How you can use the APS Role Evaluation Framework to help your job applications

Some APS role descriptions state that the position “has been assessed in accordance with the APS Role Evaluation Framework” which applies to APS1 to EL2. What does this mean and what can applicants do with this information? Even if the framework is not mentioned, it is worth reading.

Role Evaluation Guidance and Tool, 2014

The framework is about role evaluation. “Role evaluation is the method of determining the relative work value of a job (role) through assessing the nature, impact and accountabilities of the role.” P. 4 “The APS Role Evaluation Tool provides a systematic, objective and consistent way to measure the relative value of jobs in line with the APS work level standards.” P. 4

Classification is based on the Work Level Standards. As the framework explains, these standards “capture the way in which tasks and responsibilities differ across classifications. In particular they:

  • describe the work value and broad types of duties to be performed at each classification
  • provide the criteria which distinguish between different work levels
  • reflect the distinctive features and general characteristics of work at each level
  • indicate the specific skill, knowledge and attributes required to effectively perform work at each classification level.” P. 6

For each factor there are work value descriptions which relate to different degrees of responsibility with a corresponding scale for scoring roles.

Four useful framework details that are useful for applicants
  1. Job context factors

Part of the evaluation is to establish the job context factors that relate to each role. When applying for a role, particularly the more senior ones, it’s vital to understand the job context, as this information can affect whether you want to apply, what examples would be relevant, and what value you offer. The framework lists examples of job context factors:

  • “scope of responsibility
  • degree of decision-making required and its impact
  • depth of knowledge and/or expertise required
  • variety of skills needed
  • work demand, e.g. regular peaks and troughs in workload
  • whether the work is steady or fast-paced
  • impact of the role in the team, organisation and/or externally
  • degree of autonomy associated with the role
  • extent to which the work is structured and routine
  • degree to which procedures are prescribed
  • level of accountability.” P. 11

Failure to understand job context can result in misaligning an application by pitching too low, offering irrelevant information, and failure to offer relevant value. Read this article about contextual details.

2. Evaluation factors

The framework explains that ‘evidence about a role is analysed against a set of factors which are relevant to all jobs within the APS. These are aligned to five characteristics identified in the APS work level standards (APS Level and Executive Level classifications). There are nine evaluation factors. Each is explained in the APS Role Evaluation Tool.

This list of nine factors needs to be considered against Fig 1.1, page 7 of the framework, to see how the five characteristics of the Work Level Standards links to this list of nine evaluation factors.

Leadership and accountability

  • Knowledge Application
  • Accountability

Job context and environment

  • Scope and Complexity

Independence and decision-making

  • Guidance
  • Decision-making
  • Problem Solving

Stakeholder management

  • Contacts and Relationships
  • Negotiation and Cooperation

Management diversity and span.

  • Management Responsibility / Resource Accountability.” P. 13

The questions listed in Figure 1.1 are useful for applicants seeking to more fully understand a role of interest. Role descriptions do not always provide all the information an applicant needs to make an informed application. The questions may help with talking to contact people to gain a better understanding of the role. For example, one of the questions asked under Scope and Complexity is: To what extent is there a need to anticipate, manage and/or respond to change and risk in the workplace? For more senior roles, understanding what changes are occurring and what risks are faced are valuable details to understand.

It’s useful to keep in mind that roles may score low on some factors and high on others. The example given to illustrate this point is: “a professional/specialist role may score highly against the ‘Knowledge Application’ factor, but lower against the ‘Management Responsibility / Resource Accountability’ factor.” P. 14 This variation is worth keeping in mind when considering both the role held and the role being applied for. For example, if knowledge application is important in a role being applied for, and is significant in the role held, then there is a direct transferability.

3. Work value descriptions

What is particularly useful for applicants is the definition of each of the evaluation factors and the details of the eight work value descriptions (assuming they match APS 1-6, EL 1 and 2).

Let’s look at six of these descriptions:

  • Knowledge Application
  • Scope and Complexity
  • Problem Solving
  • Contacts and Relationships
  • Negotiation and Cooperation
  • Management Responsibility/Resource Accountability

Knowledge Application

The definition of Knowledge Application is:

“This factor measures the type and level of knowledge (breadth and depth) that is required and applied to perform the responsibilities of the role. This includes management and environmental knowledge but may also include scientific, professional and/or technical knowledge which has been acquired through both formal learning and work experience.” P. 20

For an APS 3, the descriptions are:

  • “Knowledge of a range of work practices and procedures with an element of complexity and the operation of associated equipment and tools.
  • Basic knowledge of theoretical or practical tasks that are applied to one function or area of activity.
  • An understanding of relevant statutory, regulatory and policy frameworks.”

For an EL 2, they are:

  • “Advanced specialist, professional and/or management knowledge and corresponding understanding of related principles, theories, concepts and practices.
  • Extensive and detailed knowledge of statutory, regulatory and policy frameworks relevant to the area of responsibility and the application of this knowledge to situations involving a high level of complexity and sensitivity, which require considerable interpretation and analysis.
  • Act as a principal professional or technical advisor in an area of expertise.”

Details to note about these descriptions include:

  • The use of basic and advanced. Some capability frameworks provide a range of skill levels. For example, the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework sets out five levels for each capability that show a progressive increase in complexity and skill. The levels are Foundational, Intermediate, Adept, Advanced and Highly Advanced.
  • The increasing demands of technical leadership. Technical leadership is one component of leadership. Read this article to explore other elements of leadership.

Scope and Complexity

“This factor covers the type, variety and intricacy of tasks, process or methods in the work performed. It considers the extent and diversity of the activities which must be performed and/or coordinated by the role. It also considers the need to know about activities and requirements across functions within and/or outside the agency.” P. 23

Notice where the shifts in demand occur, from routine and basic to highly complex. Situations faced become increasing complex and sensitive. More senior roles handle situations that can be unfamiliar, subject to sudden change, include interpretation of considerable and/or incomplete data, and uncertain and demand choices between options.

Problem solving

“This factor measures the requirements for a role to solve the problems and issues. It includes initiative and original thought. It takes into account requirements for analysis to diagnose a problem and understand complex situations or issues and the judgement necessary to formulate solutions and recommend or decide on the best course of action.” P. 28

Notice that problem solving involves several skills and qualities, including analysis, exercising judgement, creativity, innovation, initiative. More senior roles involve anticipating, identifying and assessing risks.

Contacts and Relationships

“This factor covers the contacts and relationships that are typically required in order to carry out the responsibilities of the role. It measures the requirement for a role to communicate, establish and maintain relationships.” P. 30

Notice that this factor covers several skills, including customer service, liaising, representing, consulting, providing information, advice and guidance, as well as initiating, establishing, developing, maintaining and managing relationships. There are subtle but important differences between these aspects of relationship management.

Also notice that the scope of relationships expands, from the immediate work area to cross-agency, inter-jurisdictional and international relationships. The more senior roles deal with the trickier aspects of relationships, such as change and conflict.

Negotiation and Cooperation

“This factor measures the requirement for a role to effectively use persuasion, negotiation, explanation, tact and discretion in order to achieve the desired outcome of interactions with stakeholders.” P. 31

Notice that at the third level, “a level of tact, diplomacy or persuasion is necessary”. Later, negotiation, advocacy, brokering agreements, resolving tensions and difficulties are mentioned.

Management Responsibility / Resource Accountability

“This factor measures the responsibility of a role for coordinating, supervising and managing others in work activities as well as the resources (including property, IT, security and finances) for which the role is directly accountable and required to manage and control. The emphasis is on the type of responsibility, rather than the precise numbers of those supervised or managed.” P. 32

Little or no supervision is required at the lowest levels. Assisting in training starts at level 3 and expands into supervision, setting goals and priorities, providing feedback, then to implementing work plans, performance assessment, building capability, coaching, motivating, negotiating and allocating resources. Applicants aspiring to management responsibilities can use this information for professional development.

4. Other useful resources

The guide also includes resources to assist with using the framework. The Interview Example on page 35 can be used to help with analysing your own role to better identify how it matches a new role (particularly if it involves a promotion), and to identify any gaps in your understanding of what you do. For example, questions included are:

  • “What are the consequences of making the wrong decision?
  • Describe the level of complexity you deal with in this role. Can you give us some specific examples that illustrate this complexity?
  • Does the role operate within a clearly defined framework(s)?”

The Role Evaluation Checklist (pp. 36-37) can be used in a similar way. Useful questions include:

  • “What types of decisions does the role deal with and how complex are these decisions?
  • What consequences does the decision taken have on the organisation?
  • What types of problems does the role deal with and how complex are these problems?
  • What is the impact of failing to properly control such resources [the role is accountable for] on other activities or the organisation?”
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer 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.