The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges to the APS and the Commission. It has reinforced the need for an adaptable, collaborative and responsible public service to provide essential services and support Australia’s security and prosperity, now and into the future.
During 2019-20, the Commission worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to support the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service (the Thodey Review) and the Government’s response. The Government accepted the majority of the Review’s recommendations and released its response and reform agenda ‘Delivering for Australians’ in December 2019. In early 2020, the Commission contributed to implementation planning of priority initiatives.
While the Secretaries Board agreed to focus reform implementation in April 2020 on the response to COVID-19, the Commission worked across the Service to help equip the APS to address the crisis. The mobilisation and collaboration experienced across the APS during the initial COVID-19 response has seen years of reform realised in just months. The Commission is building on this to embed change across the Service in line with the Government’s expectations for a dynamic, capable and responsive APS.
As a central agency with responsibility for the APS workforce and its people, the Commission is leading the delivery of a number of reform initiatives to strengthen the capability of the APS workforce, including:
- implementing an APS mobility framework
- developing an APS professions model
- building a pro-integrity culture within the APS through better guidance, processes and tools
- overhauling APS recruitment and induction including streamlining graduate recruitment.
Progress across 2019-2020
The Commission commenced work on an APS mobility framework in early 2020. The Commissioner established the Workforce Management Taskforce to rapidly facilitate the voluntary movement of over 2,000 APS employees across agencies to deliver critical services to Australians. This is in addition to the 9,000 APS staff mobilised within agencies to support the Government’s response and recovery from COVID-19.
Insights from this work have been actively applied to ensure strategic use of mobility beyond the COVID-19 crisis, focusing on surge, problem-solving and staff development. The mobility framework will include a core of policies, guidance and templates targeted at key stakeholders. The framework will be implemented in late 2020.
2019-20 also lit up the importance of retaining and strengthening specialist expertise within the APS. The APS professions model will play a vital role in building the capability of employees working in critical disciplines, developing strong professional cohorts to encourage better workforce mobilisation, supporting a more joined-up APS and positioning the APS for the future.
Foreshadowing the findings of the Independent Review, together with the Australian Taxation Office, the Human Resources professional stream was introduced in October 2019 providing a network of expertise which was leveraged to support the initial COVID-19 response. The Digital Professional Stream was subsequently launched in partnership with the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) in April 2020 with the Data Professional Stream to be launched later in 2020.
During 2019-2020, the Commission took productive steps towards streamlining graduate recruitment across the Service. In partnering with other agencies the Commission has provided graduate job seekers with opportunities to explore a range of graduate roles across multiple agencies, and grow the ‘One-APS’ concept across this cohort.
The opportunity for graduates to apply only once to be considered for a range of HR, economist, data, STEM, generalist and digital placements saw around 6,000 graduate applications lodged across all streams when applications closed in May 2020, greatly exceeding expectations for this new approach. During the coming year recruitment reform will further evolve in alignment with the APS workforce strategy and professions model.
The Commission continues to build on efforts to support leadership development within the APS, which included SES capability assessments and work on the talent pipeline during the reporting period.
Strengthening and promoting a pro-integrity culture within the APS continued to be a significant priority for the Commission during the reporting period. A number of activities are underway to advance this initiative and build better integrity guidance, processes and tools for the APS which will continue into 2020-21.