Structural reform of Public Service leadership is now complete
Leadership restructuring was a cornerstone of the GSE Act reform process, reducing the public service executive to four layers and eliminating hiring in the Senior Officer classification. Senior executive numbers reduced to 1,938 from 2,178 (as shown in ‘At a Glance’) and executive employment structures reduced to just one.
By 31 October 2017, executive arrangements in the Health Service, Transport Service and Police Force were harmonised with those in the Public Service.
The reform has also resulted in an influx of leaders new to the sector. Data from a 2017 leadership survey indicates that since 2011:
- 31% of executives had recent experience in the private sector
- 14% of executives had recent experience in other public sectors
- 4% of executives had recent experience in local government.
The senior executive group meets regularly at multiple levels to share best-practice ideas, compare achievements and learn from their senior peers.
Leadership Academy nurtures future leadership potential
The Leadership Academy was introduced in 2015 to provide structured, needs-based development at key career transition points for high-performing and high-potential leaders. Data from its pilot program evaluation shows that significant capability improvements were reported by managers and colleagues in the key areas of managing people and inspiring direction and purpose. While the sample size was small, 93% of respondents said their leadership capability improved and 41% of participants had secured higher-level roles.
The Leadership Academy shows the results that can be achieved in core people management areas. It has contributed to a culture of stewardship by fostering participant commitment to making a broader public sector contribution beyond their role alone, through a focus on succession planning, the continuous improvement of their agencies and the people around them. The work of the Academy is complemented in the broader leadership cohort through a combination of mobility, secondments and development programs. Agencies are focused on building individual capability in developing and communicating a vision, and fostering a culture and strategy to achieve that vision. The next phase of work for the sector can now focus on a broader-still development of leadership talent at agency level.
Employee perceptions of all leaders indicate ongoing challenges
Employee Survey scores indicate that the work done to reform leadership and build executive capability across the sector has yet to flow through to employee perceptions. There is a gap between the confidence leaders express in their work and their organisation, and employees’ perceptions of senior leaders.
Figure 4.1: Employee perceptions of senior leaders, 2016–17
Source: People Matter Employee Survey
* Responses included in the Senior Leadership Index.
The stability of scores at the sector level masks some substantial changes within agency scores, with most agencies showing improvement. Large positive or negative movements generally occur in smaller agencies where changes to one or two key personnel can materially shift the results between surveys.
Figure 4.2: Average change in senior leadership scores, by agency, 2016–17
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|Health Care Complaints Commission
|State Transit Authority
|Office of the Children's Guardian
|Independent Commission Against Corruption
|Cancer Institute NSW
|Southern NSW Local Health District
|Institute of Sport
|Agency for Clinical Innovation
|NSW Electoral Commission
|Police Integrity Commission
|Library Council of NSW
|Public Service Commission
|Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network
|Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
|Office of Environment and Heritage
|Office of Local Government
|Fire and Rescue NSW
|Central Coast Local Health District
|Environment Protection Authority
|South Western Sydney Local Health District
|Ambulance Service of NSW
|Hunter New England Local Health District
|Mental Health Commission
|Far West Local Health District
|Murrumbidgee Local Health District
|Legal Aid Commission
|Department of Family and Community Services
|Sydney Children's Hospital Network
|Independent Pricing And Regulatory Tribunal
|Sydney Local Health District
|Health Education and Training Institute
|Roads and Maritime Services
|Office of the NSW Rural Fire Service
|Bureau of Health Information
|Western Sydney Local Health District
|Mid North Coast Local Health District
|Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District
|NSW Police Force
|Northern NSW Local Health District
|Northern Sydney Local Health District
|Health Professional Councils Authority
|Transport for NSW
|Western NSW Local Health District
|Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
|Crown Solicitor's Office
|Health System Support Group
|Local Land Services
|Department of Premier and Cabinet
|Department of Education
|South Eastern Sydney Local Health District
|Australian Museum Trust
|Sydney Cricket & Sports Ground Trust
|Department of Industry
|Parliamentary Counselâ€™s Office
|Parliament of NSW
|Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District
|Insurance & Care NSW
|Sydney Opera House Trust
|Department of Justice
|Barangaroo Delivery Authority
|Office of Sport
|Department of Finance, Services & Innovation
|NSW Crime Commission
|Department of Planning & Environment
|Ministry of Health
|Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards
|SAS Trustee Corporation
|Information and Privacy Commission
|Natural Resources Commission
|Health Infrastructure NSW
|Office of the NSW State Emergency Service
|Art Gallery of NSW Trust
|Clinical Excellence Commission
Source: People Matter Employee Survey
Note: The green line indicates the sector-level average increase.
Variance in leadership scores from the Employee Survey may indicate an issue of proximity. Across the 2016 and 2017 surveys, there was a trend of employees being most likely to agree with questions relating to their teams, then their managers, then their senior leaders. The fact that a large number of respondents chose ‘neither agree nor disagree’ for questions relating to their leaders may indicate that employees do not interact with their leaders enough to feel they can agree or disagree with the questions asked. However, the areas in which employees scores are lowest relate to two-way communication, providing clear direction and modelling the values espoused. This indicates that more employees need to hear directly from their leaders on the future direction of their organisation.
It may also reflect the relative visibility of leaders. Day-to-day demands can make it hard to talk to employees regularly. However, if most employees report that they do not think their leaders provide clear direction on the future of the organisation or keep employees informed about what is going on, it will make achieving organisational strategy much harder.
Case study: How leadership visibility and behaviour improves perceptions of culture
The 2016 Employee Survey results provoked a deeper consideration in the Department of Planning and Environment of how best to increase engagement, performance and productivity. Senior leader scores were identified as an area for improvement.
A program of work to improve organisational culture was developed across every division. Leaders were given additional detailed data insights to build understanding and trust in their Employee Survey results. They were then supported across all stages to develop their capability to:
1. build a story that described the division’s future direction and how each employee was connected to it, and develop a cultural road map of the values-based actions required
2. reflect on their actions, messages and rituals, and how an employee might feel as part of their division. This might be as simple as ensuring they always greeted employees they knew in the corridor, or a deeper consideration of which actions and behaviours they recognised, rewarded and therefore encouraged. Authentic leadership, where leaders demonstrated the values through their messages and behaviour, was a core component
3. follow a communications strategy to build their preferred divisional culture. This included a calendar of events leaders would participate in across the department
4. provide in-house coaching and support for existing and incoming leaders based on an assessment of their emotional intelligence and occupational personality preferences. This support was aligned with the leadership capabilities in the NSW Public Sector Core Capability Framework.
These were expanded into seven focus areas: senior management as the primary theme, accountability, collaboration, authentic leadership, diversity, respectful and inclusive workplaces, and recruitment.
The 2017 Employee results indicate that the program has achieved significant improvements in 10 months. Scores increased by an average of 9.0% against the sector average increase of 0.9% for the same questions.
Figure 4.3: Employee perceptions of senior managers, Department of Planning and Environment, 2016–17
Source: People Matter Employee Survey
The focus areas will now shift to building authentic senior management and aligning this with a broader push towards building deeper customer capability. All other areas remain an ongoing focus, with employee data continuing to be analysed as part of an ongoing monitoring approach.
Last year’s report was entitled Leadership matters; it matters in setting direction, shaping culture, executing strategy and driving results. However, the fundamental changes made to the Public Service executive structures and the influx of people with different experiences has not yet made an impact on employee perceptions. The improvement achieved at the Department of Planning and Environment shows what a focused capability-building program can achieve in developing a shared vision, becoming more visible and role modelling the values through messages, interaction and communication. Leaders are encouraged to continue to seek out examples of best practice in improving employee perceptions in these key areas, and leverage these for their own initiatives.