Public service job classifications could go as the Australian Public Service Commission looks at options to slim down the employment structure and develop a program to re-skill staff as part of government reforms to the bureaucracy.
As planning for the implementation of the federal government's public service reform agenda intensifies, Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott has revealed that it will include a "comprehensive Review" of the the APS classification structure.
"The Government has asked us to do a comprehensive review of the APS classification structure to see if it remains fit for purpose in our changing environment," Mr Woolcott said in a speech to the APS Wide Conference earlier this week.
"I don't have any quick answers but the questions we will be asking are whether we are too hierarchical; are there too many layers in the public service; and how do we build in the flexibilities to routinely and quickly re-configure ourselves around a problem?"
Mr Woolcott said the review had the potential to reshape the public service "for years to come".
The APS has eight work level standards, APS 1 to 6 and Executive Levels 1 and 2. Each classification includes broad descriptions of job requirements plus details of the typical duties, tasks and functions.
The Thodey review of the public service found that the current hierarchical structure stifles innovation and received "consistent feedback" that disparity in pay and conditions created administrative burden and barriers to worker mobility.
"Fewer organisational layers and broader spans of control can reduce duplication and improve performance," the Thodey report said. "It can improve decision-making, reduce bureaucracy and empower staff, supporting both professional development and better outcomes."
The government rejected the Thodey report's recommendation to move toward common core conditions and pay scales, but backed its call for a review of APS structures and hierarchies.
The classification review, due to be completed by the end of the year, is part of a broader Workforce Strategy which will include a plan to re-skill public servants in jobs likely to become automated, like clerical and data entry roles.
The Thodey review was told that around 18 per cent of tasks and 40 per cent of time in roles in the public service were likely to be automated in the next decade, and Mr Woolcott said the Commission was working with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment to develop a framework to re-skill affected staff.
"The framework will establish a plan to help us to re-skill our workforce in occupations of diminishing utility and ensure that employees can continue their APS career in roles where there is increasing demand or in new and emerging areas," he said.
Mr Woolcott said the APSC was also developing options to improve the mobility of federal public servants within the APS, with the states and territories and with the private and not-for-profit sectors.
The commissioner said mobility was important to encourage diversity of thought as well as boost both individual and organisational capability.
He said instances of public servants moving between agencies were relatively low and "we must develop incentives, targets and other practical measures" to drive mobility both within the APS and between it and other sectors of the economy.
Public servants in the senior executive service also face extra scrutiny.
Mr Woolcott said the Commission, in cooperation with the Sectaries Board, would complete benchmarked capability assessments of all Band 3 SES employees this year, to followed by similar assessments for Band 1 and 2 SES.
"These assessments will help target development, guide career paths and identify low capability," he said.
Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Melissa Donnelly said "meaningful investment" needed to be part of the APS reform agenda and calle don the government to "kick its dirty outsourcing habit".
"There is no doubt that we are in the middle of a digital disruption and the pace of work has increased across the service," Ms Donnelly said.
"It is essential that the future Australian Public Service workforce planning must be properly mapped out and it must include all departments and workers in the process. "
The union leader said building the capacity of the public service involved making it a stable and secure place to work.