The Australian Public Service must look beyond the nation’s capital to fill its ranks if it wants to beat the employees’ job market and attract talent to the sector.
The State of the Service report tabled in parliament this week has highlighted what has long been known – that the APS is having trouble recruiting and retaining good staff.
Employees are staying in the service for shorter durations, and one in every dozen left the sector in 2021-22.
ICT workers are the most in demand and with not many people with those skills living in Canberra, the search must go nationwide and internationally.
There are also shortages in accounting, legal, project management, human relations, data analysis, security and engineering.
“Employees within Australia, and across the world, have changing expectations of what they want from work and how they will work,” the report states.
“The traditional operating models of the APS are being challenged and technological advances are requiring the service to adapt rapidly to the future of work.
“Employees have a new benchmark for the workplace experience and want more flexibility, more inclusive workplaces and a greater sense of purpose.”
Competition from the private sector where employees can earn significantly more is having a huge impact on the APS.
Agencies are exploring ways to attract and retain good staff, which includes providing more stimulating work environments and career progression opportunities.
It also means the search for employees and the location of their jobs can no longer be overly Canberra-centric.
“Developing meaningful career pathways is an emerging focus for the APS to attract and retain top talent, particularly for critical roles,” the report states.
“Strategic workforce tools can be deployed to support career pathways, including mobility, having formal approaches in place to support career development and adopting a One APS approach to skill investment.
“Offering APS employees opportunities to work closer to home and their local communities is also a core focus.
“Public servants of the future do not necessarily have to move to Canberra to have a meaningful and purposeful career with the APS.”
Currently, 38.3 per cent of APS employees live and work in the ACT, with the large majority of senior positions based in the capital.
A location strategy is being developed to search far wider for the service’s most senior roles, and to not have all based in Canberra.
“COVID-19 saw a seismic shift in perceptions of where work can be done, disrupting the nature of workplaces across the world,” the report states.
“The APS is exploring options to locate staff closer to local communities, for not only better service design and delivery, but also to tap into emerging labour markets outside of Canberra to remain a world-class public service that reflects the community it serves.
“This approach will provide options for employees in choosing where they work from, and when, often allowing employees to be closer to home.”
Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher used the Federal Budget to fund about 8000 extra APS employees, largely in areas outside of Canberra.
And she has more recently announced an APS Academy Campus initiative that will employ about 300 data and digital training staff in four regional hubs around the country.