How can we make merit-based decision-making an investment opportunity?

The following is based on an extract from 'Merit and its merits: Are we confusing the baby with the bathwater?' Australian Journal of Public Administration, Vol 70, Issue 3, pages 318-326. Statistics updated from unpublished APS jobs data.

The focus on reducing red tape must continue. Selection processes can continue to be simplified and, in particular, better planned. Leaders in the APS must insist that staff selection be considered to be an integral and strategic part of a manager or supervisor's job.

Information from APS jobs identifies the average number of days to fill a position (advertisement to notification of the outcome in the Gazette) for all jobs (ongoing and longer term non-ongoing SES and non-SES positions). In 2013–14 the average time to fill was 168 days, last year it was 157 days and to date this year, it is again 157 days. This is the average number of days to complete a selection exercise, not the time for a person to commence in a role.

No other large investment decision—and that is what recruitment is—is treated so lightly and handled at such junior levels without up-to-date support and training. The recruitment of just one junior level officer who remains with the APS is at least a one million dollar investment over a ten year period and should be given the appropriate scrutiny and risk assessment at all levels of an organisation.

Based on this statistics, there is still scope for better project management of recruitment to avoid scenarios where time is not set aside to undertake a selection process or panel members approached until after the application period is closed.