How Australia’s Public Sector can Attract and Manage the Best People
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How Australia’s Public Sector can Attract and Manage the Best People

Talent Acquisition

How Australia’s Public Sector can Attract and Manage the Best People

April 04, 2017 Brian Kelly

While the public service has come a long way, it still elicits an eye roll from those who remember the bad old days of waist-deep bureaucracy and financial ineptitude.

Most agree that a transformation was needed to bring Government back to its primary task - serving the community in an efficient, cost-effective way.

Workplace reforms may be revolutionising the public sector, but it’s vital to stay focused on the goal.

Workers will only know what is expected of them, and how to deliver it, if human capital management is streamlined and intuitive – using smart, agile systems which everyone understands.

It’s the only way to prevent a recurrence of the dark days of Australian local Government, and keep moving forward.

The aim is to develop a genuinely responsive system connecting Government employees, managers and HR teams with service users out in the community.

This happens when:

  • Employees understand the scope and requirements of their roles.
  • Workers fulfil their roles effectively and with a sense of accomplishment.
  • HR teams work with strategic partners and staff to deliver key outcomes.
  • Resilience, creativity, strategic thinking and resourcefulness are highly prized.
  • Everyone works within a consistent, strategically developed framework.
  • Lo and behold, services are delivered efficiently and on time.

When service users are happy, however, the battle still isn’t won. The system must be maintained and future-proofed to ensure it remains in peak condition.

Sounds like an ideal world? It’s not, really.

But it does require a fresh perspective on outdated themes – and a seamless approach which cuts through both jargon and mismanagement, unifying every person and department in the organisation.

Case study: NSW Government
In 2012, the NSW Commission of Audit released its Final Report on Government Expenditure, with shocking conclusions.

The report claimed NSW financial management had been “confusing, lacking in transparency and below the standards expected of efficient and effective government” for many years.

It made 132 recommendations for the NSW Government to save money, improve services, reduce waste, increase transparency, prioritise more effectively and promote collaboration and co-ordination between departments.
Suggestions relating specifically to the workforce included:

  • Increasing worker flexibility.
  • Optimising staff responsiveness and responsibility.
  • Benchmarking and measurement of employee performance.
  • Information sharing between staff and departments.
  • Improved management of people and assets.

The good news for NSW public service
In 2013, the NSW Government’s Public Service Commission (PSC) introduced the Capability Framework as part of a public sector overhaul.

A central reform designed to create an effective, contemporary workforce, the Capability Framework lays out the full range of capabilities, competencies and behaviours expected of all NSW Government employees.
Sixteen capabilities are detailed across these four core groups:

  1. Personal attributes such as resilience, courage, integrity and appreciation of diversity.
  2. Relationship building qualities including effective listening, communication, collaboration and negotiation.
  3. Results delivery through planning, prioritising, strategic thinking, accountability and measurement of progress.
  4. Business enablers including understanding of finances, procurement and project management, plus confidence and ability to use new technology.

These are the foundations of every powerful, effective workforce.

Better people management
The NSW Capability Framework also explores the importance of top quality people management within the public sector.

This is based on four key principles:

  1. Managing and developing people – engaging, motivating and developing the potential of staff.
  2. Inspiring direction and purpose – communicating goals and recognising achievements.
  3. Optimising business outcomes – managing resources effectively via sound workforce planning.
  4. Managing reform and change – supporting and championing change, and ensuring everyone is a part of it.

The PSC is creating ‘capability sets’ for occupations and professional roles within the sector, ensuring that critical knowledge, skills and competencies are identified.

These sets can then be applied throughout the organisation in a consistent way.

The cornerstones of a resilient public sector workforce
Four fundamentals are waiting to be addressed in every contemporary public sector workplace.

  1. Talent acquisition and management

No public sector can be effective without knowing how to attract, acquire, manage, retain and develop top performing candidates.

From identifying hidden talent to eliciting the absolute best from a star performer, HR professionals are tasked with developing rich, flexible and diverse workforces embracing collaboration, innovation, leadership and ongoing change.

  1. New technology

A 2016 study of public service technology leaders in nine countries, including Australia, shows 80% agreeing that intelligent technologies will ‘improve the job satisfaction of current employees’ and 89% expecting a return from it within two years.

The Accenture survey reported the three top challenges facing public service agencies as:

  1. Improving service delivery to meet users’ expectations.
  2. Responding to changes in objectives.
  3. Hiring and developing people with the right skills.

The top three obstacles preventing full uptake of intelligent technologies are:

  1. Inefficient and old-fashioned legacy systems.
  2. Lack of understanding about new technology’s real potential, even by senior staff who support its implementation.
  3. Existing staff need retraining and/or appropriately skilled staff need to be hired.

Career planning

Over the next five years, the Australian public sector will experience more retirements than ever before.

As Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show, the Australian population is ageing due to ongoing low fertility rates and increasing life spans.

Over the five years to 30 June 2016, the non working-age population (aged 0-14 and 65-plus) has been growing at 2.3%, compared with 1.2% for the working-age population (aged 15-64 years).

Succession planning, leadership development and unified talent management are all essential to ensure the public sector maintains a strong, capable, quality workforce.

  1. Compliance

It’s essential that public sector bodies comply with every aspect of Australian state and federal legislation – and that means keeping up-to-date with changes as they happen, through a comprehensive compliance framework.

Preventing a return to those directionless NSW years when innovation gave way to mismanagement and confusion.

Cornerstone is proud to partner with the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, along with the Victorian Department of Justice and the Australian Government’s Austrade, in delivering human capital solutions for the public sector.

About Brian Kelly

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