The department strengthened the management of its human resources to ensure effective delivery of the Government’s foreign policy, trade, consular, passports and development objectives. We enhanced the mechanisms through which we understand our workforce needs and support the well-being of staff and families. We undertook a number of reform projects to further professionalise and streamline our human resource functions, both in Australia and overseas.
The department focused on professionalising its human resource management including through the launch of the first Workforce Planning Framework in September 2015 and improvements to human resources data. We managed some areas of staff shortage and recruited actively to optimise our human resources over the next 12 months. We used staffing taskforces to meet specific government objectives, such as the Green Climate Fund Taskforce and the International Energy and Resources Taskforce, and ensured we were well placed to meet urgent demands for crisis response teams. A new short-term mission register facilitated the transfer of staff at short notice to overseas missions to meet evolving operational requirements and deepen the pool of international experience within the department’s workforce.
We launched the reDESIGN (Delivery of Enabling Services in our Global Network) Strategy to explore options for reducing administrative overheads at posts and implementing innovative operating models, such as ‘hub and spokes’ arrangements.
Under the Prime Minister’s Directive: Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas, the department manages the appointment, termination, salary and terms and conditions of all locally engaged staff (LES), with the exception of those engaged by Austrade. We completed a systematic review of the conditions of service and salaries for approximately 4,000 LES. This brought greater equity and sustainability to our employment framework for LES and helped improve our overseas operations.
The department’s commitment to capability and productivity enhancement through diversity was underlined by a Women in Leadership Strategy aimed at promoting equality and dismantling barriers to female participation in the senior executive service. We introduced a number of initiatives, including an ‘if not, why not’ flexible work trial and targets to lift women’s participation to over 40 per cent (up from under 34 per cent) at SES Band 1 and 2 levels by 2020.
We also progressed the department’s diversity agenda through the launch of a new Reconciliation Action Plan 2016–19, and an Indigenous Peoples Strategy 2015–19. On 30 June 2016, we had 70 ongoing employees (approximately 1.8 per cent of the total workforce) formally identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Our aim is to have 2.5 per cent Indigenous employees by June 2018. We continued to deliver a number of initiatives, including targeted special measures recruitment processes, to help meet that goal.
The department strives to be a model APS employer for staff with disability. We finalised an ambitious new Disability Action Strategy 2016–19 to promote the participation and contribution of people with disability. As of 30 June 2016, the department employed 59 staff who reported having a disability (representing approximately 1.6 per cent of A-based employees), however the actual figure is much higher in anonymous survey results. Disability reporting details under the National Disability Strategy are available at dss.gov.au.
To underscore the department’s commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) staff, we appointed two senior executives to champion LGBTI inclusion. Data reported from our Agency Multicultural Plan (2013–15) is included in the Multicultural Access and Equity in Government Services Report at dss.gov.au.
Further information on diversity reporting mechanisms is available through the APSC’s State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin at apsc.gov.au.
The Staff and Family Support Office provided: more than 300 management and 1,500 counselling consultations, including at overseas posts and state and territory offices; over 270 selection and wellbeing assessments; and 190 training sessions reaching over 3,400 staff. We commenced work on a departmental mental health policy. To mitigate health risks to staff overseas, the Medical Unit delivered a strategic risk assessment and management plan, as well as guidance on pregnancy while on posting. Medical Unit staff visited fourteen posts to assess medical facilities, address environmental concerns and undertake staff consultations.
This year the department issued its first guidance on workplace responses to domestic and family violence, including provisions on the use of leave. In line with the Women in Leadership Strategy, the department published a new breastfeeding in the workplace policy.
Learning and development
To strengthen functional capability and expertise of staff, the department launched a Diplomatic Academy in May. This builds on comprehensive reviews of the department’s learning and development framework, language, and pre-posting training programs. Given that language capability is essential to the department’s advocacy work overseas, a key outcome was to professionalise language training and increase our investment in in-country training.
We promoted learning and development across the department to ensure the maintenance of our highly skilled and motivated workforce. Over 240 officers attended leadership, management and security programs, 70 officers participated in the International Skills Development Program and 134 officers received assistance through the Studybank program. In August, we trained 370 officers from 21 APS agencies in foreign policy development and analysis as part of an inaugural Diplomatic Tradecraft Month. Investment in eLearning continued through development of 15 new programs. The new Work Health and Safety eLearning program was awarded ‘Best Talent’ and runner-up for ‘Best Learning Project’ at the 2016 LearnX Impact Awards.
As part of the capability improvement agenda, the Secretary established a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Diplomatic Academy. The principal aim of the academy is to strengthen the professional skills, functional capability and knowledge of all officers, including locally engaged staff at posts.
The academy will be a hub for sharing skills, knowledge and expertise through a range of learning and development activities, lectures and seminars. It will draw on the best of internal and external expertise to pass on diplomatic tradecraft, challenge our thinking, develop skills and bring consistency to training in the department. The academy is intended to become a key resource for the department and the wider APS, and to provide diplomatic skills and knowledge to regional governments. The executive director of the Academy will be responsible for its operations, curriculum, and engagement and outreach, notably with regional governments.
The department launched a new Performance Management Framework to streamline processes and provide clearer guidance for staff and managers dealing with complex performance issues. We created a new online upwards appraisal survey to collect comprehensive feedback on EL2 managers and above.
We offered a suite of mentoring programs for staff, including first time heads of mission and senior administrative officers, to strengthen individual capacity and harness the knowledge and insights of experienced officers. Around 200 staff across all levels of the department volunteered to become mentors through the new mentoring register.
In a challenging industrial relations and fiscal environment, staff agreed to a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) which sets out employment terms and conditions for non-SES employees for three years from 17 December 2015. Details of employees covered by the EA, and determinations and remuneration supplementation agreements are included in Appendix 2. SES staff are employed under the terms of a determination made by the Secretary under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. Executive remuneration is set out in Note 10 of the financial statements. In addition to remuneration, the department provides a range of non-salary allowances to staff for travel and for expenses related to overseas postings.