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Strengthening the Performance Framework · PDF file 2018-03-27 · Strengthening the Performance Framework research found that major reconfiguring of an agency’s current performance

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  • Strengthening the Performance Framework: Towards a High Performing Australian Public Service

    Diagnostic Implementation July 2014

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  • Strengthening the Performance Framework: Towards a High Performing Australian Public Service—Diagnostic implementation

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    This paper was prepared by: Professor Deborah Blackman, University of New South Wales, Canberra Professor Michael O’Donnell, University of New South Wales, Canberra Dr Fiona Buick, University of Canberra Dr Damian West, Australia Public Service Commission Shayla Ribeiro, Australian Public Service Commission July 2014 Canberra, Australia

    © Commonwealth of Australia July 2014

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    Blackman, D., Buick, F., O’Donnell, M., O’Flynn, J. and West, D. (2013), Strengthening the Performance Framework: Towards a High Performing Australian Public Service, Australian Public Service Commission, Canberra.

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  • Strengthening the Performance Framework: Towards a High Performing Australian Public Service—Diagnostic implementation

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    Purpose The purpose of the Diagnostic process is to support the implementation of a High Performance Framework which will enable Australian Public Service (APS) agencies achieve high performance through the maximisation of their performance management systems. Based on research which identified that the attainment of high performance is affected more by the implementation of a performance system, rather than by redesigning the system itself, the Diagnostic process has been developed to enhance APS Agency outcomes from performance management.

    Application of the Diagnostic process should enable APS agencies develop performance management systems which reflect a clear articulation of high performance at the agency, group and individual levels, thereby providing clear links for individuals between their work objectives and the priorities of their agency. Organisational structure, management, administrative and systems will be reviewed and, where necessary, updated to support clear expectations of the standard of work required, offer feedback to employees focused on how they can improve or sustain their performance, and enable capability development where required.

    Aim The overarching aim of the Diagnostic process is to support APS agencies in achieving high performance. To facilitate the achievement of high performance, the Diagnostic process has been designed to:

    • gauge the extent to which an agency’s practices and its people capabilities align with those which have been demonstrated to positively impact performance (high performance principles);

    • assist APS agencies to assess their baseline condition, identify areas of strength and weakness, and the required actions to achieve more consistent and better practice; and

    • utilise quantitative and qualitative inputs to identify key areas requiring improvement and provide suggestions for action.

    The Diagnostic framework used to guide the process incorporates both primary and secondary questions which will encourage a line of enquiry and reflection regarding whether current performance processes within an agency are supporting the development of high performance. The use of both the Diagnostic process and framework should, over time, enable an agency to make an assessment of year-on-year improvement.

    Research Findings Extensive research has been undertaken into how to use performance management more effectively to enable the development of high performance. The Strengthening the Performance Framework project has brought together the findings of a review of the existing literature; data from the State of the Service Report (SoSR) 2011-12; agency consultations and research undertaken in seven APS agencies (including in-depth interviews with 226 participants); and cross-case comparisons to generate a High Performance Framework for the APS. The Framework comprises four Principles and three Foundation elements (see diagram at Figure 1: Principles for High Performing Government. The full report, Strengthening the Performance Framework: Towards a High Performing Australian Public Service (March 2013) is available at: http://www. apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/strengthening-performance.

    The High Performance Framework is based on the proposition that, to enable high performance, there needs to be a renewed emphasis on performance management as a core activity that is embedded in all

    Performance Management as a tool for High Performance

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    management functions. To be meaningful and effective, performance management needs to be integrated with other management and human resources practices in order to develop an integrated system of high performance; it would commence with job design and flow through to when an employee leaves the agency.

    Many of the mechanisms required are often already evident in agencies. However, their application may be limited and there will be a number of areas where, through effective implementation, the performance management system could be improved to support employee engagement and high performance. The Diagnostic framework provides a tool that will enable agencies to assess strengths and weaknesses regarding their performance management implementation.

    The 2013 employee census data suggests that there are opportunities to improve on current practices. For example:

    • 18 per cent of APS staff reported that they had not received formal performance feedback in the last 12 months, only a slight improvement from 20 per cent the previous year; and

    • Employees who agreed that their most recent performance review would help to improve their performance has declined to 42 per cent from 48 per cent in just one year.

    Interestingly, the data from the 2013 agency census indicates an improvement in the proportion of agencies with measures in place to encourage the active management of underperforming staff, up from 77 per cent in 2012 to 83 per cent. The proportion of agencies that reported managers were not rewarded for superior staff management skills remained relatively stable (50 per cent compared to 51 per cent last year).

    The Strengthening the Performance Framework research found that major reconfiguring of an agency’s current performance management process was not necessarily the priority to address these challenges. Rather, making the current performance management system more effective through improved implementation and support for managers and employees was more valuable and likely to lead to longer term productivity improvements. This research has highlighted that there are actions which agencies can take to improve the implementation of performance management across the APS, such as:

    • discuss and define what high performance means at the agency, group and individual level within an agency;

    • ensure that agency goals are clearly understood and the importance of those goals is made relevant to each employee;

    • provide managers with guidance on how to set goals and provide feedback on performance: for example immediately prior to the commencement of the review cycle;

    • ensure managers are held accountable for supporting, maintaining and improving the performance of their staff;

    • ensure managers are held accountable for the quality of performance