NSW public service chief calls for mindset change

The public service will never rise to the challenges of the digital age without a mindset change across the whole of government, a conference has heard.

NSW Public Service Commissioner
Emma Hogan

NSW Public Service Commissioner Emma Hogan says new times call for a systemic, across-the-board attitudinal change.

“I do think this is about changing our mindset for the whole system, not just a particular team, not just an area that’s solving a customer challenge, but the system overall,” she told the Digital NSW conference in Sydney last week.

“Otherwise we’ll never be able to mobilise the skills between teams, between frontline and … back office.

“I don’t think we’ll ever reach our potential unless we think about this as a systemic whole of government challenge.”

Building relationship with tertiary sector

She also said the NSW public service needed to look at universities as a “two-way relationship”.

Ms Hogan said the government needed to recognise opportunities to work with the education sector, but the sector also had to be responsive to future demands.

“I certainly think we could look to tertiary institutions more as a two-way relationship to guide us in perhaps how we should be operating day to day,” she told the conference.

“But also providing the feedback to the tertiary education at what we’ve seen working and what needs to be modified.”

University Technology Vice Chancellor of the Sydney Attila Brungs said feedback will help inform the tertiary sector on how to improve to meet future needs.

“We need to get that feedback on how we can change our own ways of operating and our own skills to be able to deliver what we need to in the future,” he said.

“For example, for an organisation with 20,000 employees, if the first answer of universities is ‘sure, we’ll look after the curriculum for you and, with you, teach it and do the assessment’, we can’t suddenly teach 20,000 people,” he said.

“And nor is that what we should be doing, but that’s the mindset we have and we need to break our own mindsets.”

Preparing the workforce for lifetime learning

Mr Brungs said it was important to recognise that learning is a lifetime pursuit.

“Learning is something that we’ll do all the way through our lives, and that’s a good thing, that’s how we get our skills,” he said. “But we have to prepare our workforce around this to do that.”

Ms Hogan said the government needs to encourage its workforce to learn and adapt.

“We have to be able to paint a picture that gives people that intuitive safety that if (they) go on this path, and take a lifelong-learning approach, (they) will in fact be better off,” Ms Hogan said.

“Otherwise, we will face resistance, not because people don’t want to grow but because they can’t connect what that will mean for (them) in the future.”

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