Bureaucrats face tough test to save jobs

Bureaucrats face tough test to save jobs

A private company is about to pit bureaucrats against each other in a Canberra assessment centre as part of the public service’s largest ever ‘‘spill and fill’’.

The Department of Communications has begun the process of asking its 550 staff to reapply for their jobs in the knowledge up to a quarter of the organisation’s workforce will not make the grade.

The process, involving written tests and oral presentations, may remind some of their end-of-school exams.


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Some public servants are worried the same procedure will be used by other departments in any looming restructures inspired by the commission of audit.

Internal Communications Department documents, revealing the government has outsourced to Clarius Group for help whittling down the contestants, have been leaked after reports consultants were stalking more work from the wounded public service in response to the audit report.

Executive level two (EL2) staff at communications are the first to endure the lengthy procedure.

Most have already completed an online 30-minute critical thinking exercise and a half-hour management and leadership behavioural profile.

From May 19-27 small groups of these same communications employees will meet at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Canberra for a rigorous half-day analysis run by Clarius. It is expected to be the most stressful part of the job application.

It begins with a one-hour group collaboration task where they are asked to solve a problem in front of a panel of observers. It is followed by a 30-minute written task.

Employees have five minutes to present their written task and another 10 minutes to discuss what they have produced, in front of a two-person panel.

They are then scrutinised in a 15-minute behavioural interview.

Job applications for EL2s will not open until June 5 – meaning final resumes can be submitted only after participants have finished the three-hour assessment.

According to internal correspondence, EL2 staff will be told about the outcomes of the process via a bulletin from the secretary a month later.

All other staff wanting to stay with the department will be put through the same process by September.

Community and Public Sector Union deputy national president Alistair Waters said staff were confused about the selection process and he asked the department for greater clarification.

‘‘Let us not forget that this is the largest spill and fill exercise ever undertaken across the public service and our goal is to ensure that the process is both fair and equitable,’’ Mr Waters said.

‘‘If staff are confused or fearful then we need to allay those fears and get some answers.’’

A Communications Department spokesman said the assessment process would provide a valuable and significant body of evidence about each individual’s strengths and capability gaps.

‘‘The process represents a very significant investment by the department in developing our people,’’ the spokesman said.

Phillip Thomson is a Public Service Reporter at The Canberra Times.

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