Executive summary

Survey results are the most positive yet.

  • The best ever response rate has been achieved

  • More employees believe that action will be taken on the results of the survey.

  • Providing staff with the support they need to do their best work is a key driver of engagement.

  • Staff development, managing change and making work improvements continue to strongly influence engagement.

  • Engagement remains steady across the sector.

  • Engagement with work remains strong.

  • Levels of bullying are unchanged and remain an area of concern.

  • Mobility rates are in line with 2017 and fewer cite barriers to career progression.

  • Employees with flexible working arrangements are more engaged.

  • Perceptions of senior managers continue to improve and remain strongest in the smaller clusters.

  • Change management remains a key area for focus and whilst there have been improvements, first line managers remain unconvinced.

  • Confidence in recruitment remains low.

The People Matter Employee Survey results across the NSW public sector improved in 2018, compared to 2017. Of sixty-four comparable questions, fifty-six responses improved, seven stayed the same and only one declined. Further, trend analysis conducted over three years highlighted that, for most items, negative responses have been declining by 1–2 percentage points per year.

Of 64 comparable questions

  • 56


  • 7

    Remained the same

  • 1


  • The best ever response rate

    The response rate has been increasing each year that the survey has been undertaken. In 2018, an additional 30,769 employees participated in the survey, taking the response rate over 50% for the first time and marking a significant improvement on the initial response rate of 16% in 2012. A total of 170,832 NSW public sector employees completed the survey in 2018. This equates to an overall response rate of 51%.

  • More employees believe their survey feedback will spark action

    More respondents in 2018 are confident that action will be taken on their survey feedback – up from 32% in 2016 to 35% in 2017 and 37% in 2018. Almost all clusters saw an increase compared to last year, although the figures for clusters vary widely, from 28% to 60% agreement. There is a need to focus on the two thirds of respondents who do not agree with this question to maintain and grow the response.

  • Employee engagement at sector level remains steady

    Employee engagement, which focuses on perceptions about the organisation, remains stable at 65% at sector level. There is a small but noticeable improvement in these scores across the sector. Between clusters, scores range from 62% to 71%, while for agencies, the range is broader, from 46% to 80%.

  • Career development has the biggest influence on employee engagement

    As in 2017, employee development, change management and making improvements to meet future challenges continued to significantly affect employee engagement across the sector. Strong organisational commitment to developing employees continues to be the strongest driver at sector level, with survey results up by 2 percentage points to 52% this year. Satisfaction with opportunities for career development also improved, to 50%.

  • Supporting employees to do their best work increases engagement

    Two-thirds (65%) of respondents agree they have the support they need to do their best work, up by 2 percentage points from last year and 6 percentage points from 2016. While 75% of senior executives and 67% of managers who manage other managers believe they have the support they need to do their best work, only 62% of first line managers agree, though this score represents an improvement of 2 percentage points. Providing support is a key driver of engagement in 2018, so focus should be considered here for continued improvement.

  • Engagement with work remains strong

    As in previous years, engagement with work remains high at 72%, with an increase of 1 percentage point for both job satisfaction and work giving people a feeling of personal accomplishment.

  • Levels of bullying are unchanged and remain an area of concern

    A total of 18% of survey respondents report being bullied in the last 12 months, unchanged from the 2017 survey findings. Twenty percent of these employees made a formal complaint about bullying. Of those who formally complained, only 21% feel that their case had been resolved satisfactorily, and 50% indicate it has not. Employees who experience bullying are far less positive across the employee experience than others, and are especially negative about teamwork, manager relationships, and speaking up/sharing a different view to colleagues.

  • Mobility findings are in line with 2017

    Just under half (41%) of respondents are looking or thinking about looking for a new role within the public sector but outside their current workplace, to broaden their experience. Nearly a third (32%) feel there are no barriers to changing roles, up from 30% in 2017. Among those who do believe there are barriers, the most frequently cited barriers are personal or family considerations, a lack of visible opportunities and a lack of promotion opportunities.

  • Employees with flexible working arrangements are more engaged

    Across the sector, 59% of respondents are satisfied with the ability to access and use flexible working arrangements, up from 57% last year. These employees are on average 8 percentage points more engaged than those who are not satisfied. They are also 14 percentage points more positive in their views that their organisation motivates them to help it achieve its objectives.

  • Perceptions of senior managers continue to improve

    Perceptions of senior managers improved by 2 percentage points across the sector since 2017, with an improved positive response to all questions. The responses to questions about senior managers are still among the lower scoring in the survey, attracting high neutral scores. Perceptions of senior managers are also typically more positive in the smaller clusters and agencies compared to larger ones. In smaller organisations, employees are more likely to interact with managers or at least be aware of who they are.

  • Perceptions of change management vary

    Perceptions of change management continues to be one of the lowest scoring areas in the survey, even though the 2018 score is 2 percentage points higher than in 2017. Engagement typically rises broadly with employee grade, and managers tend to be more engaged than non-managers. However, when it comes to perceptions of change management, first line managers are less positive than those reporting to them. It is important to understand and address this phenomenon because first line managers play a key role in engaging and supporting their teams through change, something that is difficult for them to do if they do not feel convinced by the change themselves.

  • Confidence in recruitment practices is low

    Perceptions of recruitment improved slightly from 2017, but confidence in recruitment remains low. Only 37% of respondents have confidence in the way recruitment decisions are made. While many have neutral perceptions, a third of employees have negative opinions.

Survey results are the best yet