High performance – Improving the sector

In this section:

The public sector continued to face a challenging fiscal climate during 2014/15, with an ever increasing focus on improving productivity and efficiency.

A number of measures were implemented by the Government to limit expense growth. As a result of these measures, salaries growth for in 2014/15 was a modest 2.9%, the lowest rate of growth in salaries expenditure since 1998/99.12

These changes in the operating climate are encouraging innovation to improve the way the public sector works and increase performance across the state. This year's results show the sector continues to create opportunities by driving employee engagement through senior leadership, work/life balance and job empowerment.

Higher rates of staff participation in formal performance meetings and investment in performance development were reported this year, with an opportunity to move towards more on-the-job training. However, there was little change in representation of diversity groups within the sector. Workforce diversity leverages a range of skills, knowledge and experiences to drive performance.

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Innovation driving performance

Sector performance is driven by a culture of creativity and productivity and by increasingly educated staff, who are seeking to contribute to their organisation's performance.13 Close to three-quarters (73%) of respondents to the 2015 employee perception survey (EPS) reported their workgroup has implemented innovative ideas in the last 12 months.

Many examples of promoting innovative practice for improved performance were reported by public authorities in the 2015 public sector entity survey (PSES). For example, Challenger Institute of Technology's 'Innovate program' creates opportunities for staff to contribute ideas for improvements to services and business processes through an online microsite that allows the ideas to be discussed, rated and promoted.

Similarly, Main Roads WA launched an 'Innovation and research' program in 2015 to encourage, promote and record innovative ideas, research and trials. Staff submit their ideas and research proposals through an 'ideas forum' on their intranet, and these are evaluated by a panel of experts from across Main Roads who prioritise proposals, recommend further initiatives and investment and endorse innovation strategy.

Landgate has had an innovation program in place since 2008, which encourages staff to create new solutions and submit proposals to be assessed for funding. The following case study highlights an innovative solution developed as a result of the program.

Success in promoting staff innovation - Landgate

Landgate recently collaborated with Aerometrex to develop a unique digital aerial mapping solution that combines technologies, based on a proposal from employee Mr Bavin Shah, Sales Executive, funded through Landgate's Innovation Program.

Mr Shah saw an opportunity to integrate the earthmine 3D high-resolution street mapping system with Aerometrex's Aero3DPro fully textured, geographically accurate 3D models, which have the capacity to incorporate all natural and human-built objects in a scene. Previously, 3D aerial imagery was not capable of providing high resolution images of objects at ground level, and scenery under trees or buildings could not be seen. By combining the technologies, users can identify and analyse assets and infrastructure on both a large scale and in detail, which will likely be of benefit to customers such as local governments in managing assets and making planning decisions.

The prototype solution recently won the WA Spatial Excellence Award for Innovation and Commercialisation, showcasing the value of promoting and supporting staff innovation.

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Employee engagement

Engaged employees are more committed to their organisation and motivated to be productive. They are generally more innovative, more likely to 'go the extra mile', less likely to leave, and likely to take fewer days of unplanned personal leave.

Employee engagement index

In 2014, the Public Sector Commission commenced measuring employee engagement through the EPS, using an engagement index developed by the UK Civil Service and regularly used by other Australian jurisdictions.14

In 2015, the engagement score for WA is 67, compared with 66 in 2014. As shown in Figure 4.1, this compares favourably with other jurisdictions.

Figure 4.1 Employee engagement index across jurisdictions, 2014 and 2015

Figure 4.1

WA 67, Vic 66, NSW 65, APS 62

Sources: EPS and other inter-jurisdictional publications (see Appendix B)

Engagement scores varied substantially between public sector entities that participated in the 2015 EPS (from 51 to 74).

Further analysis of employee engagement found that:

  • Regional employees had similar engagement levels to those in metropolitan areas (68 compared to 67).
  • Employee engagement was highest for staff employed for less than a year (75), and lowest for those who had been with their agency for 20 years or more (63).

Key drivers of employee engagement

Identifying the factors that drive employee engagement can help target efforts to improve capability, resources, policies and planning within the public sector.

As shown in Figure 4.2, this year's analysis again found that senior leadership is the key driver of engagement.

Figure 4.2 Employee engagement drivers in a public sector sample, 2015

Figure 4.2

(Approx values only) Productivity: Staff satistaction 83%, Impact (regression) Low ; Diversity: Staff satistaction 83%, Impact (regression) Low-Medium; Ethics and integrity: Staff satistaction 81%, Impact (regression) Low; Job empowerment: Staff satistaction 81%, Impact (regression) Medium; Immediate supervisor: Staff satistaction 71%, Impact (regression) low; Training and development: Staff satistaction 69%, Impact (regression) Low; Work/life balance: Staff satistaction 68%, Impact (regression) Medium; Senior leadership: Staff satistaction 62%, Impact (regression) High

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: EPS (see Appendix C)

Satisfaction with senior leadership, as the most impactful factor, was moderate, representing an area where there is potential for improvement.

Work/life balance may have emerged as a driver of engagement this year as employee satisfaction was lower than in previous years. In 2015, a majority of EPS respondents worked in frontline service delivery roles.

Outcomes of employee engagement

In looking at the outcomes of engagement for the 2015 EPS respondents, engaged employees were:15

  • more likely to feel their workgroup is productive (97%, compared to 72%)
  • more likely to believe their workgroup has developed innovative ideas in the last year (89%, compared to 54%)
  • more likely to indicate no intention to leave their entity in the next two years (87% compared to 56%).

These results support the view that engaged employees are more likely to be productive and innovative.

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Managing employee performance

Effective performance management at the employee level can drive broader organisational performance through creating opportunities to recognise high performance, identify capability development needs and ensure that clear expectations are outlined for outcomes and behaviour.

In 2015, just under half (49%) of public sector entities reported in the PSES they had conducted formal performance meetings with most staff (increased from 42% in 2014).

Similarly, 62% of 2015 EPS respondents reported completing a formal meeting with their supervisor in the past 12 months and 79% had participated in informal performance discussions. This is lower than the APS and Victoria, but slightly higher than other states, as shown in Figure 4.3.

Figure 4.3 Employees reporting receipt of performance feedback across jurisdictions, 2014 and 2015 (%)

Figure 4.3

WA 62%, APS 88%, Vic 71%, Qld 59%, NSW 55%

Sources: EPS and other inter-jurisdictional publications (see Appendix B)

Through the 2015 PSES, public sector entities reported that managers find it challenging to manage performance activities as well as increasing service demands. However, many entities also noted they had put in place initiatives to improve managerial skills and confidence in providing performance feedback.

Performance management also creates an opportunity to plan developmental tasks and consider career aspirations. Similar to last year, less than two-thirds of 2015 EPS respondents (56%) were satisfied with opportunities for career progression in their entity (similar to the NSW public sector at 54%).

In the 2015 EPS, employees reported the following types of career development matters were discussed in their performance meetings:

  • performance development activities for the employee's current job (73%)
  • other development activities for career progression (54%)
  • career progression opportunities within the entity (34%).

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Developing staff capability

Many entities reported in the 2015 PSES that flexible and skilled staff are critical in responding to a changing operating environment. Learning and development activities support and prepare for performance during times of change.

One program supporting an agile public sector workforce and the community, and creating opportunities for workers to develop new skills, is described in the following case study.

'Supportive employer' program for Defence reservists

In April 2015, the sector was encouraged by the Public Sector Commissioner,

Mr Mal Wauchope, to register as part of the Defence Reserves 'Supportive employer' program.

The Commissioner noted reservists have unique skills, qualities and knowledge, and commitment to employing reservists brings value to the public sector workforce through diversity and the skills, qualities and knowledge gained by them through military service.

'As a longtime supporter of the Defence Reserves Support Council's supportive employer program, I am proud to see the growing number of public sector organisations that have registered as part of this important program', he said.

'In 2015, the WA public sector, which includes both state and local government, comprises close to 40% of those registered as a supportive employer.'

'A key objective of the 'Supportive employer' program is to enhance the availability and assist the retention of reservists for service, which requires employers demonstrating their support for Reserve service'.

'It is important to acknowledge that behind every reservist is a supportive employer and as a sector, we recognise the valuable contribution of employers who support reservists to actively participate in sustaining Australia's national security and wellbeing.'

Supportive Employer programFrom left to right: The Member for Churchlands Sean L'Estrange MLA, Colonel 13th Brigade Army; Brett Lane, Lieutenant commander (Navy); Damian Lambert, Squadron Leader 7 Wing Australian Air Force Cadets (Public Sector Commission); David Thompson AM, Brigadier (teacher at Rosalie Primary School); David Trench, Chair Defence Reserves Support Council WA; Murray Lampard APM, Vice President National Defence Reserves Support Council; Mal Wauchope, Public Sector Commissioner; David Mustard, Squadron Leader (RAAF)

70:20:10 framework

The 70:20:10 framework for performance development indicates 70% of learning comes from action, 20% from relationships and 10% from formal programs.

In 2014, Polytechnic West launched its 'Capability development framework 2014-2016' based on the 70:20:10 model. As part of the framework, a 'Bright ideas' initiative encourages staff to identify and implement solutions to business challenges through work-based experiential and social activity. For example, one 'Bright idea' has been to start up an e-learning user group for training delivery. This group meets on a monthly basis to hear from external speakers, as well as peers, about better practice and lessons learnt in using e-learning technology, with a view to adopting suitable practices within Polytechnic West.

This year, the Department of Fisheries has seen a number of temporary vacancies filled by employees from different areas of the business, most notably senior scientists filling high-level policy management roles. This has provided the scientists with exposure to a different area of the business, allowing them to make stronger connections with policy development staff and to develop a better understanding of each other's issues. This experiential learning also helps with breaking down the silos that occur with divisions housed in different physical locations. Fisheries has also had a senior policy officer fill a senior scientist role and reaped the same benefits.

Efficient learning and development

Investment in learning and development is especially important during times when reducing budgets may prioritise service expenditure over staff development, resulting in skills gaps over time.

The 2015 EPS results indicate entities continue to invest in staff development activities. Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents reported development opportunities were available to all employees (compared to 72% in 2014). However, a smaller proportion (58%) continued to report their entity provides adequate opportunities for developing leadership skills.

While budgets for traditional off-the-job training may be reduced, opportunities remain to develop staff through stretch assignments and project work, job rotations, secondments and job shadowing. In the 2015 PSES, entities were asked to identify the development initiatives they had undertaken. Figure 4.4 shows that entities are most likely to have staff participating in formal training programs.

Figure 4.4 Entities with staff who participated in learning programs, 2014/15 (%)

Figure 4.4

Job-specific skill development programs 94%, Leadership development programs 88%, Secondments 83%, Formal coaching 58%, Planned job rotations 52%, Formal mentoring 51%, Planned job shadowing 43%, Planned stretch assignments 43%, Exchange programs 14%

Source: PSES

Training expenditure should be targeted to reflect capability requirements and skills gaps. Part of ensuring 'value for money' involves determining the benefits to the organisation after an employee has completed training activities.16

In the PSES, entities were asked to report how they had measured return on investment during 2014/15. Entities reported strategies such as:

  • monitoring changes in employee skills and abilities through the performance management program after training completion
  • seeking feedback from training program participants, and from their supervisors, regarding the transfer of skills to the workplace
  • evaluating staff skills before and after job rotations, secondments, or acting arrangements.

Developing capability across borders

Public authorities are increasingly working with overseas partners, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. In response, the sector is implementing a series of programs to improve cross-country understanding of government structures and processes. These include:

  • two interns from Brunei being hosted by the Commission as an inaugural exchange between the Australian and Bruneian Governments.
  • public servants from Ghana, who are on scholarships to learn about the state's world-class land management system, being hosted by Landgate
  • an exchange program for senior leaders to learn in China, with the Australian Institute of Management.

Within the state, creating opportunities for training and development in regional areas can be challenging as it is more difficult to access specific formal training programs or to coordinate mobility opportunities. However, 2015 EPS respondents in regional locations reported similar training opportunities to metropolitan staff (72% and 74% respectively).

The sector is working with the University of Technology Sydney as part of the University's 'Regional high performance networks' pilot program, which aims to build a targeted management and leadership development program for regional Australia.

The sector has also recently led an Australian-first initiative to strengthen links with the Indonesian public sector as described in the following case study.

Western Australia and Indonesia – A public sector without borders

In 2015, 30 senior Indonesian public servants participated in an 'International future leaders' program. As recipients of the Australia Awards, the participants are studying for postgraduate qualifications at Perth universities.

The program has provided participants with a whole-of-government perspective on the sector's political, legislative and operational context and an appreciation of its complexity and importance to the community.

Consisting of presentations and agency visits between July and October 2015, program participants experienced the public sector in action, with visits to the Botanic Parks and Gardens Authority, the Departments of Fisheries and Mines and Petroleum, the Rivers and Estuaries Division of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the City of Stirling. The opportunity to share ideas and solutions that could be beneficial to both jurisdictions was a key consideration in developing the program.

The program culminated on 13 October 2015 with a visit to Government House and a meeting with the Governor, during which program participation was recognised. This was a unique experience that the participants will take home with them.

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Performance through diversity

Employing skilled employees from diverse backgrounds enables the sector to better respond to the needs of stakeholders in designing services.

Table 4.1 shows the representation of diversity groups in public authorities for 2015. Results for all diversity groups are similar to 2014.

Table 4.1 Representation of diversity groups in public authorities, 2015 (%)

Diversity group

Public sector entities

Local governments


Government trading enterprises

Aboriginal Australians





People with disability





Women in the Senior Executive Service





People from culturally diverse backgrounds





Youth (24 years and under)





Mature workers (45 years and over)





Sources: HRMOIR (June 2015) and EEO surveys (March 2015).

Aboriginal Australians

WA is a signatory to the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG's) National partnership agreement on Indigenous economic participation. COAG's agreement sets a national target of 2.6% Aboriginal representation in the public sector workforce by 2015, and WA has committed to a target of 3.2%.

While the COAG target was exceeded for the public sector in 2012 (3.3%), at June 30 representation was the same as the estimate for the WA working age population (2.8%),17 and was similar to the previous year (2.9%).

Aboriginal employment presents some complex workforce challenges such as levels of education and training, quality of health, remote locations, discrimination and job retention levels.18 To ensure Aboriginal staff continue beyond a cadetship or traineeship program within the sector, these must be supported by a strong employment and retention strategy.

While retention of Aboriginal employees continues to be a challenge and somewhat explained previously by the nature of the labour market, it is clear that more needs to be done to support ongoing and long term employment. Greater flexibility could be provided in the workplace to better meet cultural and community obligations and consideration given to more supportive strategies to not only retain Aboriginal employees but to advance their career in the public sector.

The WA public sector continues to have one of the highest representations of Aboriginal employees across jurisdictions, and was similar to NSW, as seen in Figure 4.5.

Figure 4.5 Representation of Aboriginal employees across jurisdictions, 2014 and 2015 (%)

Figure 4.5

WA 2.8%, NT 8.7%, NSW 2.9%, APS 2.6%, Tas 2.2%, Qld 2.1%, SA 1.6%, ACT 1.2%, Vic 0.3%

Sources: HRMOIR and other inter-jurisdictional publications (see Appendix B)

In 2014, the Department of Training and Workforce Development launched a revised Aboriginal workforce development strategy, Training together – working together. The strategy is supported by five Aboriginal Workforce Development Centres that were established in Perth and four regional centres in 2010 and 2011 (Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Bunbury and Broome).

The Centres work with over 800 service providers and other organisations to assist Aboriginal people into employment or training. They promote vacancies to job seekers, provide career guidance and information about training opportunities, develop employability and provide Aboriginal role models. They also assist employers by providing advice on attraction and retention strategies, and access to mentoring services and cultural awareness training. Since 2010, over 1300 Aboriginal people have been assisted into employment or education.

In 2015, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet implemented the 'Aboriginal youth services investment reforms' to increase the effectiveness of expenditure on programs and services provided to Aboriginal youth in the state. The reforms require that investment is prioritised in programs that build resilience, increase school attendance and enable Aboriginal youth to be job-ready, and in programs that are targeted towards young people who are at risk of anti-social or criminal behaviour, substance abuse and mental health issues.

This year, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) launched a new cadetship program to increase workforce diversity, as highlighted in the following case study.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services – Firefighter cadet program improving outcomes for Aboriginal people

DFES has collaborated with State and Commonwealth Government agencies, training organisations, the not-for-profit sector, and sporting and recreational groups to deliver the 'Aboriginal firefighter cadetship' program. This vocational employment and training initiative assists participants to develop skills and confidence and enhances their competitiveness within the trainee firefighter recruitment process. The program launched in January 2015 with 11 participants.

During their 12 months of paid employment with DFES, cadets complete their vocational training while also being encouraged to carry out community engagement activities to enrich their personal cultural identity and establish themselves as leaders within their own communities. Cadets have assisted with art and sporting activities in primary schools, and provide support at the Kommunity Kitchen at the South Lake Ottey Centre where they engage with community members and are planning to establish a community bush tucker garden.

A father-in-law of one of the cadets reported that 'he is a more mature man now, who has stepped up to his family responsibilities, living a healthier and more productive life, not only for himself but for his family.'

Through practical and theoretical components, and support provided by specially trained career firefighter mentors, cadets also develop their leadership, teamwork and communication skills. During the program, participants also work toward a Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure. Five cadets continue to progress through the firefighter recruitment process after having successfully made it through shortlisting, aptitude, and physical testing.

Commissioner Wayne Gregson APM said 'DFES is committed to increasing our Aboriginal workforce to better reflect the diversity of the community we serve and we're eager to strengthen ties with regional and remote communities through the program.'

DFES was the winner of the 2015 Premier's Award for 'Improving Aboriginal outcomes' for the cadetship program.

The 'Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships' program places secondees from corporate and government entities into Indigenous organisations in regional communities. The secondees work to build capacity in the organisation and help achieve the organisation's goals, and gain insights into the challenges facing Indigenous communities, as highlighted in the following case study.

Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships creating opportunities

In July 2014, Ms Karen Rogers accepted a secondment opportunity to an Indigenous community through the Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships program. The program requires participants to work and live in remote locations within the Kimberley for a five week period.

Karen, Manager in Business Services at the Swan River Trust, was the successful candidate for the West Kimberley placement, and was seconded to the Broome office of the Kimberley Land Council (KLC). The KLC was established in 1978 and represents traditional owners in the Kimberley region.

Karen worked with the Chief Executive Officer and the Land and Sea Manager to develop a proposal for establishing and managing the Kimberley Trust Fund. This included facilitating a workshop with the Bardi Jawun Ranger Group and the Cultural Advisory Committee to identify issues facing the region and how the Trust could support their objectives.

'I felt I made a significant contribution to the project and was privileged to have attended meetings with local Aboriginal elders. Being taken to significant sites and introduced to spear making and mud crabbing while camping under the stars was also a privilege for me', Karen said.

'I have seen firsthand the issues facing the Kimberley region as well as the willingness and determination of organisations like the KLC in trying to close the gap'.

Karen found attending the Broome races with other public sector employees on the program was a unique way to develop collegiate relationships, which have continued after the program.

'I encourage other public sector employees, especially those who do not have a good understanding of the issues faced by Aboriginal people, to consider applying to the program'.

The Public Sector Commission and the Australian Public Service Commission continue to facilitate the program.

To learn more about the program, visit www.jawun.org.au

Through strong leadership, community engagement and the flexibility to respond to industry demands, the Kimberley Training Institute has grown into an organisation that is recognised for excellence in training, and is making a difference to employment outcomes for Aboriginal Australians in the region, as highlighted in the following case study.

Karen Dickinson

Training excellence at the Kimberley Training Institute

Ms Karen Dickinson has been the Managing Director of the Kimberley Training Institute (KTI) since 2009. In that time, KTI has almost doubled in size, and in 2014 it delivered training to over 4200 students in the Kimberley, directly impacting the lives of over 10% of the population of the region.

Over half of KTIs students are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. KTI employ a team of 14 Aboriginal non-teaching staff across its six campuses to support Aboriginal students and maintain connections to community and country. Through mentoring, social and financial support, KTI is working to eliminate barriers to participation in training and promote a more equitable training culture.

KTI works closely with communities and industry to prioritise training in areas of skills shortages in the Kimberley. Areas of high demand include health and community services, metals and mining, agriculture, education and childcare, and building and construction. In 2015, new facilities were added at the Broome campus to respond to growing demand for engineering and civil construction skills, and a new maritime simulation centre to provide unique training and employment opportunities in the region.

Under Ms Dickinson's leadership, KTI won the 'WA large training provider of the year' award in 2013 at the WA training awards, and the 'Best regional hospitality education and training provider' at the 2015 Australian Hotels Association WA Hospitality Supplier Awards.

People with disability

The public sector representation of people with disability was slightly lower in 2015 at 2.1% (see Figure 4.6), compared to 2.3% in 2014. While this figure compares favourably with the estimated proportion of the WA population that requires assistance with core activities (1.9%19) there is room for significant improvement.

Figure 4.6 Representation of employees with disability across jurisdictions, 2014 and 2015 (%)

Figure 4.6

WA 2.1%, Tas 6.2%, Vic 4.0%, Qld 3.7%, APS 3.5%, NSW 3.1%, ACT 2.0%, NT 1.1%

Source: HRMOIR and other inter-jurisdictional publications (see Appendix B)

The Disability Services Commission has partnered with the Local Government Managers Association on the 'Lighthouse project', which aims to increase the employment of people with disability in local government. As part of the project, a survey was undertaken in local governments to identify opportunities and barriers to employing people with disability.

The majority of local government respondents believed the employment of people with disability would bring benefits such as a more diverse workforce, increased retention of employees who acquire a disability and more user-friendly workplaces. Barriers identified included attracting people with disability to apply for vacancies, lack of knowledge of support options available, cost of workplace modifications and lack of confidence in managing people with disability in the workplace.

To address some of these issues, as part of the 'Lighthouse project' a series of training workshops have been conducted to inform local governments about the benefits of employing people with disability. Local governments can apply for new $10 000 grants to develop initiatives to increase employment of people with disability.

The 'Willing to work: National inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians and people with disability', led by the Commonwealth Age and Disability Commissioner, Ms Susan Ryan, is examining workplace practices, attitudes and legislation that affect equal participation in the employment of people with disability and older Australians.

The inquiry will make recommendations for action to address employment discrimination and will report on its findings in July 2016.

Recently, the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) received a Certificate of Appreciation from Western Australian Disability Enterprises (WADE) for initiatives to provide employment for people with disability. DMP recently awarded the cleaning contract for their head office to disability service provider, Intework, and had previously contracted another business from the WADE network to maintain gardens in several of their office locations. DMP is one of 27 government agencies using WADE providers who employ people with significant disability, and recent legislative changes for local governments enable services to be purchased from WADE providers without going through a competitive tender or quotation process.

The Commission is collaborating with the Disability Services Commission to develop strategies to build awareness of the benefits of employing people with disability, to prepare organisations to employ people with disability through facilitating partnerships with disability employment service providers, and to provide opportunities to people with disability to support their productivity and development in the workplace.

Women in leadership

Women make up the majority (72%) of the WA public sector workforce, yet accounted for only 32% of Senior Executive Service (SES) positions in 2015. However, the proportion of women in the SES has increased from 24% in 2005, and by two percentage points since last year.

The representation of women in the SES in WA is second-lowest amongst jurisdictions, as shown in Figure 4.7.

Figure 4.7 Representation of women in senior executive positions across jurisdictions, 2014 and 2015 (%)

Figure 4.7

WA 32.2%, NT 44.0%, NSW 43.7%, SA 43.1%, APS 39.6%, Vic 37.4%, Qld 33.1%, Tas 27.5%

Source: HRMOIR and other inter-jurisdictional publications (see Appendix B)

Figure 4.8 shows that public sector positions at higher salary bands tend to be predominately occupied by men. Two in three Class 1 and above employees are male.

Figure 4.8 Gender distribution across public sector salary bands, June 2015

Figure 4.8

(Approx values only) Level 1 & below: Women 80%, Men 20%; Level 2: Women 79%, Men 21%; Level 3: Women 70%, Men 30%; Level 4: Women 71%, Men 29%; Level 5: Women 67%, Men 33%; Level 6: Women 69%, Men 31%; Level 7: Women 53%, Men 47%; Level 8: Women 42%, Men 58%; Level 9: Women 40%, Men 60%; Class 1 & above: Women 33%, Men 67%;

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: HRMOIR

Research is being undertaken into unconscious bias in public sector recruitment and employment to raise the profile of inclusive practices to support women in leadership roles. With the aim of raising awareness of unconscious bias and promoting organisational policies and actions to manage and reduce bias in the workplace, a range of initiatives are being developed, such as training workshops targeted at senior executives and selection panel members.

In 2015, two consultative forums hosted by the Premier and the Minister for Women's Interests were held. These brought together industry leaders from the private sector and state and local government to tackle workplace issues that affect women.

The first forum in March identified strategies to promote science, technology, engineering and maths careers and trades to girls and young women, and the second focused on improving workplace practices to support women to remain in the workforce and attain leadership positions. A third scheduled forum will examine ways to re-engage and train women who have been out of the workforce for an extended period.

The Equal Opportunity Commissioner has also prompted the formation of an inaugural group of WA CEOs, which aims to improve gender equity outcomes as described in the following case study.

CEOs for gender equity

The 'CEOs for gender equity' group was formally launched in December 2014 and comprises 17 CEOs from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

Gender equity outcomes include targeting gender balance on boards, in leadership roles and across the workforce. Importantly, the group will also focus on gender pay equity, where WA is the poorest performing state in the nation.

Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Allanah Lucas, said the CEOs were showing their commitment to addressing gender inequity in WA not only because it made good business sense, but because it made good sense for the state.

'Nationally, WA has the lowest female representation on boards and the highest pay gap. There is low representation of females studying science, technology, engineering and maths, and a continuing concern is that women feel discriminated against in the workplace. The member CEOs are committed to this initiative because we believe a state like WA can do better', she said.

The 'CEOs for gender equity' initiative has initially focused on the three key areas of education, workplace flexibility and women in leadership. 'By choosing these focus areas, the CEOs aim to promote gender equity from early in an individual's education and throughout their working life', Ms Lucas said.

Ms Lucas stated through improving gender equity in their own organisations, the member CEOs aimed to lead by example and thus improve gender equity throughout the state. 'We have launched this initiative to grow awareness of gender inequity and the ramifications of its existence, plus set an example for other heads of organisations who want to bring about change within their organisations', she said.

Culturally diverse backgrounds

Around one in eight employees (12.4%) in the public sector were born in countries where English is not the primary language, most commonly in India, Malaysia, Singapore, or the Philippines. This is similar to estimated representation in the WA population at 14.0%.20

The WA Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Across-Government Network (WACAN) was set up in 2004 as a forum for state government to discuss cultural diversity issues. The network is now made up of representatives from 19 public sector entities.

Since 2010, WACAN has focused on the key areas of language services, substantive equality and data collection, and has contributed to the review of the WA Language Services Policy 2008, organisation-specific language services policies, the Equal Opportunity Commission's 'Substantive equality' program, the 'Common use agreement for translating and interpreting services', and Guide to cultural and linguistic data collection for the public sector.


Less than 5% of employees in the WA public sector are aged under 25 years, compared to 15.2% of the WA labour force.21 This disparity may be partially due to the nature of public sector positions, which often require professional qualifications (48.8% of the public sector workforce are employed in 'professional' positions).

In addition, the automation of core functions over time and streamlining of operations have also impacted on the number of entry-level positions available. Attracting and retaining the younger workforce is important for succession planning to ensure there are sufficient staff with the potential to lead the sector in the future.

Local governments employ a greater proportion of young employees, with 14.4% of their workforce aged under 25 years. Local governments employ more casual employees than public sector entities, and these positions often offer opportunities for young people to gain employment.

The State Training Board is currently undertaking research into young people's challenges with training and employment and developing a youth workforce development plan, to explore how government and industry can support the employment of young people in the state.

Mature workers

More than half of the public sector workforce are aged 45 years and over (52.5%), however these employees, especially as they get older, may face challenges when seeking new work opportunities. Just over one-quarter (26%) are aged 55 and over, and may retire within the next 10 years.

In addition to examining the employment of people with disability, the 'Willing to work' inquiry referred to in this chapter will also examine obstacles faced by mature workers while participating in the workforce and when attempting to gain employment.

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12 Government of Western Australia 2015, 2014-15 Annual report on state finances

13 Institute for Public Administration Australia 2014, Shaping the future through co-creation

14 For further detail about the Commission's employee engagement model, please see Appendix C.

15 Based on a comparison of employees in the highest and lowest quartiles of engagement index scores.

16 Australian Institute of Management 2013, Learning and development in the public sector: The case for maintaining investment in the tough times

17 ABS 2013, 2002.0 – Census of population and housing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Indigenous) profile, 2011 third release

18 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Institute of Family Studies 2012, Increasing Indigenous employment rates

19 ABS 2012, 2011 census of population and housing

20 ABS 2012, 2011 census of population and housing

21 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, 6291.0.55.001 – Labour force, Australia, detailed – electronic delivery, June 2015

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Page last updated 18 November 2015