Selection panels need to focus more on job outcomes
The principle of merit underpins selection decisions in the public sector. For the Australian Public Service merit is defined in law.
Section 10(2) of the Public Service Act 1999 specifies that a decision based on merit takes account of the relationship between the candidate’s work-related qualities and the work-related qualities genuinely required for the duties; uses a competitive selection process; and focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes related to the duties.
An approach generally taken by selection panels is to determine what a person needs to do in a job (the duties), what skills, knowledge and qualities are needed to perform those duties (the selection criteria) and then to carry out a process that identifies the person who has the best match between the two.
More recently agencies have moved to adopt generic capabilities based on the Australian Public Service Commission’s Integrated Leadership System. One of the challenges of these capabilities is the amount of detail they can cover and whether all aspects need to be assessed.
Take for example this criterion for an APS 6 position:
Builds and maintains relationships, in particular, skills in:
- Managing the delivery of quality client service
- Developing and maintaining productive internal and external relationships, partnerships and networks
- Working effectively as a senior team member, contributing to both the formulation and achievement of team, business and corporate goals.
Taken separately, each of these elements – client service, relationships/networks, and teamwork – embraces three or four key behaviours. That means, to judge one criterion or capability, the applicant and the panel are faced with potentially exploring at least nine different behaviours. Multiply that by the number of criteria and you have a very long list of behaviours to consider.
This is why more attention needs to be given to outcomes. Note that the concept of merit includes ‘focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes related to the duties’.
If a panel gave more attention to identifying what outcomes are essential from performing the duties then this would narrow the assessment task down to focusing on only those behaviours that directly contributed to achieving those outcomes.
One way to do this is to take a sheet of paper and divide it into four columns headed as follows:
- Duties of the job
- Capabilities needed to carry out the duties
- Key outcomes of the job
- Capabilities that directly contribute to achieving the outcomes.
The last column would then become the focus for assessing applicants.
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Dr Ann Villiers, learning guide, professional speaker and author, is Australia's only Mental Nutritionist® specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people. Visit www.mentalnutrition.com to learn more about Mental Nutrition. Visit www.selectioncriteria.com.au for free resources unlocking the mysteries of public service jobs.