In this section:

Strong and effective leadership is key to high performance. The last year has been particularly challenging for our leaders in a complex operating environment.

Despite public sector workforce participation remaining relatively steady over the last five years, we have moved away from traditional administrative jobs to more professional roles. Due to the nature of the work, employees are remaining in the sector longer, requiring an adjustment in cultures to accommodate an increasingly intergenerational workforce. Our next generation of leaders will play a crucial role in shaping this agenda.

'The jobs of tomorrow will require a broad set of transferable skills, such as creativity, problem solving and critical thinking, while traditional blue-collar jobs are becoming increasingly technologically focused'1

To ensure the workforce has the right skills in a changing context, our leaders must maintain a focus on developing flexible and responsive people who are willing to adapt as required. This can be achieved by reviewing and renewing the way we recruit, manage, deploy and develop our people. The shifting economy has broadened the scope of talent we attract, including those who may not have previously considered a career in the public sector.

The size of the public sector workforce will not always keep pace with population growth. Harnessing untapped expertise and expanding current competencies is essential to building the capability of our workforce, improving productivity and producing better outcomes for the Western Australian community.

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What does our public sector workforce look like?

The public sector is made up of dedicated and determined people who want to make a difference to our community. As shown below, most employees occupy front-line, service delivery roles relating to education, health and welfare.

Figure 1. Workforce snapshot by occupational group

Figure 1

Occupational group Number (FTE) Median age (years) Median income ($ ,000) Personal leave (days per year) Median tenure (years) Separation rate (% per year)


21 021






Nurses and midwives














Medical practitioners







Fire and emergency workers







Prison officers







Health and welfare support workers







Bus and train drivers







Carers and aides

10 278







50 958






The public sector workforce at a glance

There are 107 809 Total FTE of which: 27.4% are men and 72.6% are women; 2.0% are people with disability; 2.7% are Aboriginal Australians; 12.6% are people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; 23.8% working in regional WA and 76.1% work in the Perth metro area. Age profile: 4.0% are 24 and under; 42.9% are 25-44 years; 53.0% are 45 and over; the median age is 46.1 years.

Employee work location

Location FTE % change since 2012

Perth metropolitan

82 046

-0.4 (down)



-9.0 (down)



-1.7 (down)

Great Southern


-12.1 (down)



6.3 (up)

Mid West


-1.6 (down)



14.5 (up)



-2.0 (down)

South West


14.6 (up)



-6.2 (down)

Note: Numbers in this graphic may not add to 100% due to excluded data and/or rounding.

A stable workforce

The public sector workforce has been relatively stable over the past five years, not seeing the expansions and contractions felt by other sectors. As the figure below shows, between 2012 and 2016 the workforce only increased by 0.2% from 107 579 to 107 809 full-time equivalent (FTE). Over a similar period, the Western Australian population increased by 7.2% from 2.4 million to 2.6 million2.

Figure 2. Total FTE change in public sector workforce since 2012

Figure 2

2012: 107 579, 2013: 110 544, 2014: 108 999, 2015: 109 019, 2016: 107 809

A growing regional workforce

Our employees are based in all corners of the State, as well as overseas. There are currently 60 employees working in locations including Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

The map on page 14 shows the regions that have had increases or decreases in service delivery based on the number of FTE that have been allocated to those areas. Increases that have occurred can be attributed to a growth in front-line services in the education and training cluster, and the health and human services cluster.

A diverse workforce

We acknowledge services will be more effective if they are delivered by a workforce representative of the community. The graphic on the next page shows the percentage change in representation of key diversity groups across public authorities since 2012. Despite the sectors having varying degrees of success in attracting, retaining and developing diversity in recent years, close to three-quarters (72%) of public sector employees surveyed believe their agency is committed to creating a diverse workforce.

Diversity at a glance

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Aboriginal Australians

Public sector






Local government






Public universities






Other authorities






People with disability

Public sector






Local government






Public universities






Other authorities






Women in management

Public sector






Local government






Public universities






Other authorities






People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Public sector






Local government






Public universities






Other authorities






People 24 years and under

Public sector






Local government






Public universities






Other authorities






People 45 years and over

Public sector






Local government






Public universities






Other authorities






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Who are our public sector leaders?

Senior executives

Public sector employees with responsibility for high level decision making, policy advice and oversight are referred to in this chapter as 'senior executives'. While this definition includes heads of agencies, we acknowledge that leadership occurs at every level.

The number of senior executives in agencies has remained steady over the past four years. The graphic on page 18 shows most of our senior executives are based in the metropolitan area, increasing the challenge of leadership over large geographical distances. The Commission acknowledges the diversity of our senior executives has changed only slightly over the last five years, and is committed to working with public authorities to increase representation across the diversity groups.

Gender equity in leadership

Since 2012, the representation of women in senior roles in agencies has increased by 6.2%. Where gender is recorded and reported for government boards and committees, 40% of members are women.

The Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC) released the 2015 Women's Report Card3 which reported data about Western Australian women across leadership, economic independence, safety and justice, and health and wellbeing dimensions. The report card found that while the representation of women in leadership roles in local government increased between 2003 and 2015, representation declined with seniority, and remains low at senior levels.

Agencies reported implementing a number of strategies to improve the representation of women in senior roles, including offering flexible working arrangements, mentoring programs, unconscious bias awareness training and using workforce data to inform workforce planning policies and procedures.

Figure 3. Gender balance among senior executives in public sector agencies

Figure 3

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 change since 2012







6.2% (up)







-6.2% (down)

Senior executives at a glance

There are 500 senior executives in the public sector of which: 66.2% are men and 33.8% are women; 1.4% are people with disability; 1.0% are Aboriginal Australians; 8.6% are people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; 2.6% working in regional WA and 97.4% work in the Perth metro area. Age profile: 11.6%% are 25-44 years; 88.4% are 45 and over; the median age is 54.0 years.

Diversity profile (% of senior executives)

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 % change since 2012

People with disability






-2.8% (down)

Aboriginal Australians






0.4 (up)

People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds






0.4 (up)

Leadership development

Leadership development is best managed strategically4. With an aging senior leadership cohort, agencies must turn their attention to developing the capability of future leaders. Long-term leadership capability aims to ensure agencies are well positioned to resist external pressures into the future.

Leadership development often occurs at the local level and efforts have been centred on growing leaders who can deliver effectively in the context of their own agencies. While this capability development has traditionally been 'fit for purpose', it has resulted in variations in the way leadership and talent is identified, managed, developed and deployed. These variations have somewhat limited the ability to make consistent comparisons and targeted decisions about the succession, development and investment of people across the sector.

In response to this, the Commission has worked in partnership with the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) to build a strong baseline of skills and capability among our senior executives. Over the last 10 years, 28 agency leaders have participated in three-day intensive CEO forums to strengthen their strategic management techniques.

Importantly, 25 senior executives from 20 agencies have undertaken the Executive Fellows Program. This intensive, three week residential program, has brought together senior executives, leading academics and experienced practitioners from Australia, New Zealand and other overseas countries. The program enhances the core relationship, leadership and management skills needed to meet the challenges of leading in the public sector.

Similarly, 44 managers and senior executives from 27 agencies have undertaken the Executive Master of Public Administration qualification. This two year, part-time post graduate qualification has prepared emerging public sector leaders with required policy and public administration skills.

All participants of ANZSOG programs automatically become part of its alumni program. The program sustains professional networks and the alumni are a resource to call on when facing challenging agendas, offering cross-jurisdictional and inter-departmental perspectives that can assist with solutions.

We have built a cohort of more than 95 senior executives who have a solid foundation of core competencies to lead their agencies.


Public sector leadership

The Independent Public School Principals' Fellowship Program is specifically for outstanding principals of Independent Public Schools who are willing to trial, enhance, support and advocate for policies, systems, programs and processes to provide an even better education for students. The program is part of a comprehensive school leadership strategy for the system.

The Department of Education has partnered with Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, tapping into an innovative and collaborative community of exceptional faculty, students and alumni dedicated to the comprehensive study and effective practice of education.

Twenty specially selected principals took part in an intensive learning program in Boston in July 2016. They were provided with an overview of strategic leadership, from insights into vision and purpose through to developing positive cultures, engaging families, managing change and identifying high quality classroom practice.

'Harvard is interested in our Independent Public Schools initiative and broader school autonomy, as well as the alignment of our fellowship program with leadership development and school improvement,' said Sharyn O'Neill, Director General, Department of Education.

The Harvard component of the program is complemented by a short-term change project, executive mentoring and system reform work. The most important outcome of the program is for principals to be equipped to advance their leadership skills for the benefit of their schools and contribute to leadership and reform across the system.

'The opportunity to engage in discussions with school leaders and educators from around the world was a unique experience,' said Lou Zeid, Principal, Carramar Primary School.

'Returning from Harvard and participating in the executive mentoring component and the additional Immunity to Change online course has allowed me to act on and continue my learning and development as a leader,' he said. Another 20 outstanding principals will be selected for the program in 2017–2018.

Perceptions of leaders at a glance

Public sector employees think their leaders:

Are ethical

  • 85% agreed their immediate supervisor demonstrates honesty and integrity
  • 84% agreed their agency actively encourages ethical behaviour
  • 69% agreed senior managers lead by example in ethical behaviour

Communication effectively

  • 79% agreed their immediate supervisor makes use of appropriate communication
  • 75% agreed their immediate supervisor effectively communicates with them about business risks impacting the work group
  • 63% agreed communication between senior managers and employees is effective

Public sector leaders say they are:

Satisfied in their role

  • 90% are satisfied with their job overall
  • 85% agreed that they are proud to work for the WA public sector
  • 81% are satisfied with their agency as an employer

Empowered to make challenging decisions

  • 6% agreed their input is adequately sought and considered about decisions directly affecting them
  • 85% agreed they are sufficiently challenged by their work
  • 82% agreed they have the authority to do their job effectively

This contributes to high levels of:

  • Innovation: 86% of leaders agreed their workgroup had implemented innovations in the last 12 months
  • Customer service: 93% of leaders agreed their workgroup is committed to providing excellent customer service
  • Productivity: 91% of leaders agreed their work group achieves a high level of productivity

Aspiring leaders at a glance

There are 15440 aspiring leaders of which: 43.7% are men and 56.3% are women; 2.6% are people with disability; 2.5% are Aboriginal Australians; 14.5% are people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; 13.3% working in regional WA and 86.7% work in the Perth metro area. Age profile: 4.0% are 24 and under; 45.7% are 25-44 years; 54.0% are 45 and over; the median age is 46.3 years.

Note: Numbers in this graphic may not add to 100% due to excluded data and/or rounding.

Developing our aspiring leaders

Developing aspiring leaders requires a lift in our collective ability to identify, manage and develop talent. Senior executives and people managers, such as Chief human resource officers (CHROs), are best placed to undertake this task.

For the purposes of this report, aspiring leaders refer to public sector employees employed in positions at Public Service and Government Officers General Agreement 2014 levels 5 to 8. The graphic above shows the demographics of the pool of potential talent that is our next generation of public sector leaders.

Over the coming year, the Commission encourages agencies to consider the following as they move forward in their leadership development efforts:

  • focusing effort on capabilities that are most critical to performance
  • identifying and developing early-in-career leaders as much as senior leaders
  • valuing both horizontal and vertical leadership progression
  • taking a team, as well as an individual, view of leadership capability
  • addressing systemic barriers to the employment and progression of leaders and applying consistency where it makes the most sense to do so.


From graduate to CEO

By Anne Nolan, Director General, Department of Finance

Anne has been the Director General of the Department of Finance since 2011, after being fortunate enough to work in a range of senior roles, in a number of government departments. Throughout her career, Anne has been driven by a:

  • passion for questioning and continually seeking to always do things better
  • strong interest in leading and shaping good public policy
  • belief in the importance of excellence in the public sector.

These principles had their genesis in the early days of Anne's career as a graduate in the Department of Treasury, and were reinforced after taking time to travel early in her career, to gain more 'life experience' following her completion of the public sector graduate program. 'Travelling helped me realise how fortunate I was to be Western Australian, and better understand the impact that public policy can have on the community. After travelling, I returned to the public sector reinvigorated and I was ready to 'think outside the square' when it came to crafting meaningful policy.'

Anne applied this approach to great effect during her career in a range of agencies. 'A wide exposure to the different issues and challenges agencies face has given me so many opportunities to develop invaluable experience that I've been able to apply to a broad range of situations.'

As a former graduate, Anne has always considered graduate programs as an important way to develop people and excellence in the public sector. The Department of Finance's graduate program encourages graduates to feel empowered to follow their professional curiosity and demonstrate innovative thinking, teamwork and passion when it comes to providing solutions that benefit the community. 'These are the qualities that define the leaders of tomorrow.'

It is this philosophy of development which Anne now instils in new recruits starting out in the Department of Finance graduate program. 'I've always sought to pursue opportunities and projects from which I can learn and professionally grow, and we've framed the content of our graduate program to reflect this'.

Reflecting on what career advice to give others, Anne said 'You never know where your career may take you in the public sector, so I encourage staff to follow their passion and pursue opportunities to learn and develop, but most importantly – enjoy what you do.'


Transforming Child Protection and Family Support

By Ms Emma White, Director General, Department for Child Protection and Family Support

Explain your understanding of the word 'transforming'?

Transforming describes an all-encompassing change process. Developing the reform projects and embarking on their implementation has required discipline and determination by everyone involved to (re)discover what's working well, what's not, and to nurture a vision that takes us to what is achievable.

Tell us about your project.

The Child Protection and secondary Family Support system in Western Australia has gone from strength to strength following the Ford Review in 2007. The review confirmed that despite progress, we are not getting outcomes for vulnerable families, children and young people. The urgent need to turn the tide on this trajectory has underpinned every aspect of our reforms.

What role did communication and collaboration play in the project?

The multiplicity of needs and challenges experienced by families and children in contact with the child protection system demands a coordinated, targeted and accountable response between government departments, designed and delivered in partnership with the community services sector and service users. The only way to achieve this is through open communication and collaboration with service users, staff and leadership at the strategic and operational levels.

How did good governance and integrity factor into the project?

We have implemented, reviewed and changed our governance arrangements over the life of the reform projects. The establishment of a Strategy and Reform Unit has more recently assisted us to continue to progress and deliver this work.

What are three key things you learned from the project?

  1. Honour and support our staff that do such difficult work of high public value
  2. Communicate a clear vision and its relevance frequently and widely
  3. Establish a credible and accessible evidence base and communicate the rationale for decisions at every step of the project.

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How are we transforming our workforce?

Diversity and inclusion

Given there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to managing the workforce, leaders should be contemporary and flexible in their approach. Recently, the Commission has encouraged public authorities to revisit the composition of their workforces.


Diversity and inclusion

Why was the work commenced?

In mid-2015 the whole-of-sector Aboriginal and disability employment strategies concluded. In evaluating the previous strategies' outcomes, and commencing consultation on the new strategies, it was clear more work needed to be done to make the workforce more representative of our community. Changing the status quo had to be addressed, while ensuring the new strategies were practical and achievable for all public authorities.

How has the approach to diversity and inclusion across the sectors changed?

The Commissioner and the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment (DEOPE) commenced discussions with key stakeholders on how to provide clear, simple messages to public authorities on common workforce and diversity issues.

This culminated in the launch of Time for action: Diversity and inclusion in public employment and See my abilities: An employment strategy for people with disability in June 2016.

How is the Commission supporting public authorities?

The Commission's Advisory Board will lead the way by examining contemporary research, statistics and best practice to monitor if public authorities are on track or if more work needs to be done. In collaboration with other leaders, they will also work to bring prominence to diversity and inclusion in their interactions with public authorities, the private sector, not-for-profit organisations and prospective employees.

Unconscious bias

Why was the work commenced?

The Hon. Liza Harvey, MLA, in her capacity as Minister for Women's Interests, requested the Commission commence a body of work around raising awareness of unconscious bias in public authorities, and the role it can play in organisational practices and procedures, particularly in relation to recruitment. This work is crucial as public authorities look to improve diversity representation and workplace inclusiveness.

What is bias?

Bias is an unavoidable part of being human. Everyone creates assumptions based on their past experiences, cultural exposure and context. In a diversity context, bias reflects predetermined views about individuals and groups based on certain characteristics. These views can directly influence our behaviour (conscious bias) or operate subconsciously, going unacknowledged by the individual (unconscious bias).

What is unconscious bias?

According to the Australian Institute of Management (AIM)5, unconscious bias is the ingrained stereotyping that informs our decision making, but of which we are unaware. Most discrimination results from unconscious stereotyping and cultural biases that do not enter into the decision maker's conscious mind. Intentional, conscious bias accounts for only a fraction of workplace discrimination. The effects of unconscious bias are more subtle, pervasive and difficult to change.

What is the Commission doing to address unconscious bias?

The Commission investigated how to address, manage and reduce the influence of conscious and unconscious bias on individual and organisational practices. The first stage of this process included understanding how public authorities had been raising awareness of unconscious bias in their workplaces, a summary of which is provided over the page.

The Commission then developed and delivered a Managing unconscious bias in the workplace workshop series for CHROs and people managers from across public authorities.

The workshops were attended by representatives from 59 State government agencies, 12 metropolitan local governments and two public universities. To accompany this series, a CHRO community of practice was established to continue embedding unconscious bias awareness tools, strategies and practices into workplaces.

Trialling de-identification

Over the past 12 months, the Commission trialled the de-identification of applications in a number of recruitment processes, ranging from graduate to CEO selection. The trial looked to assess the practicalities of removing applicant names, gender and age identifiers before and during the shortlisting process, and to evaluate the impact on selection panel members' unconscious biases.

In reviewing feedback to the trial, findings indicate that de-identification is beneficial towards raising awareness of unconscious bias during the selection process. People who are made aware of—and acknowledge—their conscious and unconscious biases take a significant step towards considering and altering their behaviour. The Commission is currently researching options around implementing a technical solution within the existing eRecruitment system to support the de-identification process.

What are public authorities doing to address unconscious bias?

Documented and actioned policies and programs to promote discrimination-free employment were implemented by 81% of public sector agencies.

Strategies to review recruitment practices, staff development, promotion and transfer opportunities, and conditions of service, in order to identify any discriminatory practices, were documented and actioned by 68% of agencies.

Other public authorities reported implementing the following strategies to raise awareness of unconscious bias:

  • Educating selection panel members about unconscious bias and embedding this into recruitment and selection training
  • Delivering unconscious bias workshops and training to management and staff
  • Implementing policies to balance the diversity of panel members
  • Incorporating information into existing workforce and diversity policies, training programs and diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Implementing recruitment strategies to attract diverse candidates.


Transforming Vocational Education and Training (VET)

By Dr Ruth Shean, Director General, Department of Training and Workforce Development

Explain your understanding of the word 'transforming'?

My Oxford Dictionary defines transformation as 'a marked change in form, nature or appearance'. If I was asked to edit the next edition, I would suggest adding 'function' as well. What is the point of transformation if function is not to be changed in some way?

Tell us about your project.

The Training Sector Reform Project (TSRP) was built on the work of Professor Margaret Seares' review of the VET sector that called for reframing the architecture of the State's publicly-funded VET sector. In 2015, Training Minister Liza Harvey convened the TSRP to address this question. The project, chaired by Cheryl Edwardes and with the project leadership of John Langoulant, commenced in October 2015. The project report's recommendations included restructuring 11 state training providers into five TAFE colleges. This approach was endorsed by the State Government in February 2016, with progressive implementation to commence six weeks later. A key reform was the reduction of 230 staff so that administration resources could be redirected to training.

How did good governance and integrity factor into the project?

Trust across the five TAFE colleges and the Department was a key ingredient to positive quality progress. We met weekly by phone to ensure consistency of approach to staffing reforms. We shared our challenges and achievements. We also followed up assiduously so that no issue was left unresolved. The honesty with which all people have approached this task has led to both exceptional progress and also significant goodwill - remarkable for a reform which had the capacity to cause upheaval and concern.

What are three key things you learned from the project?

When you work through people's objections one by one, and spend a lot of time focusing on solutions, you are likely to engage them positively on the common goal—regardless of their attitude in the first place. People who may be affected negatively by change will be positive about that change if you engage with them honestly from the beginning. And finally, creating a culture of trust, capacity and optimism will drive through most obstructions.

Data-driven workforce planning

Workforce planning and data-driven decision making is a priority for agencies, with 77% agreeing they routinely use workforce data to inform workforce planning activities. While there is no prescribed workforce planning and management approach, most agencies see the value of having an up-to-date workforce plan, with 90% reporting they are currently reviewing, or have reviewed, their workforce and/or diversity plan in the last two years.

'90% of public sector agencies recently reviewed their workforce plans'

A greater focus on collecting and using workforce data to support strategic and operational planning assists agencies to respond to changing operating environments. A broader range of data about the public sector's workforce and equitable management practices can also help inform key decisions about current and future service delivery.

Constructive performance conversations

Some managers find it challenging to manage performance as staff numbers are reduced and service demands increase. To support managers, agencies are delivering initiatives to improve managerial skills and confidence in providing performance feedback. Over the last year, more than 600 managers participated in the Commission's Management essentials program that builds the capability of managers in a range of management skill areas, including having performance conversations with their employees.

'More public sector employees are participating in constructive performance feedback sessions'

Just over half of all agencies surveyed reported more than 80% of Tier 2 and 3 officers participated in formal performance planning and appraisal. More than three-quarters of the leaders surveyed received performance feedback from their supervisor in the last 12 months, and noted it had helped their performance. CEO performance agreements developed by the responsible authority, CEO and the Commissioner, formalise this process for heads of agencies.

Public sector employees described high levels of satisfaction with their supervisors, with 73% agreeing their immediate supervisor is effective in managing people.

Capability development

To transform the workforce in times of change, new and innovative capability development initiatives are required.

Of the agencies surveyed, 82% indicated leadership development programs are promoted or provided for in their documented human resource plans or strategies. Among surveyed leaders, 78% agreed training and development opportunities were made available over the last year. Further, 76% of leaders agreed there is adequate opportunity to develop the required leadership skills.

Half of all agencies incorporated formal mentoring into capability strategies, with other initiatives including job rotations, shadowing, formal coaching and stretch assignments as development opportunities. More than three-quarters (78%) also reported promoting or providing opportunities for secondments.

Agencies' abilities to measure the return on investment is a key indicator in determining the effectiveness of development programs across the sector. While a number of agencies indicated they evaluated and reviewed formal learning activities, 41% indicated they had no formalised approach to measuring investment in employee development.

Flexibility and agility

With people remaining in the workforce longer and family structures changing, current approaches around flexibility and agility will assume increasing importance.

'The majority of agencies are promoting and providing a range of development opportunities'

More than three-quarters (77%) of employees surveyed agreed they have access to, and use, flexible work arrangements. More than two-thirds (69%) agreed their workplace culture supported them to achieve work/life balance. For maximum benefit, flexible working arrangements should be adopted strategically and supported by a culture that understands the value it brings to the individual and the workforce.

The concept of 'returnment' after long career breaks is growing. Returnships are paid, short-term employment contracts that offer the possibility of a permanent role at the end of the program. Some benefits of returnships include:

  • Access to a relatively untapped talent pool with existing corporate knowledge
  • Focused attention of experienced employees to work on specific projects
  • Capacity to strengthen the capability of key areas.

Graduate future leaders

Each agency makes a decision to develop and implement a graduate program based on the skills, knowledge and abilities required in its workforce. Graduate programs can bring educated, energetic employees into agencies to help build capacity, retain knowledge and address diversity needs.

Since 2012, the Commission has facilitated the Graduate future leaders program for 262 graduates from across a number of agencies. The program has developed graduates by providing a well-rounded understanding of working for and across government. In 2016, 45 graduates, with an average age of 25.4 years, participated in the program.

Leadership success profiling

The Commission is currently developing a CEO success profile that will identify and measure job-role characteristics, including relevant work experience, knowledge and skills, personal attributes, competencies and motivations needed for successful senior executive leadership.

The success profile will be used to promote a shared understanding between agencies, CEOs and the Commissioner around contemporary leadership role expectations, accountabilities and experiences critical to individuals and the agency. The profile will be used as a foundation tool to assist with the performance management of CEOs through performance agreements.


Over the past year public sector agencies have implemented initiatives to build leadership potential, diversify skill sets and help transform their workforces.

Developing leaders

To support employees as they advance through the organisation, the Department of Lands established the Emerging Leaders Program. The development program includes modules on effective leadership, emotional intelligence, resilience and coaching skills.

Promoting mobility

The Department of Treasury implemented an internal transfer program, providing employees with the opportunity to nominate to work within another area of the Department.

The program has helped to diversify skill sets and networks within the Department, as well as facilitate the flexible use of resources to assist areas of the business during peak periods.

Increasing performance management

To increase the completion of employee Performance Development Plans in locations across the State, the Department of Parks and Wildlife delivered information sessions as part of their human resources roadshows.

The information sessions have assisted in increasing employees' understanding of the professional development process and associated benefits, with completion rates increasing by approximately 10%.

Building a representative workforce

The Department for Child Protection and Family Support runs an Aboriginal Cadetship Program to support Aboriginal university students studying a qualification relevant to child protection work.

Since 2010, the Department has supported 13 Aboriginal cadets on the program. Of these, eight cadets have graduated and six have joined the Department.

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What impact do workforce strategies have?

Reduced absenteeism and improved retention

Research conducted by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) on Absence Management6 found the average number of unscheduled absences in public employment was 10.8 days per year. It indicated low levels of employee engagement, poor leadership style and a culture of 'sick-leave entitlement' were all contributing factors to unscheduled absences. In the Western Australian public sector, the average number of unscheduled absences (defined as personal, carers and sick leave) taken per FTE was 10.9 days per year.

Ideally the knowledge, skills and experience gained by our people in the course of their employment should be largely retained in the sector. More than two-thirds of employees reported having no plans to leave their agency within the next two years.

Enhanced engagement and satisfaction

Employee engagement describes the emotional commitment an employee has to organisational goals, and has been shown to lead to better outcomes for stakeholders. Public sector employees have reported high levels of engagement, including:

  • Improved customer service – 86% agreed their immediate work group are committed to providing excellent customer service.
  • Enhanced innovation – more than two-thirds indicated their workgroup implemented innovative processes or policies in the last 12 months and 71% agreed their agency uses technological advances to improve service delivery.
  • Increased productivity – 84% agreed their work group has high levels of productivity.
  • Improved work/life balance – 85% agreed they are able to access and use flexible working arrangements to assist in their work/life balance and 81% agreed their agency is committed to health and wellbeing.

Overall, most (81%) public sector employees surveyed are satisfied in their role and more than two-thirds (67%) reported satisfaction with their agency as an employer. More than three-quarters of employees (76%) feel they are sufficiently challenged, with a similar number (77%) reporting being proud to work in the Western Australian public sector.

Improved role clarity

Leaders who understand and can articulate their role and how it contributes to the work of their agency deliver better outcomes. Among leaders of public sector agencies, 94% indicated they understand how their work contributes to the agency's objectives and 93% are clear about what their responsibilities are within their role.

An engaged public sector at a glance

What is employee engagement?

The level of commitment an employee has towards an organisation. Every year, WA public sector employees are asked about: Pride; Motivation; Inspiration; Advocacy; and Attachement

Employee engagement levels

11 agencies surveyed in 2016 (Score out of 100): 51, 55, 56, 58, 61, 62, 65, 71, 74, 74, 81. Average is 62.

Why does employee engagement matter?

Research from around the world shows that employees with higher engagement also produce better services and outcomes.

In the WA public sector, each percentage increase in engagement led to increases in:

  • productivity (37% of the engagement increase)
  • innovation (47% of the engagement increase)
  • customer service quality (22% of the engagement increase)

Drivers of employee engagement

The strongest drivers of engagement in the WA public sector are:

  • Leadership
  • Work/life balance
  • Job empowerment

Other drivers include:

  • Diversity
  • Development
  • Ethics and integrity
  • Immedidate supervisor

The drivers of engagement will differ for each organisation depending on culture and workforce characteristics.


1 Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), 2016, VET: Securing skills for growth

2 Australian Bureau of Statistics Catalogue 3101.0 Table 4.

3 DLGC, 2016, 2015 Women's Report Card

4 Centre for Creative Leadership, 2014, Developing a Leadership Strategy: A Critical Ingredient for Organizational Success White Paper

5 AIM, 2012, Gender Diversity in Management

6 AHRI, 2016, Absence Management Infographic

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Page last updated 17 November 2016