VPS happier than wider public sector with management support

A total of 82% of public servants in Victoria have told the latest ‘people matter’ survey that their managers contribute to a positive workplace experience, compared with 75% of the public sector.

The latest annual release of the Victorian state of the public sector report has handed decision-makers an outline of how staff feel about their organisation, workgroup behaviour, managers and senior leaders, flexible work, and public values.

Published by the Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC) in April, the insights from the report are collected each year and published as a requirement of the Public Administration Act 2004.

The results aim to help the commission build an inclusive, high-performing and engaged public sector workforce.

Included with the dataset are the results of the 2022 people matter survey (excluding the VicPol and Fire Rescue workforces), which gauges public sector attitudes about job satisfaction drivers, stress, wellbeing and engagement.

Only 18% of public servant respondents to the survey disagreed when asked whether they could discuss problems or issues with their manager; if they had received meaningful recognition when they did good work; if they had received feedback that helped them improve performance; if their managers listened to what they had to say; and if they had been provided with enough support when it was needed.

This compared to 25% of Victorian public sector respondents disagreeing with the statements.

“Supportive managers can give employees clarity, appreciation, positive feedback and coaching. This can lead to higher satisfaction, performance and capacity to do work,” the survey said.

In terms of how managers ranked according to leadership measures, 84% of all respondents said they agreed that their direct manager showed leadership and fostered an environment for engagement. Another 75% said they felt supported by their direct manager, and 63% said they were supported by senior leaders in their organisation and felt they communicated well.

Public service responses were higher across the board for questions about manager leadership and, in fact, went up from 87% to 90% from 2019 to 2022.

Employee growth for public sector, net numbers for public service drop

The report showed that as at June 2022, there were 354,800 people and 290,932 FTE employed in public sector roles. This represented 10% of the labour force in the state and a 2.1% increase in total employment compared to the previous year.

Source: VPS state of the service report.

Some of the largest public sector portfolios to see headcount increase in 2022 compared to 2021 were public healthcare (4,8% rise), creative industries, finance transport and other (7% rise), Ambulance Victoria, Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority and protective services officers (11.2% rise), and school council employees due to schools reopening after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted (78.3% rise).

However there were declines in employment compared to June 2021 across the public service (3.8% decline), TAFE and other education institutions (6.2% decline), and sworn police officers (2.5% decline).

Source: VPS state of the service report.

Many of these shedded numbers were due to staff losses from COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, which lost 2,635 FTE; Health, which lost 725 FTE; and the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS), which lost 86 FTE.

“The number of fixed-term employees rose in 2020-21 in response to COVID-19,” the report said.

“In 2021-22 many COVID-19 programs and initiatives ended resulting in less demand for fixed-term employees.”

Among the reasons ‘State of the VPS’ suggested employment figures were impacted included infrastructure projects and social policy initiatives.

A fall in fixed-term employees and rise in areas with ongoing demand could also be attributed to the government’s COVID-19 response, the report said.

“Ongoing employment rose by 1.8% (3,947 FTE) representing 66% of the total rise in public sector employment.

“Casual employment rose by 18.4% (1,529 FTE) representing 25% of the total rise in public sector employment.

“Fixed-term employment rose by 0.9% (519 FTE) representing the remaining 9%,” the report said.

The state’s public service comprises about 16% of the overall public sector ecosystem as defined by the report, with a total of 56 employers.

Across Victoria’s nine departments, recorded workforce numbers showed DJCS had the largest headcount, with 10,345 staff.

This was followed by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (7,255), the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (5,621), the Department of Education and Training (4,618), the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (3,849), the Department of Health (3,379), the Department of Transport (3,260).

The two smallest departments included the Department of Treasury and Finance (1,621), and Department of Premier and Cabinet (987).

In 2022, the following departments saw their ranks grow on the previous year: Families, Fairness and Housing (10.4%); Environment, Land, Water and Planning (6.5%); Jobs, Precincts and Regions (5.8%); and Treasury and Finance (17.1%).

Health, Justice and Community Safety and Transport all reported reduced numbers of public servants with declines of 22%, 4.8% and 7%, respectively.

In July 2019, the Jobs and Skills Exchange was launched, intended to support mobility across state departments, Victoria Police and the state’s 46 various offices and authorities.

Since the exchange was established, VPS mobility has grown from 1,175 to 2,612, with a steady increase year-on-year.

“The proportion of non-casual Victorian Public Service (VPS) new starters who came from another VPS employer rose to 19.6% in 2021-22 from 15.8% in 2020-21,” the report said.

“The mobility rate is the proportion of all active non-casual employees who moved between Victorian Public Service employers. In the 2021-22 year, 2,612 or 4.7% of all ongoing and fixed-term employees moved between Victorian Public Service employers.”


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