State of the service

An engaged and committed workforce

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Employee engagement is best characterised as the two-way relationship an employee has with the workplace. The Australian Public Service Commission defines employee engagement as the relationship employees have with four elements of their work: the job they do daily; the team with whom they work; their immediate supervisor; and the agency they work for.

As noted in an earlier post about employee engagement in the Australian Public Service (APS) and in the 2014–15 State of the Service Report, employee engagement in the APS remained high in 2014–15, particularly job engagement and engagement with immediate supervisors. Following minor drops in engagement scores for each of the four measures between 2011 and 2012, engagement scores have typically increased year on year since 2012.

2014–15 State of the Service Report—An engaged and committed workforce

Significant variations are evident across job, team supervisors and agency engagement measures depending on agency function. Specialist and policy agencies were consistently rated higher on each measure. Members of the Senior Executive Service also report higher engagement levels on each measure compared to the workforce overall.

Sixty-six per cent of APS employees agree that their job gives them a feeling of personal accomplishment and 73% report that their current work uses their skills. Eighty per cent of employees agree they have a good supervisor and 68% agree their agency is committed to creating a diverse workforce. Seventy-three per cent of employees report their workgroups are honest, open and transparent in their dealings. Seventy-two per cent are satisfied with their work-life balance and their ability to access flexible work arrangements.

Seventy-four per cent of APS employees report they are tasked appropriately for their classification, 80% are clear what their duties are and 73% report they have the appropriate decision-making authority to do their jobs. These results are particularly pleasing when considered against a backdrop of significant functional and structural reforms.

It has been suggested that age influences engagement levels of employees and that young workers are likely to be the least engaged group in an organisation’s workforce. However, data from the APS employee census, along with a large scale study by IBM of over 30,000 people in 28 countries1, 2 show that younger workers are typically more satisfied with their employment than workers in other age groups.

Figure 1.

Employee engagement—employees by age group

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Employee engagement index

Employee engagement—employees by age group

Employee age group

Figure 1. is a bar chart showing .

Each element of the APS Employee Engagement Model is made up of a number of individual items. These are the drivers of engagement and define the engagement relationship.

Immediate supervisors tend to have the most significant impact on employee engagement levels. APS employee survey results show that supervisor engagement consistently ranks highest of all four measures of engagement. As noted in the 2014–15 State of the Service report extract above, in 2015 80% of APS staff agreed they have a good immediate supervisor. Sixty-five per cent agreed that their supervisor encourages them.

Senior leaders also heavily influence the engagement of their employees—a culture of high engagement requires senior leaders to be visible and accessible. Senior leaders also need to clearly communicate with employees. In 2015, only 42% of APS employees reported that the communication between senior leaders and other employees is effective in their agency. Agency engagement scores have remained consistently lower than scores for the other elements of engagement. Along with communication, additional factors impacting the relatively low agency engagement score include only 46% of employees feeling valued for their contribution and less than 50% of employees feeling that praise for their agency is like a personal compliment to them.

Figure 2.

Interactive Chart: APS employee engagement

Paper icon representing the learn more page Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

Figure 2. is an interactive chart showing the employee engagement for the APS overall has increased over the past four years from 2012 to 2015.

This is an interactive chart: hover and click the different years and elements to view data.

Significant research and analysis has been undertaken on all aspects of employee engagement both within and outside the public sector. Further reading on the subject with a specific focus on its application in the APS can be found in Issue 6 of Human Capital Matters.

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

[1] IBM Software 2014, Attitude? What attitude? The evidence behind the work attitudes of millennials, IBM Corporation, United States of America, viewed 16 December 2015, <>.

[2] IBM Software 2014, The many contexts of employee engagement. Exploring the contextual layers that directly or indirectly influence employee engagement., IBM Corporation, United States of America, viewed 16 December 2015, < Employee_Engagement.pdf>.