APS Wellbeing Index fell in 2021 after public service census found high burnout concern – The Canberra Times

Australian Public Service wellbeing went backwards in the latest federal employee survey despite additional support measures being put in place to deal with elevated concern of burnout in the pandemic.

Commissioner Peter Woolcott’s State of the Service report, released Monday, revealed new data from agencies and some detail from the unpublished latest employee census conducted in May and June of 2021 while agencies grappled with shifting remote work arrangements and high community expectations.

More than eight in 10 of the latest census respondents said they were willing to work beyond what was required in their job to help their agency achieve its objectives.

Public servants took slightly fewer sickies in 2020-21 than in the previous year, but still averaged about 12.2 days per year per employee compared with 13.1 days in 2019-20. Services Australia had the highest rate with 16.6 days.
It comes as more than one-third of federal public servants reported feeling burned out, often finding their work stressful in the previous census.
The APS Wellbeing Index fell 2 per cent in 2021 to 68 per cent, which Mr Woolcott attributed to low satisfaction with communication and promotion of support measures.
Nine in 10 reported seeing how their role contributed to delivering results for the Australian people, indicating very high engagement despite the challenges of the last year.

Mr Woolcott said the APS had done well in the last 12 months.
“One of the successes of this period has been how APS employees, regardless of agency or role, have worked together where there was greatest need,” he said.
“The changing mindset – from individual agencies to one enterprise – is critical for us going forward.”
The APS workforce grew to more than 153,000 employees in June 2021, an increase of 2.3 per cent from June 2020, mostly located outside of Canberra.
The new permanent APS Surge Reserve helped bring more than 3000 employees to areas of highest need during the COVID-19 pandemic response from the government.

But critical skills shortages remained in digital and information and communication technologies.
More than two-thirds of agencies identified the two areas, along with data, as being the largest capability gap for the public service.
The federal government announced in May it would commit $1.2 billion over six years to support its aspiration of becoming a leading global digital economy and society.
The shift would see a stronger focus on emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing, building digital skills and encouraging businesses to invest in the sector.
But the public service’s annual report showed the workforce to deliver those aspirations was not there yet.
Digital and ICT shortages were reported by 81 per cent of agencies, however, with data skills following closely behind at 70 per cent.
The digital skills shortage was an economy-wide issue but a concentration of roles in Canberra was further exacerbating the problem, the report suggested.
The report outlined 59 per cent of the roles were based in Canberra but the labour market was largely located in other states, including Queensland, Victoria and NSW representing more than 70 per cent of the country’s talent pool.
Agencies were recommended to reconsider their location strategies in order to address the shortfall, with the shortage expected to worsen until at least 2025.
The public service said it was ramping up its digital skills capability through identifying talent earlier on, via cadetships and apprenticeships, but also with a focus on reskilling and upskilling the current workforce.
The introduction of emerging talent programs have resulted in a tripling of digital graduates, cadets and apprentices across the public sector since 2019 with 96 places now increasing to around 300 in next year’s intake.
A digital progression stream is also aiming to plug the skills gap by mapping 150 digital roles to career pathways in order to attain and retain technically-skilled public servants.

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