Employee mobility

Workforce flexibility, including ease of mobility, is a key driver of productivity. In 2012, the NSW Commission of Audit Interim Report identified mobility as one of the serious challenges facing the NSW public sector. The report pointed to numerous barriers to mobility including centrally imposed freezes, remuneration that is not comparable, slow recruitment procedures and a lack of courage to try an unknown recruit.

Previous State of the NSW Public Sector reports also highlighted the low and declining mobility rates within the NSW public sector workforce. In this year's Agency survey, 25% of agencies described 'limited career advancement or mobility opportunities for employees' as one of the greatest workforce risks they faced.

The proportion of NSW public sector employees who spend five years or more in an agency (65.5% in 2013 and 65.3% in 2014) is significantly higher than in the national workforce (44.4% in 2013, the latest available data). Further, the majority of movement is confined within agencies, indicating there are untapped opportunities for movement between agencies and other sectors.

This year's People Matter survey introduced new questions on mobility between agencies. The results show most employees (90%) believed they had the skills to work in other agencies, and a majority (58%) of employees indicated a desire to work in other agencies, although a limiting factor for mobility appears to be that only 48% were aware of opportunities to work in other agencies.

Regarding the intention to stay, responses indicated a large proportion of those employees planning to leave their current organisation were considering moving to another agency. When asked 'If you are thinking about leaving the NSW public sector, what factors would motivate you to stay?', the second most frequently selected motivator across genders and age groups was improved career opportunities (see Figure 24).

Figure 24: Employee motivation for working in another agency

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Reforming mobility

Employee movement within and between agencies can benefit agencies and individuals. It enables the expeditious movement of staff to priority areas. It can strengthen links and partnerships between agencies and other sectors, and enhance awareness of whole-ofgovernment priorities. Also, employees gain opportunities for personal and professional growth that can enhance their career opportunities.

The GSE Act promotes mobility in the public service by employing people in classifications of work or bands, rather than narrowly defined positions, and assigning them to suitable roles. Non-executives may be assigned to other roles within the classification and agency. Senior executives may be assigned to other roles within the same band across the public service. The GSE Act also promotes mobility between agencies and between sectors, through transfer and secondment provisions.

There can be disadvantages in mobility, including potential loss of experienced employees, but available research suggests the benefits offset the disadvantages and that agencies can achieve reductions in turnover costs and productivity gains by embracing employee mobility.20

The Agency survey shows that selected agencies have taken early steps to improve mobility – 29% of agencies reported having a documented plan for workforce mobility, informed by the new GSE Act, with 7% of agencies reporting that their implementation is above a basic level.

Planned initiatives

Mobility will be facilitated by a number of initiatives to improve consistency in workforce management practices across the sector. These include:

  • implementation of the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework, which provides a shared language to describe capabilities required in all roles, with accompanying tools and resources
  • development of specific capability sets for occupations common to the sector
  • capability-based recruitment reforms and the forthcoming creation of a recruitment pool for quick-filling vacancies and supporting sector-wide movements within and beyond agencies
  • evaluation of the impact of the above initiatives as well as mobility.

A Remuneration Review is also being conducted to assess consistency in remuneration for work of similar value.


20.PSC Advisory Board (2014), Doing things differently: Raising productivity, improving service and enhancing collaboration across the NSW Public Sector

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