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Strategic Priority 2: Transform the ABS for the future

Planned Performance: The Transformation Program is effectively implemented, to deliver contemporary systems that will better meet ABS’ future needs

Target 2.1: Statistical collections are transitioned to SBTP capabilities*

*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25


The Statistical Business Transformation Program (SBTP) was established to address a significant risk to the production of high quality statistics. The SBTP expects to replace a portfolio of aged, siloed and inflexible processes and systems with a new suite of standardised business processes, and new IT tools and infrastructure that will enable more responsive and effective collection, storage and compilation of data.

In September 2018, the SBTP approach was adjusted in light of the level of statistical and program risk which became apparent during early adoption of new processes and technology. The revised scope has allowed the ABS to better manage statistical impact and prioritise benefits to ABS customers and providers. The key focus of 2019 has been to increase the number of statistical collection areas using new data acquisition capabilities.

The SBTP was subject to a mid-stage Gateway Review conducted on behalf of the Department of Finance in January 2019.

At the conclusion of the Program (30 June 2020), it is expected that SBTP capabilities will be used to collect data and publish statistics for the majority of the ABS’ collections.

How we will measure this

2.1.1 Successful business uptake of new processes and technologies

Result: Partially achieved

Transitioning ABS collections to new capabilities delivered by the SBTP has proven to be more challenging than anticipated.

In light of these challenges, a decision was taken in September 2018 to focus on client-facing systems to maximise the benefits delivered to ABS clients and users by June 2020.

The program prioritised the adoption of processes and technologies which impact on ABS providers and customers. This includes businesses, other government departments and individuals who provide data to the ABS, along with decision makers and analysts who use ABS data through a range of delivery channels.

As a result, the focus for 2018-19 for the ABS business was the transition of statistical collections to the new SBTP ‘multi-channel’ data acquisition capabilities. These new capabilities enable respondents to provide information through on-line questionnaires or interviews, and allow provision of bulk data to ABS. Transition to these capabilities is underway for further collections, with remaining migration in line with the cyclical nature of the business.

Externally facing dissemination solutions have also undergone development to make it easier for people to find, access and consume statistical data.

The first of the new Application Programming Interface (API) services was launched into production in November 2018. This service is now being used to deliver timely headline economic data to key media agencies to support important decisions that impact financial markets.

The SBTP will also deliver a new ABS website into production next year. A new Beta Concepts website was launched in December 2018. The Beta Concepts website showcases new ways of presenting statistical information, and allows customers to provide feedback to help shape the solution.

From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement. Reporting of SBTP results will continue through internal governance fora and Australian Government Assurance Reviews (Gateway Reviews), administered by the Department of Finance.

Planned Performance: Transform the workforce to drive improved performance

Target 2.2: ABS staff capability is focused on meeting future needs*

*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25


The ABS Workforce Strategy 2015-19 provides a framework for reshaping workforce capability during ongoing organisational transformation. The capability environment is dynamic, characterised by a rapid rate of technological and environmental change, and a heightened sense of competition for data globally. The ABS must leverage the skills of its people to position itself sustainably into the future, including uptake of new tools and processes resulting from the SBTP.

Data capability is more important than ever; the ABS is focused on building this capability to benefit all Australians. Through strategic workforce planning and job design, the ABS has begun to assess emerging people capability needs and build targeted development opportunities. These initiatives will equip ABS staff with a valuable and transferrable skill set that supports the ABS as Australia’s pre-eminent leader in statistics and data capability.

How we will measure this

2.2.1 Improved staff capability

Result: Substantially achieved

The Australian Public Service (APS) Employee State of the Service Census (SOS) results show increases across key areas of capability compared to 2018 SOS results, including:

  • ‘My supervisor provides time for me to attend learning programs’ (95% Positive/Neutral, +1%)
  • ‘My supervisor provides me with opportunities to develop relevant capabilities for my career’ (90% Positive/Neutral, +3%)
  • ‘My supervisor gives me the opportunity to apply what I learn in my day-to-day work’, (97% Positive/Neutral, +5%) and
  • ‘I have a clear understanding of my development needs’ (92% Positive/Neutral, +4%)

In 2018-19, the ABS focused on building staff leadership and management skills. The internally delivered Management Fundamentals programs were offered face to face across ABS sites with over 330 registrations to these popular one day sessions.

The ABS recognises the significant contribution of graduate staff to future ABS capability. Since 2002, 1,483 graduates have joined the ABS. Large, business-driven, variations in the size of the intake are based on an annual assessment of need, with an annual average intake of 85 contrasting with 31 in 2018 and 43 in 2019. The ABS placed 16th (up from 17th in 2018) in the ‘Top 100 Graduate Employers in Australia’ survey in 2019.

Corporate capability in areas such as work health and safety, privacy, and the prevention of bullying and harassment have been a focus in 2018-19. These mandatory courses assist the ABS to comply with its legislative obligations and meet its duty of care to staff.

A key objective for 2018-19 has been support for organisational capabilities emerging from the SBTP. A series of ‘Writing for the Web’ face-to-face sessions were provided in 2019. The demand for these sessions was extremely high, with an uptake rate of almost 100% for available places.

This year, approximately 28% of ABS staff undertook statistical eLearning courses as part of our holistic approach to developing data, analytic and statistical skills.

These improvements translate to gains in data capability within the ABS, across the public sector and the broader labour market. Our focus within the ABS, is to continue to deliver contemporary resources and development approaches to meet changing needs of the ABS, and the rapidly evolving external data environment.

From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however developing staff capability remains a priority for the ABS to remain a high performing organisation and will continue to be monitored internally.

Planned Performance: Transform the workforce to drive improved performance

Target 2.3: Staff positively engage with contemporary ways of working*

*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25


The ABS operates in an employment market where there is significant competition for the capabilities that we rely upon to deliver our work program. This creates a risk, identified in the Corporate Plan, in terms of capability and capacity to support the delivery of the regular work program alongside the implementation of transformation initiatives.

The ABS has actively responded to the evolving expectations of a contemporary labour force by implementing initiatives (such as Flex Works) that help us to attract and retain the capabilities we need. Working conditions including flexible working and work-life balance are important attraction and retention factors for employers.

The opportunity to work in an agency that empowers its people to live a balanced life represents a potential key differentiator of the ABS as an employer. By embracing contemporary and flexible working arrangements, the ABS has capitalised on the skills, knowledge and experience of all employees by enabling and empowering a more diverse workforce.

How we will measure this

2.3.1 Uptake of Flex Works

Result: Achieved

The Flex Works initiative, launched in April 2018, is designed to aid employees to work more flexibly. Flex Works supports the many initiatives in place to help employees balance their work and home lives including access to part-time and job share arrangements, flex-time, time off in lieu, and purchased annual leave, all supported by technology, policies, guidelines and practices.

During 2018-19, there was an increase in the number of staff accessing Flex Works. There was an increase of 9.6% (up from 33.1% to 42.7%) in the use of formal teleworking agreements (ABS target of 65% of staff formally teleworking by 2020).

Staff using flexible working arrangements indicated ongoing satisfaction, with results showing:

  • 90% were satisfied with their ability to access and use flexible working arrangements (up from 88%)
  • 91% were satisfied with their non-monetary employment conditions (e.g. leave, flexible work arrangements). This rate was unchanged from 2018.

This measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however Flex Works remains an important strategy for the ABS to attract and retain talented staff and will continue to be monitored internally.

Planned Performance: Transform the workforce to drive improved performance

Target 2.4: ABS workforce is representative of Australian society*

*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25


The ABS Inclusion and Diversity Strategy 2018-21 sets out the ABS' intention to continue to create workplaces that are more inclusive, and recognises the importance of having a diverse workforce. Inclusivity and diversity support us to become a higher performing and transformative organisation.

Our commitment is demonstrated through a range of workplace policies, strategies and initiatives including: flexible working arrangements, training and awareness programs, implementation of a Reconciliation Action Plan, policies that reflect community expectations (e.g. Domestic and Family Violence Leave and Cultural Leave), and employee diversity networks.

All vacancies advertised internally and externally are now able to apply the RecruitAbility scheme to attract and develop applicants with disability. The ABS has utilised affirmative measures and identified positions for the recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. These initiatives are aimed at assisting us make our workforce more representative of Australian society. The ABS is guided by APSC initiatives to support diversity and inclusion, and aims to meet targets set for the APS in these areas.

The ABS is a member of the Australian Network on Disability, Pride in Diversity and Diversity Council of Australia. SES are engaged and committed senior organisational champions for Inclusion and Diversity, Reconciliation, Disability and Carers, LGBTI+, Gender Equity, Leveraging Aspergers and Autism, and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse networks.

How we will measure this

2.4.1 ABS staff diversity

Result: Substantially achieved

During 2018-19, the ABS has been educating managers and their staff about fostering inclusive cultures (e.g. LGBTI+ and Disability Confident Training) so they are more comfortable in recruiting and retaining staff from diverse groups. It is envisaged this will ultimately assist in making our workforce more representative of Australian society.

Membership levels of all employee diversity networks have increased in the past 12 months which are supported by 12 SES diversity champions (unchanged from June 30, 2018).

The SOS diversity results indicated:

  • 1.4% of staff identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (down from 1.5% in 2018).
  • 6.4% of staff identified as having a disability (down from 7.3% in 2018).

In June 2019, the proportion of females in operative, nominal SES roles was 46% (slightly down from 50% in July 2018).

While the implemented programs and initiatives have been deemed successful, the ABS has not achieved a meaningful increase in the rates of staff identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people with a disability etc. and therefore the ABS has not fully achieved the target of having a workforce more representative of Australian society within this reporting period.

From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however staff diversity remains a priority for the ABS to ensure our workforce is more representative of Australian society and will continue to be monitored internally.

Planned Performance: Transform the workforce to drive improved performance

Target 2.5: ABS exemplifies a high performing culture*

*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25


Since 2015, the ABS has identified organisational culture as one of six critical success factors for organisational transformation. This responded to a number of independent reviews which called for cultural change to reposition the ABS for the future, with a shift to become a more open, engaged and outward-looking agency, working in partnership with others. In 2017, the ABS developed a culture change strategy and conducted a range of leader led initiatives including executive leadership interviews, workshops, 360 degree feedback assessments, and leadership summits to drive culture change. This work culminated in the development of ‘ABS: Our Culture’ statement1.

Since 2016, a biannual ‘Transformation Survey’ of staff has been used to benchmark and measure staff attitudes to ABS Transformation, including aspects of cultural change. In mid- 2017, the ABS used the Organisational Culture Inventory (OCI) to benchmark its culture, identify its preferred culture, and map out the steps to transition between the two.

How we will measure this

2.5.1 Results of Culture focused surveys

Result: Substantially achieved

Transformation Survey: For Transformation to be successful, the ABS requires its staff to demonstrate desired high performance behaviours. The seventh Transformation Survey was conducted during March and April 2019, with 1,128 ABS employees participating (46% of operative office-based staff). The results found that staff observed their work colleagues being: customer focused (84%), agile (80%), collaborative (79%), accountable (73%), innovative (72%) and self-aware (62%) in their day to day work. These results have improved slightly since the sixth Transformation Survey in October 2018.

The seventh Transformation Survey found that staff held more positive views in early 2019 (compared to mid-2017) about the following four key aspects of desired organisational culture: achievement (84% vs. 73%), self-actualisation (83% vs. 75%), being humanistic-encouraging (88% vs. 76%) and affiliation (79% vs. 69%).2

SOS: The SOS is run annually by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and collects confidential attitude and opinion information from across all APS agencies on important issues including their health and wellbeing, attendance, performance management, leadership, and general impressions of the APS.

Notable improvements for the ABS include:

  • 63% of respondents agreed that ABS leaders (EL2 and SES) are driving a high performing culture (up from 57% in 2018)
  • 75% believed that the ABS is a customer focussed organisation (up from 67%)
  • 75% felt that they adopted an agile approach to work within their section (up from 73%)
  • 90% agreed that their supervisor gave them responsibility and held them to account for what they delivered (up from 89%)
  • 93% believed that one of their responsibilities was to continually look for new ways to improve the work they do (up from 91%)
  • 72% agreed that their supervisor encouraged them to try new things even if they didn’t always work out (up from 69%)
  • 62% felt well prepared to succeed in the ABS professionally post transformation (up from 60%).

Many of these ratings are above APS and specialist agency scores.

From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however maintaining a high performance culture remains a priority for the ABS to continue to become a more effective, engaged and outward looking agency.


  1. ABS: Our Culture’ statement: ‘It is our intent that the ABS culture brings out the best in all our people, enabling us to increase our impact through outstanding service delivery. To achieve this cultural intent, our employees will need to be customer-focused, collaborative, accountable, agile, innovative and self-aware.’
  2. Achievement - I am expected to know the business, think ahead and plan, pursue a standard of excellence and take on challenging tasks. Self-Actualising - I am expected to maintain my personal integrity, communicate ideas, do even simple tasks well and enjoy. Humanistic Encouraging - I am expected to help others grow and develop, resolve conflicts constructively, be a good listener and encourage. Affiliative - I am expected to treat people as more important than things, cooperate with others and deal with others in a friendly, pleasant way.