Review of public service job classifications under way

Ian Bushnell 18 May 2021 13
APSC Commissioner Peter Woolcott

APSC Commissioner Peter Woolcott: “This review will look at opportunities to adopt best-practice ways of working to reduce hierarchy, improve decision-making and bring the right APS expertise and resources to an issue.” Photo: APSC.

Work to review the public service’s hierarchy and job classifications system has begun after the appointment of an independent panel last month.

Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott said the review was the first since 2012 and was in response to the Independent Review of the APS led by David Thodey and recommendations from the APS Workforce Strategy.

The Thodey report called for a more united, agile, flexible and flatter public service with greater collaboration across agencies.

This review will examine the Senior Executive Service (SES 1-3) and non-SES classification levels (APS 1-6, EL 1-2) and assess how they are operating in light of leading evidence on optimal management structures and emerging workforce needs.

The panel is expected to develop recommendations on a clear, effective and efficient classifications structure that is fit for the future.

“This review will look at opportunities to adopt best-practice ways of working to reduce hierarchy, improve decision-making and bring the right APS expertise and resources to an issue,” Mr Woolcott said.


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The review will look at streamlining decision-making structures so the APS can be more flexible in responding to change, including new ways of working.

It will promote a culture in which decisions can be made at the lowest level possible and ensure that team sizes reflect the work being done and jobs are classified according to the level of work.

It also wants to see if the way staff are managed can be simpler and clearer.

The panel is paying particular attention to the potential for new classification structures and will review the classification rules and update the 2014 management framework.

But the panel won’t be looking at individual capability assessments, changes to the current enterprise bargaining framework or harmonisation of pay and conditions across the APS, pay settings, average staffing levels, or evaluating roles or investigating strategies to increase diversity in the APS.


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It will consult across the service and meet with unions and representatives.

The APSC says the full details of the engagement are still being finalised but a public submission process is planned so APS employees and interested parties can contribute their ideas.

There will also be focus groups, workshops and other forms of participatory engagement to both gather ideas and test the panel’s work, it says.

Ideas and suggestions can be submitted through the APS Hierarchy and Classification Review inbox: HCReview@apsc.gov.au.

Dr Heather Smith is leading the panel. The other panel members are Kathryn Fagg and Finn Pratt.

Dr Smith brings nearly 20 years’ experience in the APS, most recently as Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and at senior levels covering economic, foreign affairs, national security and intelligence matters.

Ms Fagg has worked in senior executive roles across a range of industries in Australia and Asia, including resources, manufacturing, logistics, as well as banking and professional services.

Mr Pratt has more than 30 years’ experience in the public service, leading reforms in a number of Secretary and CEO roles, most recently as Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy.

The panel will report to Mr Woolcott in the second half of the year.


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13 Responses to Review of public service job classifications under way
Timothy Bailey Timothy Bailey 2:15 pm 30 Jul 21

Melissa Hobbs - most of the roadblocks I met with - as an agent for positive change in the PS - had degrees - BA passes or BEc pass. Along with 'an almost complete lack of critical thinking and innovation.'

I 'dropped out' of ANU in 1970 after 18 months, on a SCUNA scholarship to boot.

I then sat the CPS entrance exam. I was recruited into a unit in Trade & Industry called 'Policy Development & Situation Analysis. One of the other new recruits was Max Moore-Wilton.

I didn't get a degree until I was in my forties, despite having got that ANU Scholarship for 1969. Didn't 'know myself' back then.

My mid-life-crisis degree is in Management Science, the major is in Information Systems Analysis.

I was tutoring in IS from wk5 of my 2nd semester. I introduced the first desk tops to the CPS in 1971.

No, I'm not a programmer, nor a P'er/Analyst, I'm a trained Systems Analyst. SISO grade 1.

UCanberra had to put me on salary within 2 years. As I had more than enough Tutorial hours. BIS, IS1, IS2 ......

UC doesn't award Honours, but I do have a Credit average in that degree, which includes Economics and Accounting. Economics being one of the other possible Majors. Having practiced Economics I didn't bother.

At the same time? I juggled being - a semester-salaried tutor, a 3 subject UNi student, a door-greeter at BIG-W in Woden, and being the available parent for our two boys.

A time-budget / calendar became vital.

Timothy Bailey Timothy Bailey 2:12 pm 30 Jul 21

I absolutely agree, until I did get a degree in management science with an Info. Systems major, most of the positive changes I acheived always had added - 'psst but he doesn't have a degree'.

It didn't matter if all they had a pass BArts degree with a major in English.

Patrick Trevor Patrick Trevor 2:03 pm 17 Apr 21

Sounds like a pointless exercise that excludes anything that may be worthwhile

Melissa Hobbs Melissa Hobbs 5:27 pm 16 Apr 21

Employ those with a degree

    Alison Brittliff Alison Brittliff 9:03 am 19 Apr 21

    Melissa Hobbs why would that be the job requirement? I’ve work with absolute duds that have degrees and the best person I’ve worked with doesn’t.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 9:39 am 19 Apr 21

    Melissa Hobbs Why? Surely the best person for the job, not just because they have a degree. I know someone who was head-hunted into a large private company. He had no degree. Under your idea, he wouldn't have been. I think he ended up in charge of about hundred people. (Most of whom had degrees.) No, take the best person for the job, degree or no degree.

    Melissa Hobbs Melissa Hobbs 12:18 pm 19 Apr 21

    Julie Macklin it depends how you define best person for the job. Too many bureaucrats in the PS without degrees so a complete lack of critical thinking and innovation.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:48 pm 19 Apr 21

    Melissa Hobbs wrote, "Too many bureaucrats in the PS without degrees so a complete lack of critical thinking and innovation." A degree does not give that. That's intelligence. That's insulting to those intelligent 'critical thinkers' without degrees. It's also sounds like something someone would say who has a degree and is having trouble finding a job, because they are not the best person for the job, despite their degree. In the past some of the people who now go to university would have had a trade, they wouldn't have made it to university. Some of those now make it to university and should, but some also shouldn't make it to university. They would be better off in a trade or doing something else. Not all who have gone to university, should have.

Stas Idowu Stas Idowu 5:12 pm 15 Apr 21

EL2s beware

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 4:47 pm 15 Apr 21

I hope the panel addresses the problem of attracting technical specialists like engineers and certain IT people. The current practice of using labour-hire to fill these jobs results in workers in the APS with only short term ambitions.

Matthew Davies Matthew Davies 3:22 pm 15 Apr 21

Funny how work level assessments always seem to favour the kinds of skills that are required to work in a Human Resources department.

David Newman David Newman 12:41 pm 15 Apr 21

It’s not necessarily the classification system that is the issue. It’s managers who won’t delegate and allow their staff to make decisions within their existing purview

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