State of the service

Organisational learning through collaboration – the employee experience

The role of on-the-job learning has been a focus of public and private sector organisations for some time. This has been driven by concerns about the adequacy of and the return on investment provided by face-to-face training. The development of the 70:20:10 model of learning has provided a framework for thinking differently about how people learn at work. In this model, 70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% through relationships outside one’s area of expertise, and 10% through structured training.

  • “The nature of the work that people do influences their experience of collaboration.”

A key element of learning on the job is the degree of collaboration that occurs in the workplace. Collaboration is an important feature of the APS workplace. The APS measured the climate for collaboration in the workplace in the 2015 APS employee census. This was done using a measure developed collaboratively between the Commission and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This measure looked at various aspects of the collaboration climate including the employee experience of collaboration. Three aspects of employee experience were assessed: whether they felt that they learnt a lot from their colleagues, whether working with others in the agency contributed to developing their expertise, and whether they felt that sharing information improved their knowledge.

The majority of employees agreed that their experience of each of these aspects of the collaboration experience was positive. SES employees were noticeably more positive about their experience. This may reflect a combination of their generally higher levels of engagement with the workplace and the nature of the work done by the SES.

The nature of the work that people do influences their experience of collaboration. There are differences in all aspects of the experience of collaboration depending on the function of the agency in which the employee works and the type of work that their immediate workgroup does.

Employees in specialist agencies are most positive about their experience of learning from others in their agency. However, they are less positive about the value of information sharing within the agency. Conversely, employees in small operational agencies are very positive about the benefits of sharing information, but are least positive about their experience of learning from others or gaining expertise from working with others in the agency.

Figure 1.

Collaboration experience by agency function

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Percent positive

Collaboration experience by agency function

Figure 1. is a bar chart showing that while employees in specialist agencies are most positive about their experience of learning from others in their agency they are less positive about the value of information sharing within the agency.

When the experience of collaboration is looked at across different APS work types, there are some distinctly different patterns of experience. Employees working in a research area see sharing information more positively relative to the other aspects of the experience, whereas those working in a policy or finance area have a more consistent experience. Employees in a human resources (HR) or program design area are less likely to state that they gained their expertise from working with others in their current agency than they are to believe that they have learned a lot from others in their organisation of from sharing information. HR and program design staff are more likely to bring their skills with them but benefit from the collaborative practices in their agency.

Figure 2.

Interactive Chart: Collaboration by work type

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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.

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