It has been my professional privilege to facilitate the Public Sector Management Program (PSMP), and its forerunner, since its inception in 1992. This work has taken me across Australia to work with middle managers in all three tiers of government; Federal, State and Local.
The work of middle managers, like Edel Sacco from the PSMP MEL 1901 cohort, is often unseen, misunderstood and under-appreciated within the Australian community.
The public and the media can often be quick to criticise governments and their public servants when problems occur in the management and delivery of public services. The high expectations that services will always be delivered efficiently and effectively, almost on an as-needs basis, stems from the successful services that the public generally receives. What can be overlooked is that the delivery of public services occurs in the midst of a fluctuating mix of social, economic, technological, geographical and political opportunities, constraints and challenges that characterise the everyday professional lives of public sector middle managers.
Edel Sacco is a typical, yet also an exceptional, public sector middle manager studying within the PSMP. Edel is highly motivated and dedicated to serve the community, and to improve the systems, practices and culture of the organisation where she works; Services Australia.
The arrival of COVID 19 has had a massive impact on the work of Services Australia. In spite of the significant disruption within the agency of having an overwhelming proportion of the workforce remotely working from home, it was expected by the government and the public that the agency immediately adapt to successfully organise and administer the processes necessary to deliver programs, such as Job Keeper and Job Seeker, to ameliorate the economic impacts of community lockdown.
As a member of the Human Resources team in Services Australia, Edel knew that work would be severely disrupted by the COVID 19 and the change to remote working. Edel used the opportunity offered by her PSMP work-based project to redesign staff work allocation to allow for efficient remote working to occur, and to evaluate the results of this initiative to allow further improvements for ongoing implementation.
Edel’s commitment to timely service quality and her willingness to innovate through the PSMP has been recognised in improving service focus within the Services Australia – HR Support Smart Centre.
The recognition of Edel Sacco’s effort to improve the ability of her colleagues to serve the Australian community excellently illustrates the benefits of the PSMP and its capstone work-based project brings to public sector middle managers and their agencies across Australia.
Edel Sacco and her excellent work, like that of many of her PSMP contemporaries, have made a real and positive difference during the difficulties and challenges our nation is facing during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Here, Edel shares with us her motivations and highlights from her PSMP journey.
What motivated you to respond to the EOI for this program?
I started my public service career as an APS 4 Customer Service Officer in the Werribee Centrelink office in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, in 1999. I moved to the Area Office as a member of the HR Support team in 2001. Although I no longer worked directly with the Australian community, I never forgot my duty as a Public Servant. I am a proud Public Servant, and I see my role in HR as a position of privilege. I responded to the Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) EOI because I wanted to understand and manage the business of Government. The academic theory and hands-on skills provided a well-balanced practical approach which was appealing to me as a mature age student.
What is your personal growth story?
Studying at a post-graduate level has always been a personal goal of mine. Having the opportunity to study at a post-graduate level as part of my job has been so rewarding and an experience which I am so incredibly grateful for. I have grown so much over the last fifteen months as a leader in Services Australia. I am looking forward to sharing my learnings in my role as a HR professional for many years to come.
What was the highlight of your study experience?
The highlight of my study experience was the capstone unit. It was the most intensive unit in terms of academic and workplace workload. It was challenging completing the workplace project during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was fortunate enough to work with excellent colleagues in Services Australia, and Professor John Currie was so supportive of my entire cohort during the pandemic. It was terrific applying the learnings from the PSMP program in the workplace, giving back and thanking the agency for providing me with the opportunity to study at a post-graduate level.
You received recognition from Services Australia (SA) for your workplace project. Can you briefly explain your workplace project and the benefits of this project to SA?
The award was part of the HR Support Smart Centre quarterly awards. I won the award in June 2020 and the category was Improved Service Focus.
Government expectations of essential service agencies changed overnight in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Services Australia (SA) experienced unreasonable volumes of jobseeker claims, and public expectations weighed heavily on agency personnel. Agency staff were redeployed, and business as usual, was defunct. I saw this as an opportunity to maximise efficiencies in SA and introduced a Job Process Redesign (JPR) model in the Rehab and Recovery (R&R) team in HR Support. What this meant was all incoming email for Rehab Case Managers (RCM’s) was centralised and RCM’s managed and conducted Rehab Case Management from the centralised HR inbox rather than from their individual work email accounts.
The JPR model was designed to improve operational effectiveness, remove duplication of R&R work and maximise efficiencies. It supported HR business continuity and ensured quality outcomes for Government in times of crisis. The model supported the health and well-being of the agencies most valuable asset “Our People”. The HR executive agreed that the JPR model was practical and aligned to the strategic direction of the agency. It was evident that public value was considered with the utmost of importance, and the model was endorsed by the HR executive in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
A Post Implementation Review (PIR) was conducted, and results supported the models’ suitability during the pandemic. Business continuity, professional HR reputations, stakeholder engagement and public value, were achieved in line with Services Australia’s Strategic Pillars as per the 2019-20 Corporate Plan. Post pandemic project recommendations were identified for consideration by the HR executive.
The strategic JPR model was developed in consultation with HR staff and HR executives. The model anticipated the external influences reshaping our new normal and paved the way for effective environmental crisis management within the People Operations Division.
How did this study transform you?
The PSMP has instilled a quiet confidence in my leadership ability. I have a clear understanding of my role as a Public Servant in providing Public Value to the Australian community while serving the Government of the day. The PSMP provided an understanding of how the Australian system of Government works.
It helped to shape me as a leader and provided the opportunity for me to understand my leadership style and how others experience me as a leader in Services Australia. The program provided insight into the Government’s relationship with the broader world, the environment, and the community.
What advice would you give to someone looking at trying to do what you have done?
Believe in your ability to achieve and take the next step in your professional life. When undertaking the PSMP, surround yourself with like-minded individuals and do not be afraid to ask for help. The professors and QUT staff are amazing and are more than willing to help and want to see you succeed.
Most importantly, enjoy the experience and share your learning journey with your colleagues and finally celebrate your achievements.
PSMP Cohort Mel – 1901
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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.