This is the sixth State of the NSW Public Sector Report published since the office of the Public Service Commissioner was created in 2011. As my fixed, seven-year term as Commissioner must finish no later than 31 October 2018, this will be the last report handed down by me. So, I am extremely pleased that the information presented in this year’s report tells a story of continued and significant progress in most key aspects of the transformation of workforce management across the public sector. Our story underscores the value that the work of the Public Service Commission (PSC) brings to the sector and, in turn, to the NSW community.

The past year was a milestone year for the sector in the reform and redesign of executive structures. The three-year implementation of Public Service senior executive structures was completed in February 2017. As promised, this delivered: a reduction in senior leadership layers in organisations, a simpler broad-banded structure for senior executive roles and a reduction in the number of senior executive roles and improvements in spans of control within agencies. In January this year, executive arrangements in the Health Service were harmonised with those in the Public Service, with the Transport Service making similar changes in July this year. New and similar arrangements for NSW Police came into effect in October this year.

For the first time, the design of executive roles across the entire Government Sector is consistent, allowing for development and mobility pathways to be better designed and executed and, importantly, providing a basis for leaders in the Government Sector to see themselves as part of a sector-wide leadership community: this is important as a basis for good collaboration between agencies, and it is critical to attracting and retaining talented people.

Driving improved diversity across the public sector is also an area of strong progress. The data presented in this report shows us that the focussed efforts of the sector have resulted in a changed quantum and pattern of representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the sector. Aboriginal people are more represented across the range of classifications and across more agencies. There is good progress towards the Premier’s Priority target of doubling the number of Aboriginal senior leaders by 2025.

There has been equally strong progress towards the target of gender equity among senior leaders by 2025, with the current level of representation hitting 37 per cent this year. The gender pay gap is now almost closed, with significant and strong improvement since 2007.

According to the People Matter Employee Survey, about 4 per cent of our workforce identify as LGBTI, and generally report a positive experience of inclusion and opportunity in the public sector.

Significantly less positive is the sector’s performance in respect of people with a disability. Representation continues to decline and the experience of the workplace is quite negative for many people with a disability. However, the same focus and data-driven effort that we have brought to other aspects of diversity is being directed to turning the sector’s performance around on disability.

The Disability Employment Advisory Committee (DEAC) has been jointly chaired by the Secretary, Family & Community Services and myself. It includes peak bodies from the disability sector and leading experts in the field. It has now agreed an approach that will underpin a work program for the sector; progress will be measured against a target for levels of representation and also against measurable improvements in the experience of people with disability in the sector. I believe that the collaborative effort and thoughtful deliberations by the DEAC has set us up for success in doing significantly better in this key area.

We continue to make really good progress in driving down the prevalence of bullying across the sector. When the PSC called this issue out in 2012 after the first results were released, we embarked on a journey with the sector and with other key players, such as public sector unions, to come up with an approach to addressing this issue that put the accountability for change squarely on agencies, and used contemporary thinking to underpin action. The work of the Public Service Commissioner’s Roundtable, the resultant Positive and Productive Workplaces Guideline and the ‘Respect.Reflect.Reset’ campaign – combined with now annual measurement of what is happening in workplaces – have all contributed to the statistically significant reductions in bullying that we are now seeing.

Generally, this year’s report shows a mix of some improvement and some areas of under-performance in key aspects of workforce management practice:

  • the capability framework is better utilised, but recruitment practice remains as an area that requires attention, both from the employee’s perspective and in the level of practice expected by the PSC;
  • the framework for mobility is robust, its utilisation below senior executive level is largely in a very immature state;
  • performance management is improving each year, from the employee’s perspective and in its broad alignment to the PSC framework;
  • there are some positive trends in some aspects of organisational culture, but still a need to improve the connection between senior leaders and their teams;
  • workforce analytics are more available and are being better utilised but the full benefits are yet to be realised.

Over the next year, the PSC will continue to support the sector to consolidate where it is already doing well and to improve in areas of relative underperformance

I will issue a Government Sector workforce flexibility strategy before the end of this year. This will assist agencies to become more responsive to employees’ needs and will greatly assist in supporting the achievement of workforce diversity targets.

I am concerned to optimise the sector’s use of the recruitment framework embedded in the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 (NSW) arrangements. To this end, I am about to initiate a capability review of recruitment practice in the sector. This will provide the basis for additional guidance to the sector, and may result in modifications to the GSE Rules to ensure that agencies are applying the framework in a way that drives capability uplift through a process that is well understood and well respected by candidates and existing employees alike.

We can already see the benefits of where the process is applied well: the whole-of-sector graduate intake is managed through a bulk recruitment process that uses all of the features of the recruitment framework. It delivers high-quality employees who are highly suited to the roles they are placed into through a process that has a high level of participant satisfaction and is well regarded by agencies.

The PSC is supporting the sector’s already improved approach to performance management with some modifications to the framework and new guidance material. A framework for workforce planning is currently in draft form and subject to consultation with the sector.

Six years ago the picture that Dr Kerry Schott painted (in the Commission of Audit) of the sector’s approach to workforce management was one where our key asset – our people – was not at the centre of our agencies’ approaches to managing their respective businesses. We have made very significant progress in turning that situation around and we’ve done that in a large and very complex system. A system that remains the country’s largest employer and that touches the lives of people of NSW in almost every way imaginable.

These changes have happened without disrupting service delivery largely because the PSC has not been doing this work alone. There is genuine collaboration at the Secretaries Board in leading workforce reform and there is deep engagement with the sector at multiple levels in designing and executing specific initiatives.

Since this is my last report as Commissioner, I want to specifically acknowledge the strong support from the two Secretaries of Department of Premier & Cabinet that I have worked with – Mr Chris Eccles AM and Mr Blair Comley PSM. Chris’ support during the establishment phase of the PSC was instrumental in our early successes, and Blair’s work with me to establish a new approach to developing leadership capability in the sector (among other things) is delivering, and will continue to deliver, real benefits to the sector and the people it serves.

I also feel blessed to have had a great Board to work with, under the Chairmanship of Professor Peter Shergold AC, and a team of talented and hard-working staff who have brought creativity and enthusiasm to the task at hand.

Together we have made very good progress. The job now is to keep building on that to ensure that the people of NSW have the best possible public sector supporting their lives

Graeme Head

Graeme Head
Public Service Commissioner
November 2017