It is only through the skills, dedication and enthusiasm of our people that we are able to efficiently and effectively deliver quality audit services to Parliament, the public sector and the people of Western Australia.
It is vital that we focus on having the right people in the right positions to meet the challenge of an increasing audit program while staying conscious of the state’s economic environment.
While the Auditor General is an independent officer of Parliament, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) is a public sector department, subject to the obligations and constraints of the Public Sector Management Act 1994. As shown in Table 7, we have had an increase in full time equivalent (FTE) staff this year, primarily to resource our new local government audit mandate.
Our attrition rate increased this year to 11% (from 7.35% in 2016-17), with 16 employees leaving the OAG in 2017-18. This includes 7 resignations, 5 transfers to other public sector agencies and 4 retirements.
Notably, the former Auditor General and Deputy Auditor General retired in the same financial year. The number of permanent transfers to another public sector agency has remained consistent as our employees are recognised in the sector for the valuable audit work they deliver.
We regularly review our retention strategies and other initiatives in our Workforce Plan to enhance our recruiting competitiveness and employee retention. This includes using professional development as part of our succession planning.
Learning and professional development
Our annual professional development program, developed by our Professional Development (PD) Committee and approved by the Executive Management Group (Executive), is designed to meet the needs of the Office and individuals.
This year, local government awareness and training was a key focus of our extensive program that delivered in excess of 9,800 hours of in-house and external training.
We receive a number of benefits through our ongoing Recognised Employer Partner Status with CPA Australia – most notably automatic continuing professional development recognition for our CPA members. Similar benefits to CA provisional members are available due to our recognition by the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) as a Recognised Training Employer.
Input for PD topics, training areas and improvement opportunities comes:
• as a result of legislative or policy framework change
• via professional and technical standards boards
• through changes in our social, political and economic environment
• directly from our people
• as a result of development areas identified through the employee performance development and review program
• through employee evaluations of the relevance and quality of our PD program.
The PD Committee arranges speakers to deliver other targeted sessions on specific topics and to provide specialist or technical guidance. Employees undertaking CPA Australia and CAANZ post graduate accounting studies receive targeted study support.
Our regular PD program includes technical and non-technical learning and is the primary vehicle for whole-of-office training. We source specialist internal and external guest speakers to lead sessions.
Plain English training continues to support our long-standing commitment to clear, concise, jargon-free report writing.
We are in the final stages of implementing our new ELMO talent management software. This e-learning software will allow us to deliver a more comprehensive and targeted suite of online training to our employees. It will also allow us to easily monitor compliance and training requirements and generate business intelligence and reports.
Performance development and review
We continue to assess our employee performance development and review tool, and having developed the tool online in the new HR system, we are trialling it for rollout across the business.
Through training on effective performance management and assessment techniques, managers are increasingly aware that clear expectations are fundamental to meaningful and constructive performance reviews. Our new online forms will prompt discussion to effect those reviews.
Graduate recruitment and support
We were pleased to welcome 6 financial audit graduates in January 2018. Our advertised recruitment program attracted 78 applicants, with 29 shortlisted for interview.
Our intensive 5-week induction and training program provides a strong foundation from the very beginning of our graduates’ time with us and includes:
• introduction to the OAG and the broader public sector
• professional behavioural and customer service standards
• practical auditing
• legal compliance requirements
• a 3-week practicum.
The 3-year training program that follows supports our graduates through their key technical development period and their professional studies.
The cost-effective, efficient practice of employees seconded out of the OAG to other agencies broadens their experience, improves expertise and increases skill sets. Likewise, those employees seconded in from other agencies provide benefit through different perspectives, ideas and suggestions. Additionally, they carry acquired skills and knowledge back to their home agencies.
Our unique inter-jurisdictional and international relationships with other audit offices in Australia and around the world allows us to offer outstanding secondment opportunities for interested employees. We currently have 1 employee on secondment with the British Columbia Audit Office and 1 employee with the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.
These placements are mutually beneficial, offering a way to share audit knowledge and expertise throughout and beyond the Australasian Council of Auditors-General (ACAG) community.
University liaison program
Targeted sponsorship of business school awards and scholarships at Edith Cowan University (ECU), Murdoch University, the University of Notre Dame Australia and the University of Western Australia acknowledges the value of our strategic relationships with the universities. The Auditor General also has regular involvement at student events speaking about the importance of public sector audit.
We further enhance our relationships with the universities through unpaid student placements, which help promote us as a potential employer, as well as rewarding participants with credits in their units of study.
A unique placement opportunity in our Information Systems Audit unit, where they receive high-end exposure to complex IT environments, delivers mutual benefit to ECU students. Students develop and enhance software, draft management letters, and analyse and track systems with extranet facilities.
Equity and diversity
Over half of our employees come from culturally and linguistically diverse and non-English speaking backgrounds. This provides opportunities as well as unique challenges, especially in the area of communication skills.
We provide a range of tools to assist with communications including speech therapy and introductory plain English workshops, which are also stepping- stones for more advanced training.
We also provide easy access to online tools such as the Macquarie Dictionary, which includes an English pronunciation tool, via our intranet.
Our regular workplace behaviour and equal employment opportunity training is delivered to our graduates and new employees as part of their induction program, presenting and clarifying behavioural expectations.
Code of Conduct
Annually all employees acknowledge their understanding of and commitment to our Code of Conduct, and their compliance with legislation, internal policies and professional standards of conduct. This formalises and acknowledges our commitment to the highest standards of corporate governance.
The Code of Conduct specifies appropriate standards of employee behaviour, with direct relevance to the OAG’s unique role and responsibilities. A signed declaration acknowledges employees’ personal and professional obligations of working with the OAG and their continuing compliance with the Code’s requirements.
|Public Sector Commission report on bullying
In October 2017, the Public Sector Commission issued its report into the arrangements used by 6 public authorities including the OAG, to prevent and manage bullying. The evaluation considered the extent to which policies, procedures and management practices were demonstrated against a number of criteria.
We were pleased to receive a very positive final assessment with only minor opportunities for improvement noted.
Regular education and awareness sets the OAG’s expectations about appropriate workplace behaviour; and support resources are promoted on the intranet and on posters around the office. The names and contact details of employees trained in grievance resolution are published as well as those of our Human Resources team.
Occupational safety and health
The Audit and Risk Management Committee reports to the Executive, monitoring trends, maintaining awareness of serious issues and being satisfied that risk management is timely and appropriate.
Our Business Services unit has day-to-day responsibility to ensure that the workplace, facilities, equipment and systems do not expose employees to hazards.
All new employees receive information and instruction on their obligations and responsibilities under our occupational safety and health (OSH) and injury management policies as part of the induction process. All documents are readily available on our intranet, including:
- Occupational Safety and Health Policy
- Management of Ill or Injured Workers Policy
- Working from Home Policy
- Reasonable and Flexible Working Hours Policy
- workers’ compensation guides
- injury management and return to work program
- incident and accident report forms.
We deliver training to ensure an acceptable, measurable level of OSH awareness by registering all employees for online OSH and injury management training. There are 2 different levels of training – non-supervisory employees, and supervisors and managers. Through monitoring and reporting to Executive on training completion rates we can identify areas for further training.
Our statement of commitment and performance in 2017-18 on occupational safety, health and injury management is reported here.
Our Wellness Committee promotes healthy activities and general wellbeing. This year the committee organised a number of wellness initiatives including:
- Well at Work e-magazine
- meditation sessions
- The Meaning of Work presentation
- flu vaccinations
- promoting National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence
- ergonomic ‘quick’ assessments
- promoting RUOK? Day, Mental Health Week and a mental health lunchtime webinar
- local gym special offers, including Women’s Health Week
- promoting 2018 Will Week
- volunteering opportunity during National Volunteer Week
- blood donations.
Employee suggestions and ideas
Through our online suggestion box employees can ask any question or make a suggestion. Responses are coordinated and posted on the suggestion board for employees to view.
This year we launched a new newsfeed on the homepage of our intranet where employees can post non-work related information such as appropriate social items, events, fundraising and special interest links.
We also have an online idea box known as the innovation wiki, that allows employees to share and build on others’ innovation ideas.
Employee assistance program
The services offered through our employee assistance program includes independent counselling, advice and support to employees and their immediate families. A key tool for supporting employee resilience, especially during peak business cycles is our provider’s online app. Employees and their immediate families can download a mood checker, podcasts, guided meditations, heart rate monitor and resilience exercises.
Our annual report on the program is de-identified, allowing Executive to analyse trends and make decisions on remedial actions such as awareness raising, health and wellbeing promotion and training.
This year we reviewed our program contract and following a tender process we approved a new service provider.
Doing our bit for charity
We have long participated in fundraising activities and take pride in doing our bit for charity. We hold various activities throughout the year and we choose a main fundraiser each year, which this year was Cystic Fibrosis WA.
Almost half of our employees are social club members and many non members attend social club events. Key events during the year included the annual general meeting, a welcome sundowner for new graduates, an autumn breakfast, end of financial year lunch, sundowners and Christmas lunch.
We have a highly mobile workforce with the majority of our auditors working away from our office. To bring them together we conduct 4 forums a year to:
- communicate strategic imperatives, challenges and achievements for the office
- inform employees of current or emerging issues
- share relevant performance information such as how we are performing against our strategic targets, as well as areas where additional effort may be required
- acknowledge the achievements of the different business units
- share relevant employee matters including employee movements, transfers and new appointments, as well as personal news relating to engagements, weddings and babies
- hear from employees, especially those returning from secondments, to share lessons learned.
At the first forum of the year, our financial audit graduates from the previous year present on their experience as an OAG graduate. The results are often humorous and always insightful. In the final forum of the year, we invite a guest speaker to provide an inspirational, motivational or light-hearted end- of-year session.
Every 2 years we conduct a voluntary employee survey that gives our people the opportunity to provide feedback and express their views on various aspects relating to how well the Office functions.
We conducted the survey in April 2018 and 62% of our employees participated, similar to 2016. The clear majority (almost 80%) said they would recommend the OAG to others as a good place to work. The top 5 reasons for working at the OAG were:
- flexible working arrangements
- varied work and clients
- level of autonomy in my job
- seeing results from my work
- friends and supportive workmates.
The results showed a slight decline in the level of satisfaction with performance feedback. Our new online performance development and review tool is aimed at addressing these concerns and Executive will continue to work with managers to look for ways to improve in this area.
Employees also perceived a drop in effective communication across different business units within the Office. This was in line with a number of employees also saying that business units are not working towards the same goal.
The number of employees who agree that our workplace is free from bullying and harassment increased – however, this result was still less than 50%. While this is a very subjective question, we take this very seriously and will continue to work with our people to address any concerns in this area. We have recently introduced a culture sub-committee and in 2017 we had specific training and focus on bullying and harassment. A Public Sector Commission report was very positive about our approach in this area, however, as the survey results show there is always more we can do.
The feedback received through the survey provides valuable information and identifies areas where we can make improvements. We share the survey results with our people, as well as the actions and strategies to address issues identified.