APS plans to centralise recruitment, Singapore public service’s attrition rate on the rise, and Belgium to investigate four-day working week for federal employees: management & workforce round-up

By on 17/02/2022 | Updated on 17/02/2022

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of all the news you need to know but might have missed

Singapore public service resignation rate increasing, says minister

Singapore’s public service has seen an increasing number of resignations across the board, according to minister of the public service, Chan Chun Sing.

For example, attrition in the Management Executive Scheme – the largest generic scheme in its civil service – hit a 10-year peak of 9.9% last year, Chan said.

Speaking in parliament this week, Chan said the resignation rate had risen in the last six months and warned that more resignations could follow as the economy recovers and the private sector enters a hiring drive.

“There are various factors contributing to attrition from the public service, including pressures of the job, pay, and opportunities for professional development and progression,” he said.

“In particular, over the past two years, public officers have had to face intense pressure, working tirelessly to sustain the fight against COVID-19. At times, they also have to deal with anxious and even demanding members of the public in the course of their COVID-related work. The shift to remote work has also blurred the line between work and life.”

His words came in response to a question from MP Patrick Tay, who asked Chan whether talent shortages were experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Tay, who is the labour union leader, also pressured Chan to say what help was being offered to support public servants’ health and welfare, including the provision of competitive employee benefits.

Chan said employees had access to regular webinars on topics such as “resilience, mindfulness, nutrition and physical exercise”, as well as a 24/7 counselling hotline offering mental health resources.

“We have… built up a community of over 900 wellness ambassadors from 80 agencies. These are public officers who have volunteered to be trained and provide basic emotional support to fellow colleagues and act as ambassadors for mental wellbeing,” Chan said.

In addition, Chan said work is being done to expand job rotation and secondment opportunities outside of the public sector to make work “more interesting and fulfilling”, and that the public service will review salaries and benefits in a bid to “keep pace” with the market.

Plans to centralise public service recruitment in Australia

The Australian Public Service (APS) is planning to centralise recruitment for roles across government.

Peter Woolcott, APS commissioner, told a committee of senators earlier this week that certain agencies are acting as doorways to talent to other parts of government and indicated plans to expand on this trend.

He said the Australian Bureau of Statistics is proving an avenue for data graduates who gain experience there before applying for other APS jobs, and that the Treasury and Australian Taxation Office could do the same for economists and HR specialists respectively.

In addition, the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and the Digital Transformation Agency are working together on managing fresh intake of digital graduates.

“There’s a whole range of areas that we’re looking to start to centralise in terms of bringing in talent on behalf of the whole commonwealth,” Woolcott said.

He told the committee that the APS was confronted with a “fiercely competitive” labour market when it came to digital and data expertise. According to government data, 70% of APS agencies face a shortfall in digital and data skills.

He said he sees the public service becoming more “porous” in future, with lower retention as workers move increasingly between jobs and sectors.

“People do move in and out — they might go to not-for-profits, they might go to the private sector — and I actually think that’s a positive thing, because they’re going to learn new skills and they’re going to bring that back into the public service,” Woolcott said. “The important thing is to have that mobility backwards and forwards.”

Belgium to explore four-day working week for civil servants

The Belgian federal government is looking into whether civil servants ought to be able to work a four-day week to match greater flexibility soon to be introduced in the private sector under a new labour deal.

Petra De Sutter, Belgium’s federal minister of civil service said that while the deal – which will enable private sector employees to work a shorter week provided they make up the hours over four days – does not apply to the public sector, she would consider whether civil servants should be allowed similar flexibility.

“The whole labour deal is about the statutes and working conditions in the private sector, so it does not apply to [civil servants],” De Sutter said. “But if there is also a demand among civil servants for such a four-day regime, in order to better balance work and private life, I am certainly willing to investigate what is possible.”  

She said no promises could be made to civil servants at this stage but that “the government has made a clear commitment to bring the three statuses – employees, civil servants, and the self-employed – as close together as possible”.   

A decision is expected to be made in consultation with the chairmen of the public services and trade unions.

Belgian civil servants recently gained the right not to reply to calls or emails from their employers outside of normal working hours.

UK government to launch Whitehall leadership training hub

It was announced earlier this month that the UK government will open a Leadership College for Government (LCG) in April to train senior managers in agile methods, basic digital skills, and the use of data.

As part of an attempt to overhaul public sector leadership and management training, the government has said it wants to make the college a “centrepiece” of management skills development reform. According to the government’s levelling up white paper, its purpose will be to “equip public and civil service leaders with the skills, knowledge and networks to solve today’s most complex problems”.

Based within the Cabinet Office, the institution will form part of the Government Campus for Skills, a project launched at the beginning of 2021 to make good then-Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove’s pledge to create a “properly resourced campus for training people in government”.

“Its work will be underpinned by a coherent curriculum framework to ensure clarity, precision and accessibility in the skills, knowledge, and qualities we expect and need for effective government,” the college said.

Several existing programmes will be incorporated into the curriculum, including the Civil Service Leadership Academy, the Civil Service Leadership Group, and the National Leadership Centre. Accelerated development schemes such as the Future Leaders Scheme and the Minority Ethnic Talent Association programmes, will also be integrated.

The LCG’s new website states that part of its “foundations of public administration” work will be to provide training on agile project delivery and core digital skills – such as a “data masterclass” for leaders.

In-person training for the college will be delivered at three physical sites in the Midlands, the northeast, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Training will be offered to local government staff, particularly local authority chief executives and senior officers, as well as civil servants.

“This will help to build local leadership capability across the UK, supporting accompanying efforts to empower local leaders… [and] increase collaboration between central and local government and across local government,” the government’s levelling up white paper said.

About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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