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Capability Framework and the LG Award

Does the Local Government Capability Framework affect the NSW LG Award 2017?

By Nicola Vass - 12th September 2018  |  Capability Framework , Government

Change in the workplace can often create confusion. New approaches in workforce management and the implementation of new systems can translate to big changes for HR personnel and the organisation as a whole. The introduction of the Local Government Capability Framework is no exception and accordingly, councils must understand that change takes time and effort.

In NSW, the state government has been implementing the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework with good results since it was mandated in 2013. While implementing a Capability Framework is not tied to a legislative mandate for local government, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) saw the potential benefits and developed a similar framework. The Capability Framework provides a common foundation for councils to improve and integrate their recruitment, role definitions, performance development and workforce planning processes. Essentially, it is a means for councils to navigate and realise their workforce strategy, increase performance and attract better talent.

At INS, we have already worked with over 40 councils through our partnership with LGNSW to help them understand and implement the Local Government Capability Framework. A frequently asked question we get is:

“Does the LGNSW Capability Framework affect the NSW LG Award 2017?”

The short answer is no, it doesn’t.

The LG Award is about minimum employment standards, whereas the Capability Framework is about better people management. The Framework provides a consistent and effective model for councils to handle their people management and development needs.

Workforce lifecycle

What does the Award govern?

For local councils in NSW, the award is law.

It prescribes the minimum employment standards and conditions for most council employees. This includes the responsibilities of jobs at certain levels and the minimum wage and benefits associated to each job. All councils must comply, and any potential changes to employee benefits can be a sensitive issue.

Understandably, whenever anything HR-related is raised, councils automatically look to the Award for clarity. However, the Capability Framework doesn’t affect the Award, in fact, it can help councils make the Award work better for their workforce.

For instance, Clause 5 of the Award ‘Skill Descriptors’, defines skill-based bands and levels by describing the authority, judgement, knowledge, skills, and management requirements (if applicable) of all job types and levels.

While these descriptors provide broad information about the roles, they do not provide enough information to help with recruitment or performance management.

Interpersonal skillslisted under Administrative/Technical/Trades Band 2, Level 3, are defined as: ‘Skills to communicate with subordinate staff and the public and/or negotiation/persuasive skills to resolve disputes with staff or the public’.

This description gives us a broad overview with the level of interpersonal skills needed but does not help describe these skills in a way that can be tested in recruitment or assessed in performance management. This is where the Capability Framework comes in. The Communication capability at intermediate level, describes the skills needed as:

  • Focuses on key points and communicates in ‘Plain English’
  • Clearly explains and presents ideas and technical information
  • Monitors own and others’ non-verbal cues and adapts where necessary
  • Listens to others when they are speaking and asks appropriate, respectful questions
  • Shows sensitivity in adapting communication content and style for diverse audiences

These examples of the communication capabilities that are required, allow managers to assess the ability of applicants or employees in a convenient, standardised and objectively reliable way. In recruitment, applicants can be asked to give examples of how they have shown sensitivity in adapting communication content and style, or they could even be asked to give a small presentation to highlight this. In this way, the Capability Framework strengthens recruitment processes for councils.

This general description approach is common throughout the Award. It describes management skills under Professional/Specialist Band 3, Level 4 as: ‘Positions may direct professional or other staff in the planning, implementation and review of major programs, as well as participating as a key member of a functional team.’ This general description does not help you or your staff define how a job should be done. However, the Capability Framework can guide us by describing the required capabilities:

  • Clearly communicates roles and responsibilities in the team
  • Discusses and sets clear performance goals and standards
  • Gives regular feedback with the aim of improving performance and helping others learn and develop
  • Recognises development needs of individuals and identifies suitable learning opportunities
  • Recognises ongoing performance issues and works towards resolving them


Using the Capability Framework to make the LG Award work better for you

The Local Government Capability Framework is a support system that councils can choose to adopt. It sits alongside and separate to the Award which determines how a job should be done, rather than what a job should do. Specifically, the Framework indicates important personal attributes such as integrity and resilience, as well as working attributes such as the ability to work respectfully and inclusively. Conversations with employees about these kinds of attributes become a lot easier when using the Capability Framework as a point of reference.

Meaningfully implementing the Capability Framework into your council starts with Position Descriptions (PDs). Your old PDs should be adapted to include capabilities. That is, what specific knowledge, skills and behaviours does an employee need to fulfil their role effectively? Capability-based PDs provide a short, concise job description focused on job outcomes and the capabilities needed to achieve them.

We have helped multiple councils to create PD’s that attract the best talent. The most common errors we encounter are excessive length and repetitiveness.

A Capability-based PD will enable your council to:

  1. Increase your existing talent pool by identifying employees who have the right capabilities but have been overlooked due to working in an unrelated discipline. A capability-based approach to talent selection prioritises transferable skills rather than role-specific experience and knowledge.
  2. Identify the capability gaps within your council and recruit specifically for these gaps. This might mean creating new roles that will boost your organisation’s performance in the short and long term.

The Capability Framework provides a common language for your organisation. It highlights relevant performance indicators and provides the opportunity for your staff to develop, enhance their attributes and gain more transferable skills. It is also an effective way to overcome performance management challenges in your organisation and recognise development opportunities leading to further benefits such as employee retention.

Implementing the Capability Framework will allow for the change your council needs


Adopting the Capability Framework has no impact on the LG Award. It is a tool that compliments the Award and can greatly enhance a council’s HR processes.

To help your council get started on your capability journey, INS can offer a review of one of your position descriptions to show you how the Framework can unlock your recruitment and merit selection potential.

For more information on how your council can get started implementing the LGNSW Capability Framework, check out our Implementation Roadmap.


Written by Elizabeth Fletcher

Principal Consultant

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