Go to top of page

Strengthening a values based culture: A plan for integrating the APS Values into the way we work

This guide includes:

A model for strengthening a values-based culture in the APS

The APS Values and the organisational building blocks that support their integration into everyday decision making in the APS.

A plan for integrating the APS Values into the way we work

The organisational building blocks for a values-based culture, and the outcomes expected for the APS and for individual agencies when these foundations are in place.

The building blocks must align with each other and the APS Values.

Agency values, where they exist, should be consistent with APS Values.


This guide is aimed at assisting agencies to integrate the APS Values into their organisational culture and the day-to-day work of all their employees.

Why values are important

Well developed and defined organisational values can help employees to do their jobs well. By guiding decision making and behaviour, values can underpin the wide range of interactions and professional relationships employees have with others in their day-to-day work. Values also contribute to an organisation's
strategic direction and can be highly motivating for employees.

Values stated in public documents also help to shape citizens' expectations about the mission, vision and daily activities of public sector organisations. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), values form the foundation of public service and guide judgement
about what is proper and improper in serving public interest1.

If fully integrated, values have an immense capacity to shape the overall culture of the organisation2 and provide it with core statements of 'who we are'. In an organisation as disparate as the APS, they can provide a set of unifying themes that recognise that no matter how different agencies are, and the kinds
of work in which staff are engaged, there are fundamental commonalities that bind the service in the way work is approached and delivered to a variety of clients.

Finally, values can also reinforce an organisation's professionalism. A distinguishing mark of a profession is that it has a code of values, or ethics, which practitioners share and which guides the way in which those professionals carry out their work.

The APS Values

The APS Values have been developed in consultation with the Australian community, APS employees and agencies. They are set out in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999 (the Act). All APS employees and agency heads are required to uphold them. Agency heads and Senior Executive Service (SES) employees
are also required to promote them (sections 12 and 35(c) of the Act).

The Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions also provide that agency heads and SES employees must take steps to integrate the APS Values into the agency's culture and decision making processes and consistently reflect the APS Values in their own behaviour (Directions 1.7 and 1.8).

A model for strengthening a values- based culture in the APS

This model describes the APS Values and the organisational building blocks that support their integration into everyday decisions and actions in the APS.

Agencies that have agency-specific values should ensure that these are consistent with the APS Values.



The APS is apolitical and provides the Government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence.

Committed to Service

The APS is professional, objective, innovative and efficient, and works collaboratively to achieve the best results for the Australian community and the Government.


The APS is open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of Ministerial responsibility.


The APS respects all people, including their rights and their heritage.


The APS demonstrates leadership, is trustworthy, and acts with integrity, in all that it does.

How do we deliver on what governments and Australia expects? ...through our approach: how we work, our guiding principles...we [the APS] should be united by our ethics...
Dr Ian Watt, Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Evolving the culture of our organisation is core to delivering Defence capability. Strengthening a values based culture by integrating the APS Values into the way we work is fundamental in building on Defence's Pathway to Change strategy. It starts with individuals accepting responsibility for
their own behaviour, assisting others to live the culture and putting the onus on leaders to be exemplars of positive and visible change at all times. The new APS Values clearly reflect this intent.
Mr Dennis Richardson, Secretary, Department of Defence

The APS Values help to shape our culture, behaviours and our approach to the work we do. At Finance they are a cornerstone of our strategic plan and are reflected in our Finance behaviours and aspirations.

We draw on the principles embodied in the APS Values to guide how we conduct ourselves and how we manage and deliver our services and advice. This means having the confidence to seek innovative ways to produce better results and to drive positive change. Our commitment to the APS Values ensures we
do these things within a transparent and ethical framework.
Mr David Tune PSM, Secretary, Department of Finance and Deregulation

Our values are the fundamental building blocks for every Australian Public Service (APS) organisation. They form the foundation for all core organisational activities—the basis of our strategic plans, how we deliver services, how we ensure we are fiscally responsible, and how we manage and support
our people. The APS Values provide a real point of difference in us as an employer, and they set out what others can expect from us.
Dr Jill Charker, Chief Executive Officer, ComSuper

A plan for integrating the APS Values into the way we work

Building on existing practices and incorporating current research, this plan identifies the building blocks for a values-based culture which is tailored for the APS. These are the foundations that need to be in place to support a corporate culture where organisational values underpin decisions, actions
and behaviours. This in turn helps to achieve organisational objectives through integrity based high performance.

The plan describes the outcomes that we can expect for the APS as a whole when these building blocks are embedded and enhance the confidence and trust of the Australian people in the public service.

The plan also identifies the outcomes that can be expected in individual agencies when these foundation blocks are in place.

How to use this plan

Agencies can use this plan in two ways – as a checklist to gauge their progress in establishing a values-based culture, and as a plan for improving their embedding strategy.

In order to provide some assurance and accountability to an agency's approach to embedding the APS Values, the plan could also be used as an annual self assessment exercise that identifies action items.

Strengthening a values-based culture: A plan for integrating the APS Values into the way we work

Integrating the APS Values into the way we work
The building blocks for a Values based culture What this means for the APS What this means for the agency
Commitment 1.The APS Values are the basis for the way we do business.
  1. The agency's strategic plan and operational/business plans reflect the APS Values.
  2. Agency communications with employees support and reinforce the APS Values.
  3. On-boarding and other learning and development activities incorporate 'how to live' the APS Values, including how to make good values-based decisions.
Leadership 2. Leaders integrate the Values into their agency's decision-making processes and culture and consistently reflect the Values in their own behaviour.
  1. Leaders take a stewardship role and build the APS Values into the governance practices of their agency and wider APS.
  2. Leaders build a culture of trust with employees and agency stakeholders and clients.
  3. Leaders model the APS Values, have the highest standards of behaviour and take sound, reliable, fair and ethical decisions.
  4. Leaders coach and guide others to take sound, reliable, fair and ethical decisions.
  5. Leaders make clear that conduct consistent with the APS Values is expected and deal appropriately and effectively with unacceptable behaviour.
  6. Leaders guide employees in understanding the relevance of the APS Values to their day-to-day work.
Management Systems 3. The APS Values are integrated into day-to-day operations.
  1. Management practices support values–based decision making. The APS Values are reflected in management policies and procedures, including employment policies.
  2. Where judgement is required in decision making, guidance material appropriately reflects the APS Values.
  3. Performance Management Frameworks take into account the way in which employees uphold the APS Values, recognising that the Values provide the basis for how organisational goals are achieved, and the importance of appropriate behaviours in the workplace.
  4. Reward and recognition schemes reinforce and promote values-based behaviour.
Assurance 4. Mechanisms are in place to provide confidence that decisions and actions in the APS are based on the APS Values.
  1. The integration of the APS Values into the agency is constantly assessed, including through staff and client surveys, and lessons learnt are applied.
  2. Areas of risk in upholding the APS Values are identified, evaluated and managed.
  3. Unacceptable behaviour is addressed. Suspected breaches of the APS Code of Conduct are managed in a fair, timely and systematic way.
  4. Employees know how to report misconduct and are confident in doing so. Employees are aware of the statutory review of action scheme.
  5. Employees are aware of the Ethics Advisory Service and agency support processes.
  6. Internal control systems, such as internal audit and fraud control, work effectively to identify behaviour inconsistent with the APS Values.
  7. Decision-making processes are transparent and open to appropriate scrutiny, supported by appropriate record-keeping processes.

1 OECD, Government at a Glance, Public Governance Committee, 2009

2 Dola, SL and Garcia, S 2000, 'Managing by values in the next millennium—cultural redesign for organisational change', Canadian Journal of Economics, vol 34, pp 18-35

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018