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Building capability

Finance offers a range of development activities to build individual and organisational capability and enhance performance. Human Resources works in partnership with business areas to ensure development opportunities are targeted, relevant and, where possible, co-designed with subject-matter experts from the business to ensure content aligns to business activities and contributes to achieving Finance’s corporate objectives.

In 2018–19, Finance refreshed its People Capability Framework to identify and target the capabilities that the Department’s workforce requires now and into the future. The refreshed Framework provides clear and consistent performance expectations across all classifications. It is designed on the principles that it is simple, consistent, future proof and flexible. It can be applied across all stages of the employee life cycle: recruitment and selection, development, performance, talent management and succession planning. The Framework provides a solid foundation for the design and implementation of capability development programs in the Department going forward.

In 2018–19 Finance supported a range of learning and development initiatives. For example, Finance:

  • designed and implemented a tailored stakeholder relationship management program to strengthen its approach to stewardship and develop capability in building and sustaining effective stakeholder relationships. The program is targeted at the executive level (EL) classification and was attended by 91 staff
  • continued to implement core skill development programs focused on building manager capability, leadership, communication and career development skills
  • reviewed its mentoring framework. By applying a user-centred design approach, the new framework aims to ensure mentoring opportunities are available for all staff and incorporates online support tools, training and events
  • reviewed its induction program to assist new employees in transitioning into the Department. The refreshed program includes the opportunity to meet with a Deputy Secretary and members of Finance’s cultural networks so that new staff are introduced to the Department’s strategic priorities, culture, values and behaviours
  • continued to deliver its coaching program.

The Department has an ongoing commitment to professional skills and capability development within Finance and across the APS. In 2018–19, 13 Finance employees participated in the Graduate Certificate of Public Policy and Finance. This program is purpose built for the public sector and delivered by the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra. It builds capability among emerging leaders at Finance and in the wider APS. To date, 92 employees from Commonwealth entities have completed the program.

In addition, 88 employees received study assistance through paid study leave and financial assistance to undertake tertiary education in subject areas such as commerce, economics, law, public policy and accounting and finance.


The Department continues to invest in developing current and future leaders, through participation in a variety of external leadership programs, for example, the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) Future Leaders Program, and events such as cross-agency debates and the IPAA speaker series. The Department has also committed to further investment and has rolled out leadership programs for all EL staff and EL talent management initiatives including:

  • EL Career Conversations Toolkit
  • EL Leadership Forums
  • EL Career Development Exchange
  • EL2 High Potential Program
  • EL2 Leadership Program.

Career conversations are held annually for SES staff, where strengths and opportunities for further development are identified as a means of actively managing talent and succession planning.

In 2018–19 the Department’s Emerging Leaders Network gave staff additional opportunities to gain exposure to accomplished leaders and build their leadership capabilities by running events, such as a debate between entry-level program participants and a number of SES, an internal leaders panel discussion and a speed mentoring event. The Emerging Leaders Network partnered with the Ability Network to run an event which covered the topics of leadership and disability.

Two years ago, Finance established its three leadership expectations—be part of the solution; develop self, develop others; collaborate, innovate—which articulate our approach to leadership and are embedded into departmental initiatives and plans, including departmental award categories and criteria and the Transformation Plan. Staff are introduced to these expectations as part of induction and encouraged to actively incorporate them in their day-to-day performance.

Flexible Working Arrangements

In 2018–19 Finance continued to provide flexible working arrangements to its employees, taking into account the diversity of circumstances and requests. The Department’s flexible working arrangements have improved staff productivity and motivation and helped to retain high performing employees.

In 2018, Finance rolled out flexible working as part of normal business through the development and implementation of the Flexible Work Policy and Guide. Our ‘if not, why not’ approach enables flexibility around when and where we work and how our roles are structured through access to working from home, part-time work, job-share arrangements and leave provisions. No one specific initiative has driven the improved take-up of flexible working arrangements within Finance. Rather, there has been a broad range of departmental priorities focusing on further supporting departmental employees to manage their health, wellbeing and work–life balance.

Entry-level programs

In 2018–19 Finance continued to participate in a number of entry-level employment programs.

Finance’s Career Starter Program provides avenues for other departments to broaden the diversity of their own entry-level program cohorts. The Career Starter Program gives recent high school graduates the opportunity to build successful careers in the APS.

In 2018, the program was awarded the Australian Human Resources Institute Age Diversity Award. Finance has since expanded this successful program, with five other government agencies accepting the invitation to participate. In 2019 the program engaged 20 career starters within Finance, as well as an additional 19 in other government agencies.

In 2018–19, Finance engaged 31 graduates and hosted another two graduates from the Papua New Guinea Department of Finance. The Department also engaged four graduates through the Indigenous Australian Government Development Program, five apprentices through the Indigenous Apprenticeship Program, six participants of the Stepping Into program, two Next Step trainees and two ICT apprentices.

Finance continues to support its entry-level employee cohort to develop their skills, experience and capabilities to become engaged and productive members of the Department and the APS. To help these employees to make an effective transition into the workforce and the APS, each cohort undertakes a development program targeted to their specific needs. Aspects of the development programs include induction, formal training to achieve a professional qualification, foundational skills training, mentoring, attendance at APS-wide events, project work, and placements in the business to ensure effective on-the-job learning.

Finance’s Career Starter Program – providing career opportunities to young Australians for 13 years

The Finance Career Starter Program provides recent secondary school graduates with the opportunity to build a successful career in the APS. This 12-month-entry level Program enables participants to build skills through permanent full-time employment. The Program includes structured training and a range of development and networking activities that leads to a Certificate IV in Government. As part of the Program, participants are provided with opportunities to build collaboration and project management skills, as well as establish diverse networks through Program and community projects. In addition to the training provided through the Program, participants have the opportunity to undertake additional studies, with access to study assistance.

The Program was established 13 years ago in Finance’s Ministerial and Parliamentary Services Division. It has since expanded to all business groups across Finance and most recently, across government, with five additional entities participating in the Program in 2019:

  • Department of Health
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
  • Department of Infrastructure
  • Department of Jobs and Small Business (now Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business).

A talent management initiative, the Program has attracted 193 young Australians to Finance and a further 20 participants to participating entities over the past 13 years.

As a talent initiative, the Career Starter Program has been successful in retaining and developing participants, with the retention of career starters higher than the Department’s average (49 per cent for career starters versus 32 per cent for other staff). Staff who have come through the Program have advanced at a healthy rate, with three per cent of participants currently at the EL1 level.

My time in the Career Starter Program has been a wonderful experience, with amazing opportunities and a really supportive culture to help me learn on the job.’ – James

I joined Finance through the Career Starter Program in January 2008 after finishing Year 12 in Canberra. I’ve been at Finance for 10 years and have progressed in my career from an APS1 to an EL1. I’ve held roles within almost every business group of the Department and I strongly believe the Career Starter Program has given me a real head start on my peers and colleagues, internal and external to government. Since I started at Finance, I have completed a Bachelor of Commerce through the University of Canberra. In my opinion, it is a great balance of entry-level support and development opportunities with the commencement of a career in the public sector.’ – Cameron

In 2018, the Finance Career Starter Program was awarded the Australian Human Resource Institute Susan Ryan Age Diversity Award.