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
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
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.
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
- 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
- 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