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Secondments and other immersive activities


This guide is a practical resource for Australian Public Service (APS) agencies, employees and managers to help them get the most out of immersive development experiences.


This guide forms part of a series of publications created by the Australian Public Service Commission's (APSC) Centre for Leadership and Learning which are designed to complement efforts to build leadership, learning and development practice in the APS.

The APS Leadership and Core Skills Strategies identify the 70-20-10[1] approach as a key development principle which supports learning where it is most prevalent and most effective – in the workplace. This guide helps people to capitalise on the growth that comes through immersive development in new workplaces.

Current thinking in leadership development recognises immersive development as a particularly valuable learning technique. Learning in an immersive situation is different to the classroom - participants are learning emotionally, not just cognitively. The conditions that make immersive learning possible cannot be foreseen and simulated or practiced outside their naturally occurring settings. This is what makes learning by doing so effective.[2]

Immersive development can take a number of forms – amongst these are academic experiences, secondments, visits and frontline experiences. The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation PhD scholarships are an example of academic immersive development, with APS employees joining the academic world for three years while completing a PhD on a topic of significance to the APS. Secondments provide opportunities for employees to experience a different workplace, developing new skills and perspectives. Visits provide a condensed immersive experience, providing a window into another world, often that of a client or customer group. Frontline experiences are often designed for 'head office' employees to gain a better understanding of the frontline work of their agency.

Immersive development can be a richly rewarding experience for both employees and agencies. This guide takes you through the principles which apply to immersive development and the phases which relate to most immersive development opportunities. Adapting this guidance to the relevant context will help employees and agencies get the most out of immersive development.

[1] 70-20-10 describes the sources and proportions for optimal adult learning. The 70 (per cent) refers to the proportion of development we expect to happen through experiential or on-the-job learning, the 20 (per cent) refers to networks or interactions with others, and the 10 (per cent) refers to the proportion of learning we expect to come from structured courses or programs. Its development is credited to Lombardo and Eichinger in Lombardo in The Career Architect Development Planner (1996) Minneapolis: Lominger.

[2] Meeks, R et al. 2015. The Third Wave: The Future of Leadership Development. Pivot Leadership.

Last reviewed: 
31 January 2020