I couldn't help but chuckle when reading the independent APS review panel's recommendations on investing in capability and talent development.
While aimed at the blue-sky big picture, any recommendation about "strategic recruitment, development and mobility to build the workforce of the future" is bound to flounder in the quagmire of on-the-ground recruitment practice.
This isn't the first time a report has suggested taking a strategic approach to the Australian Public Service workforce. Reports dating back more than a decade from the Australian National Audit Office, the Senate finance and public administration references committee and the Public Service Commission have all made similar recommendations, including "streamlining" recruitment. Even though job ads, with their accompanying documents, are an important part of the trust-building, public face of the APS, recent "reforms" do little to build an APS that, for the review panel, is "fit for the future".
So what evidence is there that this pitch approach, somehow stripped of non-essentials (although what these are is unclear), is faster, simpler and delivers more effective recruitment? Suited to someone with creative-writing talent who can concoct a convincing sales proposal (which is not your typical public servant), the pitch approach fails to provide a convincing alternative to selection criteria.
When it's all boiled down, it might not be selection criteria that are the problem, but a failure by selection panels to devote sufficient effort to clarifying how to conduct a selection, and sufficient time to complete the process quickly. In the meantime, channelling the review's language, championing transformative initiatives will surely enable 21st-century, integrated-workforce outcomes. Absolutely!
The review panel invites readers to let it know how to strengthen each proposal, what it is missing, and how to ensure lasting change. While it is probably uninterested in this level of minutiae, the APS will continue to struggle with recruitment so long as the process is unintelligible and decisions lack transparency.
The review's aspiration is "a trusted APS, united in serving all Australians". Recruitment practices that are consistent (while allowing flexibility), understandable, transparent and evaluated, so that they offer confidence that a merit-based decision is made, will more likely support initiatives that drive this aspiration.
We'll see what happens.
Dr Ann Villiers is a career consultant at Mental Nutrition. email@example.com
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.