure the new person is on track. You both want to be sure you have made the right decision. You might choose a ‘buddy’ (preferably a high performer with useful organisational relationships and networks) to assist the new person, but you cannot delegate your role in ensuring a smooth transition.
  • The performance agreement can be set up after the first week, and used initially to check how things are going during the probation or settling-in period. Revisit your stated expectations during this time rather than assuming that everything said has been understood and/or retained.
  • Expectations change over time so it’s important to have regular discussions to check where your employees are at and what they may need to keep performing.

Keep an eye out ...

  • Information overload. Don’t expect a new employee to read a manual in the first week and understand the way the organisation works. Develop an induction plan that covers the first six months, introducing the agency systems and policies, outlining the ‘big picture’, their role and where their work fits in, the accepted work practices, and broader APS frameworks and guidelines.
  • Sweeping issues under the carpet. Give feedback in a timely, focused and specific way to reinforce expectations: the time to address inappropriate behaviour or marginal/ unsatisfactory performance is at the time you first become aware of it. Do not be afraid to ask or broach sensitive topics if you anticipate potential issues.

  1. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p.51.
  2. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p.47.
  3. Chaminade B, Staying Power, Australian Human Resources Institute, HR Monthly, March 2006

Get Productive Step 4 : Understand and develop skills and knowledge

“Everyone needs to develop to stay on the ball and keep up with new demands”

Did you know?

  • Most APS employees report that they have an agreed learning and development plan in place but less than half of these employees say that these needs are fully met.4
  • The main barrier to learning is the difficulty people have in balancing work demands and development needs. The two main reasons given by APS employees as to why their agreed learning and development did not take place were appropriate opportunities not occurring and other things taking priority5.
  • The most effective learning takes place ‘on-the- job’ and is functionally relevant and job specific. This doesn’t always equate with what people would ‘like’ to do.
  • Employees often leave jobs that do not evolve or present new challenges or opportunities to use the knowledge and skills they have developed.6
  • Managers have a critical role in developing their staff, given the direct link between increasing job knowledge and productivity.7

Tips and tactics

  • Make time available in your work programme for staff development, and look for ways to reorganise or reschedule the work to enable development activities to occur. Use planning processes to identify where skill needs might be changing.
  • Budget for learning and development activity within the team. Work with the Learning and Development area to ascertain funding availability for development purposes, to access corporately funded opportunities which meet identified needs, and to identify the most appropriate programmes, learning methods or providers.
  • Identify the knowledge and skills your team requires for their current roles, for emerging needs and to develop their careers. Encourage staff also to take responsibility for recognising their own development needs. Identify and discuss any gaps, and specify appropriate development opportunities to address these. Match development activities with preferred learning styles as much as possible.
  • Capture and share expert knowledge across the team, maybe through presentations at staff meetings, feedback from external meetings, debriefing project status (etc).
  • Be an ‘on-the-job’ coach by offering and providing support, advice and opportunities for learning. Also check to make sure new skills and knowledge are being applied on the job.
  • Lead by example and identify and commit to your own ongoing learning and development.

Keep an eye out ...

  • Following through on commitments—there is nothing more frustrating when people’s expectations are raised and they are not given time to attend development programmes or apply new skills in the workplace.
  • Using your resources wisely—avoid training programmes which don’t line up with your business requirements, provide value for money or meet development objectives.

  1. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p. 137.
  2. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p. 138.
  3. Chaminade B, Staying Power, Australian Human Resources Institute, HR Monthly, March 2006
  4. Australian Public Service Commission 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p. 51.

Find out more about Get productive

  • Building Capability: A Framework for Managing Learning and Development in the APS
    A guide which provides agencies with a useful learning and development framework and checklist for building capability.
  • The Integrated Leadership System
    A framework outlining leadership capability requirements for all APS classification levels. Identifies career pathways and support tools to assist professional development, capability planning and succession management.
  • Evaluating learning and development—A framework for judging success
    A guide providing an evaluation framework for agencies to make key decisions on how to evaluate and assess the level of success of learning and development activities.
  • APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice: A Guide to official conduct for APS employees and agency heads
    Advice to assist APS employees to understand the practical application of the APS Values and Code of Conduct.
  • Probation
    General advice and guidance on matters that need to be considered in relation to engaging an employee on probation.

Keep productive

Step 5. Provide and receive feedback

Step 6. Manage the work environment

Step 7. Grow and extend careers

These steps highlight the importance of:

  • Engaging regularly in conversations about performance
  • Developing and maintaining sustainable work practices and work places
  • Building capability for the future through extending employees
  • Actively managing the movement of staff

Keep productive Step 5. Provide and receive feedback

“You can’t expect people to know how they’re going if you don’t tell them”

Did you know?

  • When managers focus their attention on processes and systems, (‘ticking and flicking’ the forms) they miss the key to what really drives employee productivity—the quality of the ongoing discussions they have with each employee.1
  • Common triggers for employees leaving jobs between six and twelve months after commencement include poor relationships with managers and insufficient quality of coaching, feedback and recognition.2
  • Some of the key factors shown to drive employee performance are: the fairness and accuracy of informal feedback the employee receives, and their manager’s emphasis on the employee’s performance strengths.3 In addition, managers can positively influence staff attitudes and morale by the way they talk about the organisation and the team’s part within it—to the team and more widely.
  • Some of the key factors shown to decrease employee performance are: managers making frequent changes to employees’ projects and emphasising an employee’s performance weaknesses at formal reviews.4
  • Managers undermine their own credibility when they do not address marginal or poor performance in their team in a timely way.

Tips and tactics

  • Create an environment where feedback is given regularly and informally. Try to nip any issues ‘in the bud’, by being specific and upfront about any concerns. Keep feedback simple, timely and relevant.
  • Link individual to team performance. Provide a clear ‘line of sight’ by discussing the team contribution to agency objectives. Focus discussions on clarifying what is expected, how they are going in meeting those expectations, and what additional skills and knowledge would help to enhance their performance.
  • Aim to provide each staff member with one piece of positive and one piece of constructive feedback (aimed at improvement) informally every week.
  • Give constructive feedback privately, as close as possible to the time of an error/omission. Agree on what needs to change/be done differently and any development/coaching that may be needed. Keep a record of these discussions, particularly where commitments and agreements have been made.
  • Do not have the ‘difficult conversation’ as a knee jerk reaction—plan ahead and structure your discussion rationally.
  • Deliver positive feedback or praise in person, and also recognise key achievements publicly, e.g. via a group meeting or a congratulatory email.
  • Genuinely encourage and seek feedback about your performance and management style from your staff and your manager. What does your team need from you in order to perform better? Don’t forget to listen!

Keep an eye out ...

  • Leaving bad news for appraisals or referee reports—these are some of the worst things you can do. Formal discussions should have a ‘no surprises’ philosophy, and focus on performance strengths, achievements, future challenges and development needs. Always talk to a staff member if and when you feel their work is moving off track, not later.
  • Giving constructive feedback on things unrelated to work performance or behaviour—always ensure the feedback is directly relevant to work performance or behaviour and not simply something that annoys you.

  1. Corporate Leadership Council research, cited in Australian Public Service Commission 2006, Sharpening the Focus: Managing Performance in the APS, p.26.
  2. Chaminade B, Staying Power, Australian Human Resources Institute, HR Monthly, March 2006.
  3. CLC research, cited in Sharpening the Focus: Managing Performance in the APS, p.16.
  4. CLC research, cited in Sharpening the Focus: Managing Performance in the APS, p.17.

Keep productive Step 6. Manage the work environment

“Making work a constructive place to be will contribute to productivity and flexibility”

Did you know?

  • Job satisfaction factors consistently rated highly by APS employees are: good working relationships, flexible working arrangements, good manager, interesting work provided.5
  • Poor workplaces (indicated by low supervisor and OH&S support, job insecurity, ambiguity and boredom), contribute to workplace absence, where employees sometimes avoid coming to work in response to stress and/or as an ‘escape’ or ‘withdrawal’ strategy. Poor work places make attracting potential employees difficult.
  • Mental stress (psychological injury) represents almost 20% of Comcare claim costs.6 However, up to 60% of psychological injury claims are preventable by improving morale, leadership and work team climate.7 Work pressure accounts for around 50% of mental stress claims, and harassment and bullying another 25%.8
  • Nearly one in two people report having left a role because of a bad manager and that they would be prepared to leave a job to follow a good manager.9

Tips and tactics

  • Manage your work environment effectively, ensuring:
    • a clear sense of purpose and direction
    • clarity of responsibilities and fair distribution of team workloads
    • a focus on a safe physical environment and work practices
    • use of flexibilities to assist employees to meet work and other responsibilities
    • sufficient resources to enable the work to get done
    • an open door policy where people are willing to raise issues and know their views will be taken seriously
    • an inclusive team culture, encompassing centrally and remotely located staff.
  • Get to know your ‘bottom line’ responsibilities as a manager—ask HR for advice in this area. Be aware that you have a duty of care to others in your workplace in relation to behaviour, occupational health and safety and anti-discrimination legislation.
  • Make yourself aware of your agency’s employment framework, conditions and entitlements, and the HR services you can access to assist in your management role.
  • Encourage your staff to check the workspace themselves for safety and comfort factors. Report any identified areas of need or concern promptly, for example in relation to workplace behaviour, lighting, noise, air quality, condition of furniture, accessibility and storage.
  • Where work is new or complex, or an assignment is large, work directly with your staff to ‘chunk’ it into manageable phases, clarifying requirements, timeframes and responsibilities for each phase. When delegating work, play to people’s strengths as much as possible, then focus on providing ‘stretching’ but achievable challenges. Tailor roles and responsibilities to match particular skill sets.
  • Encourage staff to take their recreation leave and monitor its use. Plan ahead for leave absences, and ensure staff know why they have access to other leave entitlements. Use HR reports to identify high levels or emerging patterns of unscheduled workplace absence: look for and address causes.
  • Establish work protocols with the team for smooth ‘housekeeping’, for example, the purpose and frequency of meetings, workplace coverage (duties, phones and emails) during absences and dealing with conflict.
  • Take any complaints or expressed concerns about safety, discrimination, harassment or bullying seriously. Seek advice and information from HR if necessary, but do something to address these concerns.

Keep an eye out ...

  • Warning bells. Look for ‘early warning signs’ that could indicate workplace stress, overload/burnout or developing conflict. Do not, however, take on a psychologist/social worker role. Provide the employee with an opportunity to raise issues. Offer support and/or solutions, but if necessary, refer them to the agency’s employee assistance provider.
  • Forgetting to let your hair down. Do make time for some fun and social activity in your workplace—to celebrate life events (birthdays, weddings etc) or team success, and to provide a chance for people to get to know each other. “All work and no play….”.

  1. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p.40.
  2. Comcare, 2005–06, Annual Report, p.23.
  3. Cotton P, address to Comcare/Health Services Australia Conference, Better Health at Work: Preventing Psychological Injury, Canberra, August 2004.
  4. Comcare, 2005, Working Well: An Organisational Approach to Preventing Psychological Injury, p.9.
  5. Yen M, References check bosses’ poor people skills, Human Resources Magazine, 24 January 2006, www.humanresourcesmagazine.com.au.

Keep productive Step 7. Grow and extend careers

Did you know?

  • High performance in one role does not always predict potential for success in another role or at the next level.
  • Succession management and career planning are fully compatible with APS legislation—both aim to ensure a strong pool of potential candidates ready to compete on merit for future roles.
  • Employees who leave organisations after three or more years of service are often looking for something new but aren’t sure where they are going. They could gain significant value from career guidance.10
  • Only 42% of APS employees agree that their manager deals appropriately with employees who perform poorly. Even fewer (25%) agreed that their agency dealt with underperformance effectively.11
  • In situations of unsatisfactory performance, and/or where an employee is deemed to have lost an essential qualification, a number of options are available to agencies. These options include moving the employee to a role at a lower classification and termination.12

Tips and tactics

  • Encourage employees to take responsibility for planning and managing their own careers. Be prepared to take on a coaching role, to obtain and provide information, and to provide development opportunities e.g. stretch assignments, on-the-job training, skills training, delegation of some of your tasks, acting or temporary opportunities within or outside the agency.
  • Integrate a career development focus into employees’ learning and development plans: discuss and document, highlighting key strengths, interests and any required development to assist your people to achieve those career goals that are in line with the agency objectives.
  • Regularly check the career aspirations of each staff member, regardless of how stable they have been within the current role or team, as work expectations and career aspirations can change over time. Don’t work from stereotypes by assuming mature-age or part-time workers do not have career aspirations or that younger or full-time workers aspire to higher or broader roles. Encourage all staff to update their skills to maintain performance, employability and work satisfaction.
  • Continue to build the ‘next generation’ of capability in your team, particularly for critical roles—such as your own, by determining staff with high-potential (those who show ability, high levels of engagement and aspiration) and providing them with development opportunities such as developing a new policy, working on a crossfunctional team, taking up the lead on a high profile project, introduction to a mentor, or exposure to internal/external networks.
  • Don’t overlook employees who are not seeking advancement—continue to provide performance feedback and discuss career moves and challenges. Ask people where they see themselves in a few years’ time. Changing the focus and specific tasks in their roles may open up new interests, possibilities and desire for internal and/or external movement.
  • Professionally manage movements out of your area. Be proactive. Use established processes to support any underperformance or termination decisions. Use the exit interview process to find out the reasons for voluntary departures, as a measure of what is happening in the workplace.

Keep an eye out ...

  • Thinking up is the only way to go. Consider lateral moves (within the organisation, across agencies and across industry sectors), functional moves and ‘at level’ development stretches which provide valuable personal and professional development.
  • Hoarding good employees. Inhibiting a staff member’s career because you want to hold on to them may backfire and cause you longer-term recruitment and retention issues. Consider the needs of the individual, the team, the agency and the APS as a whole when considering requests for career moves or role changes.
  • Letting certain employees become ‘indispensable’.

  1. Chaminade B, Staying Power, Australian Human Resources Institute, HR Monthly, March 2006.
  2. Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, State of the Service Report 2005–06, p.165.
  3. Section 29 of the Public Service Act 1999.

Find out more about Keep productive

  • Sharpening the Focus: Managing Performance in the APS
    A guide assisting agencies to reflect upon, review and refine their performance management approaches and systems. Detailed guidance on system design, achieving credibility and managing underperformance.
  • Respect: Promoting a culture free from harassment and bullying in the APS
    A good practice guide designed to foster a better understanding of ‘respect’, providing strategies to help APS leaders and managers address workplace harassment and bullying, and to develop positive, harassment free workplaces.
  • Guidelines on Workplace Diversity
    A booklet designed to assist agencies establish and implement a programme to effectively embed the principles of workplace diversity in their organisational culture and management systems.
  • Turned Up and Tuned In—A manager’s guide to maximising staff attendance
    A practical guide for line managers to manage workplace absence.
  • Ensuring leadership continuity in the Australian Public Service: A guide to succession management
    A guide which highlights the critical succession management issues facing APS agencies and discusses elements of the succession management process. Provides practical tools for use by agencies.
  • Performance Management
    A guide providing managers with an outline of their responsibilities and advice on providing work performance counselling (a joint Comcare and Australian Public Service Commission publication).
  • Handling Misconduct
    A summary guide providing managers with a brief overview of the steps and actions that may be involved in handling misconduct.

Ask HR

Ask HR for information about relevant policies and guidelines, advice on how to handle specific management situations, practical tools, and referrals as required. The following suggestions are not exhaustive, but give an idea of the sorts of services you can access via your desktop or by working directly with the HR area.

Information and guidelines

  • workforce plan
  • APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • capability framework
  • recruitment and selection policies (including process and assessment options)
  • industrial agreement framework (for details and best use of flexibilities and benefits)
  • induction/orientation programmes, procedures and tools—what to cover on Day 1 and what to organise in advance (e.g. computer and phone, special requirements for workspace)
  • probation period—details on process and related documents
  • performance management framework
  • agency learning and development framework —accessing, internal programmes, resources
  • career and succession management framework
  • OH&S policy/guidelines and wellness programmes
  • harassment and bullying policies and training programmes

Tailored advice and services

  • interpretation of agency policies and guidelines
  • regular HR reports and how to use them
  • restructuring and/or redesigning roles
  • feedback on your proposed approach to advertising or selection if not covered by your agency’s policy or guidelines
  • details on ‘reasonable adjustment’ for employees with a disability: how to access required equipment and resources
  • learning and development needs analysis
  • the most effective learning methods/ approaches/opportunities to best meet needs
  • ways to recognise and reward staff
  • assistance and coaching in managing difficult situations/conversations
  • managing under-performance
  • assistance on detecting and addressing the signs and symptoms of stress and burnout
  • periodic safety assessments of team’s workplace
  • feedback from exit interviews
  • managing exit situations—redundancy, termination, resignation

Networks and referrals

  • what other areas of the agency are doing well
  • upcoming job opportunities
  • external Learning and Development providers and opportunities
  • employee assistance programme services for managers and employees

Find out even more

The following links will take you to the Australian Public Service Commission’s employment policy advices, circulars and frequently asked questions.

  • Australian Public Service Commission employment policy and advices:
  • Australian Public Service Commission circulars advising changes and topical issues in APS people management:
  • Australian Public Service Commission answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) received through the Employment Policy Advice areas.
  • Informative web pages relating to the review of promotion decisions and the establishment of independent selection advisory committees

Further develop your people management skills

Australian Public Service Commission programmes

Various Executive and APS-level development programmes, for example:

  • Getting that selection right
  • APS Induction
  • Embedding and promoting the APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • Promoting a harassment free workplace
  • Leading your team/Leading small teams
  • Managing performance
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Supporting staff with mental health issues
  • Conflict resolution
  • Leadership and Emotional Intelligence: improving your personal effectiveness

For further details on current course offerings and to register, visit the Commission’s website: www.apsc.gov.au/learn

Comcare programmes

Various development programmes for managers to enhance the work environment, for example:

  • Introduction to OHS Risk Management
  • OHS Essentials for Managers and Supervisors
  • The Prevention and Management of Negative Workplace Behaviours
  • Bullying and Harassment—an OHS issue

For further details on current course offerings and how to register, visit the learning and development section on Comcare’s website: www.comcare.gov.au

Last reviewed: 
12 June 2018