Imagining the 21st Century Public Service Workforce

Helen Dickinson, Helen Sullivan

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    In this report, the authors note that evidence from both academic and ‘grey' literature suggests there will be significant changes in what public services do in the future as demographics shift, new technologies emerge and citizen expectations change. The authors suggest that, despite plentiful commentary about the pending transformation of public services, there is little detail about what that will mean for the future of the public service workforce: what this might look like, the challenges that it will face, the roles that public servants will undertake and the skills that will be needed, and implications for education, development and recruitment. This research sought to offer a more informed and detailed account of the implications of change for the 21st century public service workforce. The research questions that underpinned this project were: What is the range of different roles of the 21st century public servant? What are the competencies and skills that public servants require to achieve these roles? What are the support and training requirements of these roles? How might government better support and promote public service careers? In exploring these questions a number of interviews were conducted with individuals from a range of levels and types of government organisations as well as those from peak bodies, consultancy firms, think tanks and not for profit organisations. Appendix one outlines the methodology adopted for this research. The report incorporates vignettes of good or interesting practice where possible to signpost where individuals and organisations are starting to address some of these issues. Some of these are from an Australian context, although examples from overseas are included where appropriate. The report begins with a brief summary of the literature on the changing nature of the public service workforce and the changing nature of work by way of background. The next section sets out the research findings, considering firstly who public servants are, what they do, what is distinctive about the public service and what a typical career path in the public service looks like. The authors then consider what some of the major challenges facing public services might be in coming years, before considering what this means in terms of public service roles. The following section outlines these future roles. The authors argue there are four existing roles that will become more important in the future, and four new or emerging roles that will evolve to meet future conditions. The next section details the skills and abilities needed to fulfil these roles, followed by a discussion of issues relating to training, education, development and recruitment practices. The final section considers the implications of these findings and sets out some areas for action
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyMelbourne School of Government
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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