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Public sector reform talent mobility program

The new model of public sector reform: Lessons learned from the NSW talent mobility program

By Nicola Vass - 19th June 2018  |  Government , Mobility

The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has meant that some functions of the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) were transitioned to the private sector. Ordinarily, this public sector reform would involve making many of those FACS employees not transitioned redundant.

As a proactive strategy, the NSW Department of Premier & Cabinet engaged INS to design and carry out a talent mobility program. The aim being to retain talent, reduce redundancy costs, and minimise the impact on affected staff. INS has assisted FACS employees through this reform, while helping hiring managers to recruit faster and at a lower cost.

The talent mobility program has been proven to be a successful model for the NSW Government’s placement strategy. To date, the project has achieved:

  • 765 people made available for matching in the Mobility Pathway
  • 365 people successfully placed into new roles
  • 79% of all employees matched by INS successfully secured a public sector role

Download our NSW Family and Community Services case study

As the project comes to an end on 29 June 2018, Project Directors Tom Mitchell and Maria Frangeskou reflect on running a cross-sector talent mobility program. Here are the five biggest lessons we’ve learnt:

Lesson 1: Before anything, engage all relevant stakeholders in the intent and benefits of the program

As with any agency or sector-wide initiative, you need buy-in at all levels to ensure effective engagement and maximise outcomes. A comprehensive communications plan is important in selling the benefits of the talent mobility program. Communications should engage stakeholders and inform them of talent mobility, with the intent of understanding their needs.

When leadership and management teams grasp talent mobility, they can buy-in to the benefits and drive whole sector education.

A critical success factor of a talent mobility program is engaging and securing buy in from hiring managers. We found that agencies who did this well had the best outcomes. These individuals may not have had authority, but rather influence over the perception of the project, driving its success.

We all know communication is vital. Get agreement on a complete communication strategy prior to starting the program. Without this, the success of talent mobility in your agency will be much slower, as you manage resistance and distrust. For public sector wide talent mobility programs, this communication process needs to filter down to all levels of participating agencies.

Include your internal delivery team and external service providers throughout all stages of the project communications. As they are on the front-line of delivery, it is important they are a strategic partner during the whole process. This includes in briefing your employees, participating agencies, and making sure stakeholder messaging remains consistent.

Lesson 2: Have a clear understanding of the impacted workforce and commit to a change management plan

Confirm and reconfirm what roles are impacted and their capabilities and identify other concurrent change programs. Use this to get commitment to a clear and effective restructure change management plan at the beginning of the project. This plan should be reviewed to reflect changes along the way.

Understand how your talent mobility program fits into your change management plan to get best results. This includes keeping in mind how it may affect other reforms and processes in your organisation. Doing so creates clarity and boosts engagement, providing your delivery team an opportunity to better plan and focus their efforts. It also allows participating agencies to proactively engage in sourcing opportunities for candidates which aligns with their workforce planning goals.

Lesson 3: For best results, all stakeholders need to understand the laws and policies aiding talent mobility

Agencies with a greater knowledge of the talent mobility provisions in the NSW Government Sector Employment (GSE) Act were early adopters of the FACS Mobility Pathway and reaped better results. This included understanding transferable skills, capabilities, the intent of the capability framework and the use of consistent role descriptions.

We found that hiring managers across the public sector wanted to hire based on role-specific skills and experience, rather than capabilities and transferable skills. While there is a place for role-specific skills or direct experience, the over-reliance on these result in lost opportunity for attracting new talent and enabling mobility. Except where a specific skill set is required, e.g. environmental scientist, there should be minimal mandatory role-specific experience for common roles.

The fact is, agencies across the sector have different interpretations of talent mobility and capability-based recruitment. These practices need to be known and standardised to benefit fully from a talent mobility program.

Additionally, our discussions with hiring managers meant that the Mobility Pathway project has increased the understanding of the intent and use of the Capability Framework, and public sector talent mobility within the NSW government.

Education is vital in building awareness and educating your workforce. We recommend running recruitment panel training. This will educate hiring managers on the intent and provisions within the GSE Act, and how to use the NSW Capability Framework.

Lesson 4: Central Agencies are vital in making sure the proper structure, process, support and compliance is in place.

For sector-wide talent mobility programs, central Agencies’ involvement is vital to boosting engagement and outcomes. As the Mobility Pathway was a new initiative and delivered by an external provider, the support of central agencies was critical. It ensured hiring managers received consistent messaging and understanding around the intent, benefits, and best practice processes.

In terms of participating agencies’ compliance, the ‘carrot’ approach can be useful, but to drive a fundamental shift in thinking and to improve outcomes, some ‘stick’ may also be required. We found regular reporting and meetings describing each agency’s engagement and outcomes was effective in making talent mobility a priority.

When central agencies had visibility in overall and individual agency performance, they were able to drive success by prioritising talent mobility processes and behaviours.

Lesson 5: Ensuring good matches between candidate and role relies on specific stakeholder behaviours

The biggest challenge in any talent mobility program is keeping everyone happy through the role-candidate matching process; particularly where multiple parties are involved in the final decision around suitability.

  • Candidates need to provide current, accurate information. Successful candidates continually worked with their Career Placement Officers (CPOs) to refine their understanding of their skills and capabilities. Critically, they were willing to take on-board feedback, maximising their chances of success.
  • Where candidates were reasonable in their personal requirements of a role, they increased their chance of placement.
  • Prompt and accurate role information was needed from the hiring agency. Where essential requirements were clearly expressed, better matches occurred and agencies were sent more suitable candidates.
  • CPOs had a continuous role in educating candidates on transferable skills and the application of the Capability Framework. Recruitment staff had a strong role to play in educating and challenging hiring managers on the application of capabilities and transferable skills, and where the application of role-specific skills was applicable.

The expectations of all stakeholders, including your agency, recruiting agencies, your talent mobility service provider, and your employees need to be managed when implementing an effective matching process.

Talent mobility programs are the future of reform!

The NSW Government’s first proactive approach to reform using the Mobility Pathway talent mobility program has been a great success. With significant talent retention and cost savings realised, there is no doubt this approach is the future of public sector reform. The FACS Mobility Pathway project has saved over $33,300,000 in direct redundancy and recruitment costs.

Sector-wide engagement with a talent mobility program takes time, education and sponsorship from central agencies. As an HR leader, you need to engage your staff as early as possible. If you wait until after the project has started to get everyone on-board, transition and results will take longer. We noticed a large increase in engagement nine months into the Mobility Pathway project, which we believe was due to increased communication from central agencies.

In summary, communicate early and often. Sell the benefits of the initiative. Know your workforce. Gain commitment to a good change management plan. Educate your stakeholders on the relevant policies and procedures. And finally, engage central agencies for support and compliance where required.

To read the full INS Talent Mobility Program case study, click here.

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