State of the service

Employee engagement in the APS

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Data from the 2015 APS employee census shows that engagement levels across the APS have remained relatively high over the past year. Employee engagement is an important concept for managing the APS workforce. An engaged workforce is likely to be more committed to organisational goals and more productive.

  • “APS employee engagement remains high in 2015″

Employee engagement has been a focus of the annual State of the Service report for almost a decade. It is best characterised as the two-way relationship an employee has with the workplace.

The drivers of employee engagement include leadership shown by both senior leaders and immediate supervisors. It is also impacted by whether or not employees receive formal or informal performance feedback. High levels of employee engagement have been linked with an increase in innovation, greater productivity and a reduction in employee turnover. Commission research has shown that employee engagement is related to the use of sick leave and intention to leave.

De-identified results from previous APS employee censuses are available on data.gov.au.

Engagement in the APS is measured using the APS Employee Engagement Model. This model measures employee engagement with four dimensions of work: the job performed by the employee, the team in which they work, their immediate supervisor, and the agency in which they work.

You can read more about the APS Employee Engagement Model here. Additionally a Research Note on the development of the model is available on request.

The model provides APS managers with the evidence to develop tailored initiatives designed to foster employee engagement in their particular agency. Improving the visibility of senior leaders and the frequency and quality of their engagement with the workforce are two strategies likely to improve engagement.

Results from the employee census show that employee engagement remained relatively stable from 2014 to 2015. Given the nature of employee engagement, we would not expect to see large increases or decreases in year-on-year results. As such, while employee engagement increased this year across two elements of the model, the increases are all small, suggesting relatively stable employee engagement levels across the APS.

Figure 1.

Employee engagement scores for 2014 and 2015*

Employee engagement index

Figure 1.
Figure 1 is a bar graph showing minor increases on job, team, supervisor and agency dimensions of employee engagement from 2014 to 2015. Engagement scores between 2014 and 2015 stayed the same at 6.7 for job and 7.2 for supervisor. There were slight increases from 6.5 to 6.6 for team, and 5.7 to 5.8 for agency. (Please note this data has been corrected post tabling of State of the Service report 2014–15.)

Analysis undertaken by the Commission has demonstrated that employee engagement varies depending on the type of agency an employee works in. Results from the 2015 employee census show that employees in specialist or policy agencies have higher levels of engagement across all four elements of the model. Employees in larger operational agencies tend to have lower levels of engagement.

Employee engagement by agency function

Employee engagement index

Figure 2.
Figure 2 is a bar chart showing employees in Specialist or Policy agencies have higher levels of engagement across all four employee engagement dimensions; employees in Larger Operational agencies tend to have lower levels. Engagement scores in agencies clusters range from: 5.7 to 7 in Larger Operational, 5.8 to 7.2 in Smaller Operational, 5.9 to 7.1 in Regulatory, 6.2 to 7.1 in Policy and 6.5 to 7.2 in Specialist. Employee engagement was lowest at Agency level in all five agency clusters, and highest at the Supervisor level.

One of the key factors influencing employee engagement is employee classification level. More senior employees typically demonstrate higher levels of engagement than junior employees.

Employee engagement by classification

Employee engagement index

Figure 3.
Figure 3 is a bar chart showing employee engagement levels increase with classification level for APS 1–6, EL to SES employees. SES have the highest levels of engagement, APS 1–6 employees have the lowest. Engagement scores in employee levels range from: 5.7 to 6.5 for APS 1–6, 5.8 to 7.2 for EL and 7.2 to 8.4 for SES. APS 1–6 and EL employees tend to have highest engagement levels with supervisor, whilst SES employees tend to have highest engagement at the Job level.

One of the most important employee attitudes influenced by engagement is their intention to leave their agency. Previous work by the Commission has shown a positive correlation between intention to leave and actual separations. High levels of engagement are related to employees being much more likely to stay with their agency. Results from this year’s employee census show that employees who reported they want to leave their agency immediately also record much lower levels of engagement than other employees.

Employee engagement by intention to leave

Employee engagement index

Figure 4.
Figure 4 is a bar chart showing employee engagement and intention to stay. Employee engagement is higher with job, team, supervisor and agency for employees that want to stay working for their agency for at least the next three years. Employee engagement is lowest for employees who want to leave their agency as soon as possible. Engagement scores range from: 4.1 for those that want to leave ASAP, 5.5 for those that want to leave within 1 year, 5.3 for those that want to leave within 1 year but can’t, 6.5 for those that want to stay for 1–2 years and 6.6 for those that want to stay for at least 3 years.

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Read the State of the Service Report 2014–15 on the APSC website.

* Data corrected post tabling of State of the Service report 2014–15.


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