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Media Release

Smarter and more effective leadership needed

in public sector, says AHRI
December 3
In order to achieve Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s aim to have the world’s best public service, the
Australian Government must adopt the world’s best practice training and development
approaches in leadership and creativity as highlighted by the latest global benchmarking HR
research, and also by employing highly talented people-management practitioners to involve,
engage and align our public sector workforces.

These and other perspectives were set out in a comprehensive submission by the Australian
Human Resources Institute (AHRI) on the Reform of Australian Government Administration, to
its advisory group headed by Terry Moran, secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and

Among its 13 recommendations, AHRI proposed four new initiatives to boost education, training
and leadership development in the sector:

• A high-level academic school be established in policy making, service delivery and

leadership – along the lines of the Kennedy School at Harvard

• Formal training and development programs be established for the often neglected
middle management ranks of the public sector

• A human capital framework be established consisting of formal education, on-the-job

training, and greater opportunities for mobility both within and between public agencies
and also by secondments to the business sector

• In addition to skills development in policy making and service delivery, leadership

training programs be initiated that include specific responsibility for leading and
nurturing talented younger people.

In addition to its development recommendations, AHRI also proposed establishment of a

framework to target improvements in workforce planning, succession, recruiting and promotion
methods, performance management and a better structure for rewarding and recognising staff
on the job.

AHRI also called for the formation of policy hubs that include creative people within and beyond
the bureaucracy, and that high quality HR expertise be upgraded and valued on a par with
financial, scientific and other professional expertise.

In making its submission AHRI surveyed its public sector membership base. Notable findings
include the following:
• 36% say their agency mission, vision and values are not communicated to staff
• 21% say agency leaders do not model public service values
• 58% say the agency does not encourage innovation through strategic risk taking
• 35% say leaders of the agency are not unified in achieving cross-government agendas
• 36% say the senior executives in their agency do not see themselves as part of a
broader leadership group
• 25% believe when senior executives are working with ministerial advisers, they are
either not encouraged to adopt a whole-of-government approach or lip-service is paid
• 58% say they are too often under pressure to deal with short-term issues in the media
• 65% say staff in the agency are not sufficiently well trained or resourced to deal
creatively with long-term strategic policy issues
• 62% say they are offered training in risk management
• 59% say they are offered training in diversity
• 6% say they are offered training in cross-agency cooperation
• 10%% say they are offered training in identifying and retaining talent
• 16% say they are offered training in innovation
• 77% say the agency has no recognised succession plan in place for key people.

“Successful private sector organisations have similar programs and performance measurement
systems for people such as we have proposed for the Federal public sector. The results
amongst our best and high performing companies are loyal, engaged and committed workforces
with high levels of professionalism and purpose,“ said AHRI national president Peter Wilson.

“We commend the Government on its efforts to build capability and performance in our public
sector workforces. While there are many highly talented and committed people working in the
public service, the bulk of available data show that engagement and attitude results score well
below acceptable management practice levels. Many of the findings need to be scoring in the
85-90+% positive range, as they do in the private sector.

“The gap can be bridged but it will take time, the right policy mix and sustained commitment
from senior executive leaders in the public sector today,” Peter Wilson said

AHRI will independently publish the results of its public sector survey shortly.

For further details go to Latest News at www.ahri.com.au


About AHRI
The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) is the national association representing human resource and people
management professionals. AHRI leads the direction and fosters the growth of the HR profession through actively setting
standards and building the capability of the profession.
For further information contact:
Paul Begley, national manager, government & media relations, Australian Human Resources Institute
(03) 9918 9232 0402 897 884 www.ahri.com.au