I am pleased to deliver the State of the NSW Public Sector Report for
2018. It is the seventh in the series and my first as NSW Public Service
Commissioner since taking over from inaugural Commissioner Graeme
Head in May this year. I have spent much of the last six months listening,
learning and consulting widely to gain an understanding of the sector’s
workforce issues. This has included meeting with senior officials,
secretaries, deputy secretaries and human resources leaders, right
through to the frontline staff members who deliver vital services each
day to the people of NSW.
My initial impressions are very positive. The sector
is comprised of high-performing, motivated
individuals, dedicated to delivering enduring
outcomes for the community. This report
highlights some of our strengths and successes
over the last 12 months. It also identifies challenges
and areas for improvement in the year ahead.
The NSW public sector is Australia’s largest
employer. It employs about 396,000 people,
or 329,000 full-time equivalents across
10 clusters. Its sheer size and complexity
underscore the importance of sound
workforce management practices.
A total of 170,832 employees responded to the
2018 People Matter Employee Survey, equating
to a response rate of more than 50% for the first
time. The feedback from our people is invaluable.
Employee engagement remains relatively strong
and steady, and scores on most survey questions
We also saw the satisfaction of consumers and
businesses with government services achieve
a steady state in the last year, following a positive
uplift in 2016.
The sector grew this year for the first time since
2012. Most of this growth came from the hiring
of teachers, police officers, and nurses and other
healthcare professionals. The number of Public
Service senior executives also increased in 2018,
and while much of this was due to the state’s
extensive infrastructure development and
expanded service delivery to citizens, we will
need to closely monitor the size of this cohort
in coming years.
Progress continues to be made as we strive to
meet the Premier’s Priority to achieve greater
diversity in the sector. Particularly strong gains
have occurred in relation to Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander employment. In 2018, there
were 87 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
senior leaders in the sector, an increase of 30
compared to 2014. Based on the current rate
of change, we will likely achieve the Premier’s
Priority target of 114 Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander senior leaders by 2025 ahead of time.
The Premier’s Priority target of women holding
50% of senior leadership roles in the government
sector by 2025 is also seeing progress. In 2018,
representation reached 38.7%, an increase of 1.3
percentage points on the previous year. While this
is encouraging, the sector is at risk of not reaching
the overall target if it does not accelerate its year-on-year improvements. This is high on my agenda
as Commissioner and will require continued
leadership, focus and action from myself, the
Secretaries Board, and other sector leaders.
We have seen the gender pay gap increase
from $252 in 2017 to $949 in 2018. This was
the first widening of the gap since 2015 and
relates to changes to the gender balance in
lower paid roles, with fewer male than female
employees in these positions. While this trend
is concerning, over the same period, the
number of females in higher salary ranges
also increased, however this increase was
not sufficient to fully offset the impact of the
gender balance changes in lower paid roles.
The representation of people with disability
within the NSW public sector reached a low
of 2.5% in 2018. In January 2018, the Public
Service Commission (PSC) and the Department
of Family and Community Services (FACS)
released Jobs for people with disability: A plan
for the NSW public sector, which set a sector-wide
target of 5.6% representation by 2027. In
partnership with FACS, I intend to lead a focused
effort to reverse recent trends and improve
employment experiences and outcomes for
people with disability across the sector.
Improving recruitment is vital. About half a million
people applied for roles with the NSW public
sector in 2018, and more than 22,500 of them
were appointed. Prior to his departure, the then
Commissioner initiated a review of recruitment
practices, conducted by Lynelle Briggs AO.
The findings were presented to me in June and
are summarised in Chapter 2. Work is already
underway to address key recommendations.
These include fostering a workforce for the
future, improving the use of digital technology
and data, driving more robust decision-making,
enabling greater mobility and providing a
more positive experience for job applicants.
We saw employee perceptions of performance
management improve again this year, with two-thirds
of agencies improving their scores in this
area. It is important we maintain momentum
and better link employee performance to
the outcomes the sector is striving for.
Bullying remains a concern for the sector.
While the rate has reduced considerably since
2012, more work is needed to drive positive
and productive behaviours throughout
the sector. The PSC will be exploring ways
to build upon the Respect. Reflect. Reset.
campaign of 2017 at a more local level.
Leadership has been a key focus area across the
sector for the last few years, and this seems to
be paying off with employee perceptions of the
qualities of senior leaders continuing to improve.
The Leadership Academy, introduced in 2015, is
producing high quality leaders, with almost 300
people having completed a program since its
inception. The PSC has commenced a review of
the Academy’s progress, and its potential for
further evolution and effectiveness
The NSW Government Graduate Program,
introduced in 2016, has seen 300 graduates
join the sector, and we are expecting close to
200 participants in 2019. It was pleasing to
see the program ranked 12th in the Australian
Financial Review’s Top 100 Graduate Employer
2018 list and to win the Fusion Award for most
popular Government and Defence employer.
Flexible working is an area where the sector
is also showing momentum. In December 2017,
the PSC published a framework to help agencies
implement the Premier’s commitment to make
all government sector roles flexible on an ‘if
not, why not?’ basis by 2019. Flexible working
can help solve business challenges, and is a
proven driver of engagement for our people.
In preparing this report, I have thought deeply
about the issues facing the NSW public sector.
Part of my role, and that of the PSC, is to
identify and share good practices to improve
the experience of the sector’s customers and
employees. However, I am very much aware that
progress is not always linear or uniform. There are
challenges ahead, but the PSC will work with the
sector to ensure that it is prepared for the future.
I look forward to continuing to build collaborative
and productive relationships with the sector, with
the aim of developing a world-class workforce
capable of delivering the very best outcomes
for the people of NSW.
Public Service Commissioner