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The annual Australian Public Service (APS) employee census collects confidential information on the attitudes and opinions of APS employees on a range of issues including health and wellbeing, attendance, performance management, leadership and general impressions of the APS. It is an opportunity for employees to tell the Australian Public Service Commissioner what they think about working in the APS.

The APS employee census also provides Safe Work Australia (the Agency) with information and feedback from our employees on what is working well and what we can do better. This year, we had a high level of engagement with 93 per cent of employees completing the survey.  

Highlights report

The Agency highlights report contains a summary our census results on key questions including engagement, wellbeing, innovation, leadership, performance management, and risk management. The highlights report provides a summary of our 2019 results, as well as providing a benchmark to similar agencies and our past results.

The highlights report includes aggregated agency data. All employee census reporting is subject to strict privacy rules, meaning that results are not produced unless there are a minimum of 10 staff responses.

Where we performed well

Overall, the responses from our employees were positive and in many cases we performed stronger than the APS overall, other policy agencies and similar sized agencies. Areas where we performed well included:

  • Health and Wellbeing—our wellbeing index, which provides a measure of wellbeing for our employees, was 76 per cent. This score was the 13th highest in the APS. A strongly performing wellbeing index demonstrates that we provide our employees with a healthy working environment.
  • Pay and conditions—our employees responded that their working conditions were favourable with responses being 18 per cent more positive than other APS agencies.
  • Diversity and inclusion—our responses show that 91 per cent of respondents consider that we are committed to creating a diverse workforce and 84 per cent of respondents consider that we support and actively promote an inclusive workplace culture.
  • Leadership and supervision—the general impression of our leaders and supervisors is good and more positive than the APS overall, with an average positive response of 87 per cent for questions relating to immediate supervisors and 71 per cent for questions about the Senior Executive Service (SES).

Where we improved the most

Our results also identified areas where we had the biggest improvements from the 2018 APS employee census. These improvements demonstrate that the work we have done over the last 12 months has been recognised by our employees and we are heading in the right direction. These areas are:

  • Recruitment and mobility—we saw a 23 per cent positive increase from 2018 for responses on whether employees believe we manage our workforce well (i.e. finding the right people for the right job at the right time).
  • Fraud and corruption awareness—we have increased our employee’s awareness of our fraud and corruption procedures. Compared to 2018, there was a 32 per cent positive increase in our employee’s awareness of our procedures to manage corruption and a 25 per cent positive increase in employees understanding of those policies and procedures.  Although awareness of our fraud and corruption procedures has increased, the results highlighted that employees are not using the procedures to report potential or perceived fraud or corruption.

Where we can do better

While the majority of responses were positive, there are areas where we can do better.

  • Internal communication—employees believe that both their immediate supervisors and their immediate SES manager communicate effectively (82 per cent positive response). However, the effective communication score was lower (65 per cent) for the SES as a cohort.
  • Employee development and support—while our employees feel that they receive constructive, regular and timely feedback from their supervisors (89 per cent of responses), they feel that our performance management scheme is not very useful for their development (43 per cent positive response).
  • Connection to the Agency—as a measure of employee engagement, the responses show that while employees are happy to go the extra mile at work (95 per cent positive response), they do not feel a strong personal attachment to the Agency (54 per cent positive response).
  • Strategic direction—closely aligned to the responses on internal communication, the responses indicate that the SES could do better at articulating the direction and priorities of the Agency (66 per cent positive response).
  • Risk and innovation—similarly to most APS agencies, only half of the respondents believe we engage with risk appropriately and recognise innovation (34 per cent and 59 per cent positive response respectively). Interestingly, the responses on risk and innovation had some of the highest neutral scores, demonstrating that more work can be done to communicate and promote risk management and innovation within the Agency.

Our next steps

Our focus over the past few months has been to get employees involved by being part of the solution. After presenting the 2019 APS employee census results to all employees, we invited all employees to share their ideas and then vote on their top three preferences for how we can make this an even better place to work. We did this focussing on five key priority areas:   

  • improving our internal communication
  • providing more development and support to employees
  • demonstrating a greater connection to the Agency and our work
  • providing clear strategic direction, and
  • engaging more effectively with risk and supporting innovation.

We have also established a mental health working group, chaired by a Mental Health Champion at the Senior Executive Service classification, which will look at how we can continue to foster a mentally healthy workplace and safe environment for employees.

We will continue to respond to employee feedback by making changes to the way we work, the way we communicate and how we develop and support our employees.

More information

For more detail about interpreting census results, we recommend visiting the Australian Public Service Commission’s website.

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