Chapter 14 Human Resources Management

FaHCSIA relies on the capabilities and commitment of its staff to achieve its purpose of improving the lives of Australians. We are proud of, and value, the diversity of skills, experience and perspectives our people bring to the work of the Department.

FaHCSIA values, recognises and rewards its people. We have a strong performance culture focused on building staff capability, including leadership, through effective attraction and retention strategies. Our staff respect and encourage diversity in their working environment.

To support our people, FaHCSIA has a comprehensive and integrated human resources management framework, the FaHCSIA People Strategy 2009–2011: Great people, great future. Through successful implementation of key initiatives in the strategy we made great progress in strengthening our people capability during 2010–11. This chapter provides an overview of our key achievements.

Workforce planning

The FaHCSIA People Strategy is informed by regular data collection and analysis. Each quarter, the People Branch prepares a human resources metrics report for the People and Culture Committee and the Executive Management Group. The report contains numerical and trend data and analysis to support decision making. This information is also used by the human resources advisory team to help operational areas to:

FaHCSIA is moving towards an integrated approach to workforce planning, where each group will develop a workforce plan as part of its annual business planning process. The workforce plans will address specific workforce risks identified by each group, and allow us to view workforce risks and mitigation strategies at a whole-of-department level.

Graduate program

FaHCSIA recruits graduates from a range of academic disciplines, including arts, law, social sciences, information technology and economics and finance. FaHCSIA also recruits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates and cadets through the Australian Public Service Commission’s Indigenous Pathways to Employment Program. Incoming graduates form a critical part of the Department’s organisational renewal strategy.

FaHCSIA provides its graduates with a combination of on‑the‑job development and formal training. The 2011 graduates will complete a course leading to the award of a Diploma in Government. Graduates also take part in the internal priority skills training available to all FaHCSIA staff.

Participation in the graduate program requires graduates to assume a variety of roles in two discrete work placements in different functional areas of the Department. They undertake a combination of administrative tasks, policy and program development, and research. Graduates gain general experience working in a major policy department that exposes them to policy development and implementation processes, and familiarises them with work standards and processes in the Australian Public Service (APS).

On completion of their development program, the graduates advance to the APS 4 level.

In 2011, FaHCSIA recruited 58 graduates; most were generalists, but a small number were information technology, social policy or finance specialists.

The average retention rate each year for the past three years for staff who joined FaHCSIA through the graduate program is approximately 85 per cent.

Staff retention and turnover

In 2010–11, the Department’s voluntary separation rate was 10.39 per cent (a decrease from 10.81 per cent in 2009–10). These figures do not include staff who separated from the Department due to expiration of a contract or redundancy. The InfoHRM (a benchmarking service used by a number of APS agencies) median benchmark was 10.34 per cent.

The Department had a retention rate of 86.21 per cent in 2010–11, a decrease from 87.07 per cent in 2009–10. Retention rates measure the percentage of staff who were retained throughout the entire year. The InfoHRM median benchmark for the 2010 calendar year was 86.55 per cent.

Maximising attendance

The FaHCSIA Maximising Attendance Strategy was launched in October 2009. It is designed to encourage a positive attendance culture and to help managers better understand unscheduled leave in the organisation.

Figures 14.1 and 14.2 respectively show four-year trends in unscheduled absences and unscheduled absences by leave type per full-time equivalent FaHCSIA employee. The data indicate that the use of unscheduled absences has increased over the four years. Ongoing monitoring will continue, and the People and Culture Committee and Executive Management Group are looking at ways to improve the impact of the strategy and increase productivity.

Figure 14.1 Unscheduled absences per full time equivalent employee, 2007–08 to 2010–11

Figure 14.1 Unscheduled absences per full time equivalent employee, 2007–08 to 2010–11

Note: The results for 2009–10 and earlier may vary slightly from those published in previous annual reports. This is largely due to retrospective entry of leave; staff do not usually submit leave until after they return to work (most sick, miscellaneous, carer’s and workers compensation leave is not planned in advance).

Figure 14.2 Unscheduled absences per full time equivalent employee by leave type, 2007–08 to 2010–11

Figure 14.2 Unscheduled absences per full time equivalent employee by leave type, 2007–08 to 2010–11

In summary, FaHCSIA’s unplanned leave data reveals the following:

Supporting staff

FaHCSIA’s strategies to support and develop staff include a staff survey; leadership and capability development; networks and services to support diversity, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and staff with disability; workforce planning arrangements; and an occupational health and safety strategic plan.

Staff survey

The Department believes that if we understand our workforce, we can develop people management strategies that make FaHCSIA a good place to work and enhance our reputation as an employer. The staff survey increases our understanding of the factors that motivate our staff and support their ongoing engagement and commitment. It also enables us to track the success of various strategies and programs that are implemented, at a department‑wide level and locally within branches and groups, in response to previous survey results. FaHCSIA benchmarks the survey results against the State of the Service report results and against other comparable agencies.

Staff surveys have been conducted since February 2009, and a review of the effectiveness of staff surveying was completed in May 2011. The findings of the review showed a consensus view that staff surveying was a valuable tool for the Department to identify opportunities for positive change, and that strategies implemented in response to staff survey results did in fact influence positive change.

Overall, both staff and managers were very supportive of the staff survey initiative, and this is reflected in an average participation rate of over 80 per cent since surveying commenced. The People and Culture Committee has affirmed the value of the survey and agreed that staff surveying should continue into the future.

Figure 14.3 shows the November 2010 results for the survey questions on staff satisfaction with their current job and FaHCSIA as an employer.

Figure 14.3 Overall satisfaction with current job and FaHCSIA, November 2011 survey results


The top 12 drivers of overall satisfaction, engagement and organisational commitment were found to be (in order of the importance of their impact):

These drivers were consistent with the top 12 drivers identified in staff surveys conducted during 2009–10.

People strategy

The FaHCSIA People Strategy 2009–2010 was developed to support the Department’s strategic framework. In 2010, the People Committee approved the extension of the strategy to December 2011 to allow for the alignment of a number of key initiatives under the strategy and a greater period between implementation and evaluation.

The strategy was designed to achieve two key outcomes: a great place to work and a strong performance culture. The strategy provides clear guidance on how each member of our staff contributes to achieving those outcomes.

In early 2011 a review of the strategy commenced and, with the launch of our new strategic framework in July, a new People Strategy will be developed, to take effect from 2012.

Staff development and training

In 2010–11, FaHCSIA delivered on key priorities under our organisational learning strategy to:

FaHCSIA continued to provide a suite of in-house development programs in national and state office locations to address priority skills requirements of staff. In 2010–11, 102 programs were offered in financial management, writing to and for the Minister, better writing, project management, managing stakeholder engagement, working with commercial contracts, working with funding agreements, understanding accountabilities, policy development and advice, and performance management skills. Eighteen staff undertook accredited training in contract management towards a Diploma of Government qualification.

FaHCSIA delivered a revised leadership program to 94 Executive Level 2/Network Executive Level 1 and Senior Executive Service Band 1 officers. The program focused on building strategic ability in this cohort and included a residential program, leadership seminars and a 360-degree assessment instrument. The Department also supported a number of executive and senior executive officers to participate in external leadership programs, such as the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, the Australian Public Service Commission and the Cranlanna Program.

A new leadership extension program for Executive Level 2 officers was launched in 2010–11 as part of FaHCSIA’s talent management framework. The program is targeted at high-potential Executive Level 2 officers; that is, those who display the right combination of aspiration, engagement and ability. The aim of the program is to build FaHCSIA’s overall leadership capability, and provide a talent pipeline for the Senior Executive Service (SES).

FaHCSIA’s senior executives have been closely involved in the program, with deputy secretaries (SES Band 3) delivering a seminar series, mentoring provided at the group manager (SES Band 2) level and a deputy secretary acting as the program sponsor.

The program is supported by an expert industry consultant and offers a combination of coaching, mentoring, training and development, seminars, and a structured individual development plan for each participant

FaHCSIA continues to respond to the APS reform agenda for enhancing policy capability through our participation in the Australian National Institute of Public Policy programs. The institute’s autumn program of executive short courses had 61 enrolments from FaHCSIA staff.

During 2010–11 FaHCSIA successfully implemented a new learning management system to support identification and tracking of capability development, and transitioned to a new internal e-learning platform.

Performance management

All FaHCSIA staff participate in a formal performance management process. The process begins with the development of a performance agreement between a staff member and their manager, which sets out the individual’s role, deliverables and agreed capability requirements for the 12-month performance cycle that starts on 1 August each year. Performance is formally assessed twice a year between the manager and the individual staff member.

In 2010–11, FaHCSIA reviewed the performance management framework and consulted extensively with staff to ensure they had the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. A new performance management system will be introduced in 2011–12.

Staff recognition

FaHCSIA’s awards program ensures that staff are valued and know that their personal contributions are appreciated. Through the Recognise and Appreciate People Scheme, we recognise people whose actions exemplify FaHCSIA values and workplace culture, advance FaHCSIA organisational goals, or demonstrate outstanding achievement. A number of initiatives are available to recognise staff for their contribution, including:

Workplace diversity

FaHCSIA recognises that our people are our most valuable resource and that our workforce is a community. It is the responsibility of every employee to create a workplace environment that is inclusive. To support equity and inclusiveness, the Department provides opportunities for staff to participate in various networks or interest groups, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff Network, Carers’ Support Group and FaHCSIA Leadership disAbility Group. The Department continues to coordinate the Australian Public Service Diversity Network, which meets quarterly. The network provides APS human resource practitioners with the opportunity to share best practice in diversity across the public service.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff

As the lead agency in the delivery of outcomes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, FaHCSIA recognises the important role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees play in sharing their stories about their history and culture, and sharing their skills and knowledge to improve the lives of Australians.

FaHCSIA has a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. As at 30 June 2011, 8.7 per cent of our staff identified themselves as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, compared with the APS average of 2.2 per cent.

On 30 August 2010, FaHCSIA launched the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2010–2011. The strategy highlights FaHCSIA’s commitment to the COAG National Indigenous Reform Agreement. The strategy promotes employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and aims to engage all employees in building an organisational culture that supports and values the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In conjunction with the Reconciliation Action Plan, the strategy helps FaHCSIA to build a culturally appreciative organisation.

The Department has formed a steering group to assist with the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy. The steering group is made up of senior executive staff and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, and provides a great opportunity for them to work in partnership on issues and solutions in relation to the strategy.

FaHCSIA has demonstrated its commitment to effective governance through the appointment of a Senior Level Champion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, at the deputy secretary level. The role of the champion is to provide support for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, to represent FaHCSIA management and employees at major Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander internal and external events, and to be the senior management contact point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.

The FaHCSIA Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2009–2011 is our tangible commitment towards the goal of reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Our RAP addresses how we plan to work together to continue building a culture of mutually respectful relationships, to foster an understanding of and respect for Indigenous culture, and to create improved opportunities for our Indigenous employees. Our RAP Champion is at the deputy secretary level and the development and monitoring of the RAP is governed by the RAP Working Group, which consists of a number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff across the Department.

We recognise the importance of providing employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and understand that capability development is a key element in supporting employees to gain skills, knowledge and leadership abilities. FaHCSIA continues to participate in entry-level programs that provide employment pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into the Department. In 2010–11, the Department employed six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees, six cadets and three graduates.

FaHCSIA continues to support a Cultural Appreciation Program. The program is delivered and facilitated by FaHCSIA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. In 2010–11 FaHCSIA held 22 Cultural Appreciation Program sessions for more than 290 employees. To further support the program, FaHCSIA provided facilitator training for 10 additional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. As a result of this training, FaHCSIA now has 28 facilitators available to deliver the Cultural Appreciation Program across the Department.

Staff with disability

FaHCSIA is committed to the engagement of people with disability within the Department and we have a range of employment and support programs that aim to improve accessibility and provide an inclusive work environment. FaHCSIA has a higher proportion of staff with disability than any other APS agency. As at 30 June 2011, 5 per cent of our staff identified as having a disability.

FaHCSIA provides a range of resources and services to meet employees’ individual needs. The Department has a Disability Access Coordinator who provides an advocacy role for staff with disability in the Department. FaHCSIA utilises centralised funds to ensure reasonable adjustment and assistive technology is implemented and to support people to carry out the requirements of their jobs.

To foster professional development for employees with disability, FaHCSIA has a mentoring program that provides employees with disability an opportunity to be a mentee or mentor. FaHCSIA has 50 employees trained as mentors for employees with disability.

FaHCSIA participates in the ‘Stepping into’ internship program, which provides work experience placements in the Department for university students with disability who are in their final year of an undergraduate degree. In 2010–11 FaHCSIA provided two students with a six-week placement in the national office and will continue with this employment initiative.

A key objective under the FaHCSIA People Strategy is to increase accessibility of human resource services. FaHCSIA has established a number of channels to consult with people with disability. In late 2008, the FaHCSIA Leadership disAbility Group was established. Participation is open to any employee, with or without a disability. This group is consulted on policy, product and service development. The Hearing Impaired Staff Network provides guidance to FaHCSIA on how to provide better practice in hearing services and products.

FaHCSIA has demonstrated its commitment to effective governance through the appointment of a Senior Level Disability Champion, at the deputy secretary level. The role of the champion is to promote disability awareness throughout the organisation and to hold lunchbox sessions with employees with disability on a quarterly basis. The lunchbox sessions provide an opportunity for employees to consult with the senior leader on a range of issues and solutions.

In 2010, FaHCSIA participated in the Paralympic Diversity Workplace Program. The program provided a paralympian with a 12-month employment opportunity and a role as diversity ambassador within the Department.

At the APS level, FaHCSIA remains an active member of the Australian Public Service Commission’s Disability Steering Group. The group brings together human resource practitioners from multiple agencies to identify and progress APS-wide initiatives to improve employment outcomes for people with disability.

In 2009, FaHCSIA implemented a pilot traineeship program for five people with intellectual disability. On 10 February 2011, four trainees graduated with a Certificate II in Business Administration. The fifth trainee will graduate at the end of August on successful completion of the program. The four trainees were given permanent employment in the Department following the completion of their traineeships.

Workplace arrangements

Collective agreement

The FaHCSIA Collective Agreement 2009–11 commenced on 14 January 2009 and has a nominal expiry date of 14 November 2011. The agreement covers non-SES employees and seeks to:

Main features of the agreement are:

Bargaining on a new enterprise agreement is expected to commence in August 2011.

Flexibility agreements—non-SES employees

The Department may negotiate individual supplementary pay and conditions for non-SES employees under the FaHCSIA Collective Agreement flexibility agreement clause. The individual agreements are provided to attract, retain and reward highly valued non-SES employees. On 30 June 2011, 510 non-SES employees had supplementary remuneration provided under an individual agreement.

Australian workplace agreements—SES and non-SES employees

On 30 June 2011, six SES and three non-SES employees were covered by Australian workplace agreements.

Section 24(1) determinations—SES employees

SES employees can negotiate individual remuneration and conditions, which are authorised by determinations made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. The FaHCSIA SES remuneration policy sets the framework under which those negotiations take place.

On 30 June 2011, remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment were provided for 98 SES employees by individual determinations under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

Common law contracts

The Department does not use common law contracts for the employment of staff.

Non-salary benefits to employees

The Department offers a number of non-salary benefits to employees under the collective agreement and other individual industrial instruments (Table 14.1).

Table 14.1 Non salary benefits at 30 June 2011

Non SES staff—collective agreement
Access to employee assistance program
Purchased leave
Maternity and adoption leave
Parental leave
Sabbatical leave
Annual leave
Personal leave
NAIDOC Week leave
War service sick leave
Long service leave
Flextime (not all employees)
Flexible working arrangements
Work–life balance information and referral service
Christmas/New Year close down and early stand down at Easter
Mobile phone for official and incidental personal use
Airline club lounge membership
Child and elder care information and referral service
Family care rooms, extra family care costs, school holiday family care subsidy
Study assistance
Time off for long business travel
Business class travel for long haul flights
Flexible remuneration packaging
Assistance with public transport and parking costs
Influenza vaccination
Promoting good health payment
Voluntary cash out of annual leave
Payment of professional association memberships
Assistance with relocation expenses
Compensation for loss or damage to clothing or personal effects
Travelling allowance
Remote locality assistance
Non SES staff—other individual industrial instruments
All of the above benefits
Lump-sum payments
SES staff—other individual industrial agreementsa
All of the above benefits
Executive vehicle allowance

Performance pay was rolled into salary for FaHCSIA SES employees with effect from 1 July 2010.

Occupational health and safety

FaHCSIA acknowledges its employer responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (OHS Act) and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and is committed to the health and safety of its employees, contractors and visitors.

Health and safety management arrangements

FaHCSIA’s health and safety management arrangements (HSMAs) were revised in 2009, after consultation with staff and all health and safety representatives, members of all OHS committees, business support managers and the unions. The revised HSMAs were endorsed by the People and Culture Committee, the Executive Management Group and the Secretary.

The Department’s HSMAs reflect our commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees and include:

The HSMAs will remain in place until the introduction of the new Work Health and Safety Act on 1 January 2012.

OHS strategic plan

FaHCSIA’s OHS Strategic Plan 2011, ‘Improving the Health and Safety of Our People’, aims to:

Initiatives in 2010–11

In 2010–11, the Department took a number of actions to promote the health, safety and welfare at work of our employees and contractors—see Table 14.2.

Table 14.2 Health, safety and welfare initiatives, 2010–11

Goal Action Outcome
Develop a nationally consistent approach to the systems for selection, management and training of volunteers (health and safety representatives, harassment contact officers, fire aid officers and fire wardens)
  • Initial audit of volunteers against legislative requirement and business location
  • New processes for the identification and tracking of volunteer training needs
Improved processes and increased confidence that all locations are appropriately serviced by volunteers
Promote national health and wellbeing activities In consultation with OHS committees and the health and safety representative network, develop nationally consistent activities that promote:
  • Safe Work Australia Week (October 2011)
  • World Health Day (7 April 2011)
  • Healthy Lifestyle Subsidy (March 2011)
  • Increased staff awareness
  • Demonstration of FaHCSIA’s investment in staff health and wellbeing
Promote zero tolerance of bullying in the workplace Development, launch and promotion of a training program encouraging staff to act against bullying in the workplace
  • Developed the Prevention of Bullying in FaHCSIA DVD
  • Completed 14 training sessions nationally (18 February to 30 June 2011)
  • Received 85 training feedback sheets
Promote national initiatives aimed at positive impacts on unscheduled leave
  • Increase the awareness and effectiveness of the framework for early rehabilitation intervention
  • An education component aimed at managers to foster a collaborative and comprehensive approach to managing staff returning to work following injury or illness
  • A continued commitment to national health and wellbeing initiatives including promotion of good office hygiene, and staff vaccination program
  • Increased staff awareness of leave entitlements and responsibilities
  • Reduced illness and injury claims
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced costs associated with absence related to compensable and non-compensable illness and injury
  • 1,235 staff vaccinated in the 2010–11 program (a 10.3% increase from 2009–10)

Rehabilitation strategies

In 2010–11 there was a minor (1.25%) increase in the interval between notification of injury or illness and rehabilitation, compared to 2009–10. This is still significantly lower than the two years preceding 2009–10. FaHCSIA continues to strive to reduce the interval between notification of injury or illness and rehabilitation through its early intervention strategies.

Improvements to the rehabilitation framework system for managing staff with compensable and non-compensable injury and illness continue to provide positive outcomes for both staff and the Department.

These achievements are a result of the continuing implementation of the national initiatives in the OHS Strategic Plan and the Maximising Staff Attendance Strategy, which are aimed at early rehabilitation intervention followed by a safe and productive return to work.

Initiatives in 2010–11 included:

Eliminating bullying and harassment in the workplace

FaHCSIA promotes zero tolerance to workplace bullying and makes it clear to staff that no bullying or harassment will be tolerated within the Department.

With the support of the FaHCSIA People and Culture Committee, the Department has embarked on a new approach to the elimination of bullying in the workplace. This was in direct response to staff survey results. A key initiative in 2010–11 was the production of a FaHCSIA-specific DVD and training package on the prevention of bullying.

The Department developed a revised statement of commitment for the prevention of bullying in FaHCSIA to align more clearly with the intent of the DVD. The revised statement is integral to demonstrating senior management’s ongoing commitment to the prevention of bullying.

The Prevention of Bullying in FaHCSIA DVD informs staff about the impact of bullying in the workplace and highlights FaHCSIA’s systems for dealing with bullying and harassment. It was launched by then Secretary Dr Jeff Harmer AO and Comcare CEO Paul O’Connor in Canberra on 18 February 2011.

The DVD features interviews with Deputy Secretaries Bruce Hunter and Liza Carroll, Northern Territory State Manager Dave Chalmers, and People Branch Manager Lynette MacLean. These senior managers champion the objectives of the campaign to eliminate bullying and to foster a strong culture of zero tolerance for bullying in FaHCSIA.

The DVD also includes interviews with Nadine Flood, National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union; and Christina Bolger, Director of the Comcare Work Health Team, who provide insights from their backgrounds and experiences.

The DVD has been distributed nationally with a training package including resources for managers, harassment contact officers and health and safety representatives to facilitate training on the prevention of bullying in FaHCSIA.

The Department’s harassment contact officers, located in the national office, state offices and Indigenous coordination centres, are trained to provide support and information to staff and managers on bullying and harassment.

OHS formal reporting requirements

Statistics of accidents or dangerous occurrences under section 68 of the OHS Act

During 2010–11, the injury frequency rate was 5.18 injuries per 100 employees. Eight reports required the giving of notice to Comcare under section 68 of the OHS Act.

Investigations under Part 4 of the OHS Act

No investigations were undertaken by Comcare of FaHCSIA under Part 4 of the OHS Act during 2010–11.

In May 2010, FaHCSIA responded to a Comcare investigation targeting agencies’ health and safety management arrangements.

The investigation looked for evidence that the Department had undertaken consultation with all staff in the development of our HSMAs, and that the HSMAs met the mandatory provisions of the OHS Act in relation to dispute resolution, OHS consultation and health and safety committees.

The Department received the outcome of Comcare’s investigation on 28 January 2011.

Comcare found that FaHCSIA had complied with legislative requirements. In particular, it found that the Department had demonstrated a commitment to consultation in the development of our HSMAs, and that there were adequate processes in place in order to review and vary the agreement and to resolve disputes about OHS matters.

This is a very good outcome and a reflection of the contributions of the large number of people involved in the development of our HSMAs.