Public Sector

Building management capability in the public sector: Do management development programs deliver impact?

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This is the question that initiated a longitudinal study by QUT supported by all Governments of Australia and the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to investigate the impact over time of the Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) on the development of managers within the public sector.

Despite the growth of management education programs and the significant investment by organisations in management training and development, there remains limited research on the impact of these programs.

QUT has delivered the PSMP nationally since 2015 and this long-term partnership with the Governments of Australia provided a unique opportunity to examine the lifecycle of a management development program and to investigate the impact on the learner and organisational outcomes.

Due to a lack of access to organisations where learners are employed, training evaluation research has typically only focused on learner satisfaction and intentions to apply what they have learned rather than on the actual application of learning and consequent behaviourial change.

The QUT research study investigated:

  1. How PSMP participants apply their learning from the program to their management practice and delivering outcomes for their department/agency; and
  2. The factors that supported them or created obstacles for them using their learning in their day to day work to improve their effectiveness as managers and to deliver positive organisational outcomes.

Through a multi-method approach that included pre and post-program surveys, participant diaries, and interviews with participants and their managers, the research findings identified a significant improvement in the management capabilities of the program participants and a direct impact on improving efficiencies and public value within the public sector.

The key factors that enabled this impact were:

  • Participants’ strong motivation to learn and their high level of psychological capital, in particular hope and self-efficacy.
  • A program design that facilitated the transfer of learning back in the workplace.
  • An overall supportive work environment and recognition by managers for the application of learning by program participants.

The factors that inhibited impact were:

  • Inconsistent alignment of the content of the program to the performance goals and expectations of the participants so they could gain the most out of the program.
  • Limited performance coaching and feedback in the workplace from managers for the participants.
  • Limited consequences for participants who did not apply their learning.

So what does this teach us about designing and delivering management development programs that can have a significant impact on building management capability and improving organisational efficiencies and value creation?

 Select for Learning 

A considered selection process needs to take onboard participants who are ready to learn from the program and are motivated to transfer their learning back into the workplace. Strategies to support learner readiness, transfer of learning, and to build self-efficacy need to be put in place.

Design for Transfer

The content of the program needs to be aligned with the roles participants are expected to perform plus learning activities within the program need to provide participants with the opportunity to apply their learning directly into the workplace.

Support for Action

A supportive work environment from managers and peers is fundamental to support the implementation of learning and as such the impact of the program.

Measure Impact

Ensure evaluation is integral to the design phase of the program focusing on behavioural changes and impact on organizational outcomes and that evaluation continues throughout the program and beyond to gain a deep understanding of the impact of the program over time.

To obtain a detailed fact sheet on this study or for further information, please email

The Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) is a nationally recognised and dynamic study option catering specifically for mid-level managers in the Australian public service and non-Government organisations. Learn more:

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Professor Vicky Browning is qualified organisational psychologist and executive coach specialising in leadership and human resource development. She completed her PhD at the University of Cape Town and has held senior HR roles in industry and consulted in training and development. She is currently the Program Lead for the QUT Pathways to Politics for Women Program and is responsible for the women in business initiatives in the Faculty of Business and Law including the UN Women sponsorship. She has extensive teaching experience in leadership, organizational behaviour and human resource management and has published in the areas of leadership, pedagogy, evaluation and service excellence in national and international journals. Her current research focuses on exploring leadership through feminist and gender lens with embedded themes of transition and identity.

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