Public servants happier in micro-agencies, survey says

Public servants happier in micro-agencies, survey says

Public servants in small workplaces feel more involved in their jobs and have far more confidence in their bosses than those who work in large departments, a survey suggests.

However, they also feel their offices suppress creativity and their managers fail to deal with dud workers effectively.

The Public Service Commission examined the attitudes of staff in micro-agencies last year, which are workplaces with fewer than 100 employees.

It found ''significantly higher levels of employee engagement'' than in the rest of the federal bureaucracy, suggesting micro-agency staff feel more involved with their work, their colleagues, their supervisor and their workplace.

Micro-agency employees also rated their leaders more highly on every measure tested, such as whether the agency was managed well, and whether senior executives engaged with staff and communicated effectively.


The survey uncovered several weaknesses, such as a lack of staff confidence in grievance-resolution processes, a belief that managers failed to tackle underperforming employees and concerns that innovation was discouraged.

However, the commission noted these problems were also common to the rest of the public service.

About 62 per cent of the senior executives who responded to the micro-agency survey were women.

This contrasts with the wider bureaucracy's leadership ranks, of whom only 38 per cent are women.

But the commission's head of staff research and evaluation, David Schmidtchen, warned against assuming that micro-agencies were more likely to promote female managers than other workplaces.

''This is the first time we've surveyed these agencies and the sample size is a little small,'' he said yesterday.

''But the results are very interesting and we're hoping to continue to examine this group of agencies in future to see how their workforces differ from other agencies.''

The latest State of the Service Report also found substantial differences between small (100-250 staff), medium (250-1000) and large (1000 or more) government workplaces.

Staff in smaller agencies were more engaged than those in larger offices, and less likely to take sick leave.

The median unexplained-absence rate per employee in a small workplace was 10.3 days a year, compared with 11.2 in medium agencies and 12 in large workplaces.

The report also found small agencies were more likely to rely on temporary staff.

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