Prioritising innovation

A woman with dark hair in a red top sitting on a stage and delivering an address.

This story was first published on Friday 20 July 2018. If you wish to use this content, please contact to confirm that the information is still current.

Public Sector Innovation Month, now in its seventh year, promotes discussion about innovation across the public sector during the month of July.

At an Innovation Month launch event, the department’s Secretary, Kerri Hartland, addressed staff to talk about the priority of innovation, both for our organisation and the Australian Public Service as a whole, and outlined some of the ways the department is innovating.

She also called on staff to continue to be open to innovative ideas and to take on appropriate risk to try new things.

According to the 2017 APS employee census survey, the Department of Jobs and Small Business performs 9 percentage points higher than the APS average on innovation. It is ranked 21 out of 94 – and is the second highest ranking agency with over 100 employees.

Some of our most innovative projects include:

  • Empowering YOUth Initiatives has funded 39 innovative projects across Australia. The program helps young people at any stage of their transition to employment. One of the projects in Victoria, is the 20 Squared initiative. This project helps participants understand and prepare for work in the disability sector through a virtual reality ‘taster’ experience.
  • The department is running user-centred design projects to support policy innovation. These projects include interviews with job seekers, providers, employers and other community members to better understand job seekers’ experiences of jobactive and other government services.
  • The department is a leader in the application of behavioural economics. A recent project looked into how the department could assist job seekers to increase their chances of finding employment through the utilisation of online tools and resources. The trial showed an increase in job placements for Stream A job seekers (those who are most job ready) by around 3 percentage points, which was a 45 per cent increase.  The project results also indicate that access to these new online resources did not increase job placements above their business-as-usual level for Stream B and C job seekers (those who are not as job ready).   
  • Our Employment Systems Group has been adopting agile approaches successfully since 2015 and will be now adopting it more broadly across the Group with policy areas. In today’s complex and rapidly changing world, greater organisational agility enables the department to respond faster to change and develop services which better meet citizen and government needs. It introduces contemporary management practices, empowering self-managing teams to deliver products and services with faster cycle times and lower risks.

The department is also developing other projects to harness the latest technology including machine learning and virtual assistants.

Ms Hartland encouraged people working in the department to take appropriate risks to try new things, saying ‘To achieve our objectives, we must engage with uncertainty. Eliminating all uncertainty is not an option. It is unaffordable and will prevent us from undertaking much of our work.’

Feature caption: Kerri Hartland, Secretary of the Department of Jobs and Small Business, encouraged staff to continue to innovate and try new things in her Innovation Month address.. 

Correct at time of publication.