Review of public sector recruitment performance

In 2016, the Commission engaged Ernst & Young to conduct an assessment of recruitment performance across seven public sector agencies. The review focused on the effectiveness of recruitment, talent acquisition processes and whether current practices are conducive to creating a more skilled and diverse workforce. The Commission was particularly interested in quantifying two important, baseline human resource metrics: time and cost to fill a vacancy. 

The review assessed the human resource policies, plans and procedures of seven sample agencies, which varied in size, workforce and business context. 

Field work revealed that recruitment capability varied widely. The sample agencies all had unique workforce challenges and responded to these challenges in various ways. 

While based on a small sample of agencies, observations and themes from the review are likely to be applicable across the public sector. Generally, the public sector does not exhibit the level of maturity in process and practice seen in best-practice private sector organisations. When representatives from sample agencies self-assessed agency maturity around seven key metrics, they consistently rated themselves higher than Ernst & Young’s assessment.

Six key themes were identified from the review:

  • Transactional support: human resource units deliver a largely transactional recruitment service focused on administration, rather than a strategic focus.
  • Diversity: the importance of diversity is understood, but strategies to drive a diverse workforce are yet to be truly established.
  • Candidate assessment: methods are rigid and techniques could be contemporised.
  • Data and systems: better data capture processes and systems would help drive talent acquisition.
  • Risk aversion: mitigating the risk of a breach of the Employment Standard is driving behaviours and processes, sometimes at the expense of good outcomes.
  • Silo effect: the sector would benefit from better knowledge sharing to avoid duplication and promote better sector-wide outcomes.

Certain structural, cultural and behavioural barriers meant sample agencies were unable to accurately quantify the recruitment metrics of time and cost to fill.

The review revealed areas of good practice do exist in the sector and this is driving successful talent acquisition. Some agencies are executing contemporary practices, particularly around pool and large-scale recruitment. Targeted candidate sourcing through employee referral schemes, university campus recruiting and online talent platforms are being increasingly used. It was noted human resource practitioners have an improvement mindset and aspired to move beyond transactional services to become strategic business partners.

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Agency-level opportunities

All public sector agencies should take action in the following areas to improve recruitment and talent acquisition outcomes.

Enabling culture

Create an enabling culture aimed at realising best practice and selecting the best candidate

Collaborate with peers

Share knowledge and best practice between agencies

Measure success

Increase importance of capturing recruitment metrics to drive talent strategy

Continuous improvement

Survey all candidates to assess process effectiveness and identify improvement opportunities

Strategic focus

Realign and refocus recruitment responsibilities towards a specialised and strategic supporting role

Stay connected

Maintain candidate communities and retain connections with prospective talent

Adapt for diversity

Attract and accommodate diverse applicants

Streamline processes

Reduce process requirements for applicants and panel members

Develop talent

Utilise existing talent and reduce reliance on external human resource practitioners

Did you know?

  • 14% of public sector agencies reported having a formal, documented talent identification/management strategy, with a further 33 per cent reporting they had an informal one. Of the 47 per cent of agencies who had a talent identification/management strategy, the top two reasons it was used was to develop high potential/performing employees (62 per cent) and building capability for critical roles (58 per cent).
  • 52% of public sector employees agreed recruitment and promotion decisions in their organisation are fair and 58 per cent agree their organisation recruits people with the right skills for the job.

Our analysis

The data suggests leaders and Chief Human Resource Officers have more work to do in developing contemporary, best practice policies and processes for recruitment and talent acquisition. 
 Our reports are available on the Reviews page of our website

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Page last updated 19 October 2017