4 September 2023

Hire purpose: Expect to see the APS Commissioner in on every senior executive recruitment process

| Chris Johnson
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Dr Gordon de Brouwer

APS Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer wants in on the recruitment process for the SES. (File photo)

The Australian Public Service Commission has released a string of new resources aimed at developing leadership, upholding integrity, and building diversity across the APS.

Among the initiatives is a directive reminding agency bosses that APS Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer is to be fully involved in recruitment processes for the Senior Executive Service.

A circular has been issued, replacing previous directives, to inform the agency heads of their obligations when conducting SES recruitment.

It applies to all SES recruitment processes starting from October this year, and will see the commissioner being highly active in the hiring of senior executives.

“The Senior Executive Service provides APS-wide strategic leadership of the highest quality that contributes to an effective and cohesive APS,” the circular states.

“A high-performing public service requires that the best and brightest individuals from diverse backgrounds are recruited.

“The APS needs a strong talent pool of employees with broad and readily transferable skills in order to deploy staff flexibly in response to government priorities.

“To ensure confidence in the integrity of SES recruitment processes, [the directions] require that the Australian Public Service Commissioner is a full participant in SES recruitment processes … to ensure that the process is consistent with the requirements of the Public Service Act 1999 and the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2022, ensuring employment decisions are consistent with merit.”

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The commissioner’s role is to ensure employment decisions take into account the wider skills and capabilities expected of SES employees across the whole of the APS, including those that will be needed in the future.

Agencies must also include a specialist member from the APS Professions in their panel composition where the position requires experience aligned to an APS Profession.

Agencies are encouraged to consider existing merit lists before advertising, and they are expected to share merit lists.

The Senior Executive Service Framework has also been released, with the aim of helping the APS hierarchy ensure public confidence and trust in the SES.

The framework was established with a focus on maintaining integrity in all the work of the APS.

“Key users of the framework will be human resources teams responsible for maintaining agency policies and procedures, implementing best practice, and reporting on agency performance,” the APSC says.

“The framework is designed to support agencies to understand their current performance maturity and make informed decisions on where to focus future effort to lift performance practices.”

Advice on the Cultural Capability Hub has also just been released, highlighting the hub’s role as a central repository of practical guidance to support staff to uplift their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural capability.

It provides additional recommendations, insights and links to external resources on how to apply the ”Knowing, Doing and Being” domains of cultural capability in an operational context.

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And the APS Leadership Edge capability development program for Executive Level 2s has also been released.

“APS Leadership Edge is a cohort-based social learning program which will enable EL2s to develop their leadership and management skills through a range of courses and activities,” the APSC states.

“Four courses will be delivered within the program based on current needs and areas of interest.

“Participants will be exposed to new learnings and skills for participants to practise in the workplace.

“The program will provide opportunities to embed learnings through practical application and expand professional networks across the APS.

“By allowing the learners to engage with each other about their learning, we drive deeper connections with the content and more practical assistance in application. This results in learning that sticks.”

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The Workplace Coach5:28 pm 20 Nov 23

I feel like this might be a good initiative as long as it’s not just a tick and flick exercise. Too many agencies have for too long been reliant on external ‘talent agencies’ for managing these processes. As a result, these agencies have filled their SES ranks with carbon copies of the external agency template and now are now dealing with the downside of a gap in diverse leadership capability. Almost every staff census lists a lack of confidence in senior management as an issue. Hopefully this will initiative help turn the tide.

Right, the established recruitment process no longer works, so bin it and leave it up to the boss who can decide on gut feeling who has the right stuff, with greater scope to indulge in whim and current elite ideological fashions. Sort of like in The Apprentice, but far more genteel and certainly not televised.

It would be worthwhile if the APS Commissioner were to look at candidates that never made it to the interview stage and why they weren’t selected. IMHO the process ensures good quality leaders rarely get a look-in. Having a seat at the table once a short-list is arranged is pointless as any really good candidate has already been told there were more suitably qualified people to pick from.

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