A Public Affair

A Public Affair


Keeping talented staff is one thing, but what about getting rid of employees who are not living up to expectations?

"Public sector guidelines make it almost impossible to get rid of poor performers, particularly those who know how to play the system," Amesbury says. "Private sector managers who complain about the unfair dismissal legislation should try working in a government agency for a few years. I have had staff you wouldn't employ as door-stops. The amount of effort put in by their managers to attempt to get them to either lift their game or get them out was out of all proportion to their worth."

"There are certainly good people doing good things under trying conditions," Lewis adds. "These are sometimes good staff and sometimes not, but often they are attracted by motivators other than money"Here Lewis touches on the core of the debate - namely that people enter the public service for vastly different reasons to those of their private sector peers. The push to adopt private sector practices makes it easy to overlook that many government agencies exist to provide a public service. The CIO has to consider efficiencies, costs, strategies and so on, just as his private sector counterpart does. However, as Amesbury points out: "The public sector CIO cannot forget the responsibility that the agency has to serve the public. As with running train services to remote rural areas, the business of government is not always primarily about making a profit."

"In the public sector, there is a type of person who really commits to making a difference for the citizens," Treadwell says. "Certainly many of the people who work in the information technology group have that commitment. We've had people who've moved in and out of public and private industry and they've come back to Centrelink because of the [special] challenges we can offer them."

"It's all about why people want to work in the public sector," Lewis says. "People obviously want worthwhile jobs in challenging intellectual areas. They want to work on projects where they get a sense of achievement - and government is full of those.

"There's a rough rule of thumb which says pay is about fourth in attraction, seventh in retention. If money falls below a certain level, obviously that can be a demotivator, but often it comes down to the nature of your job.

"Thankfully, there are still many people out there who have a sense of service."

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