Public service bosses have turned to technology in their century-long quest to improve the performance of federal government workers.
Close to 2500 public servants will trial a smartphone application designed to trigger often uncomfortable conversations about workplace performance and efficiency.
The Australian Public Service Commission, which commissioned Brisbane-based Liquid Interactive to develop the app named Ripple, has acknowledged its patchy record on performance management.
"Individual workplace performance has a mixed history in the APS, partly because of the complex and varied nature of the work we do in government," an APSC spokesman said.
"Over the years, APS agencies have tried all manner of things to measure, promote and manage performance, with varying degrees of success."
The app presents users with one question each day before displaying results from the entire workforce. It is only available to approved public servants during a pilot period.
"The vast majority of people want to do well at their jobs, and Ripple is a fresh approach to helping people succeed in that aspiration," the spokesman said.
"It's designed to fit in around your daily work routine, and should be a pleasure to use."
The commission has proved prickly about the use of the word "duds," preferring the less confronting "lower value employees".
But whatever they are called, underperformers have been a thorn in the side of government administration in Australia from the start
The Canberra Times revealed last year that the struggle against "lower value employees" in the public service had been raging at least since the 1920s, when they were known officially as "decent duffers".
Staff have in turn criticised management for unfair, inconsistent and ineffective performance management schemes, as revealed in a recent University of Western Australia study.
The app will be trialled until December and will be rolled out across the entire workforce next year.
Its launch comes after Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd revealed his plan to overhaul performance management schemes to better reflect the private sector.
"Make no mistake; we are not good at this," Mr Lloyd said earlier this year.
"In many private sector organisations, a mutually respectful parting of the ways works to everyone's benefit. We should aspire to this for the Australian public service."
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