Victorian Public Sector Commission
CASE STUDY: bringing consciousness of values to the forefront of the workplace.
The Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC) functions to strengthen the efficiency, effectiveness and capability of the public sector to deliver relevant, high quality services, and maintain and advocate for public sector professionalism and integrity.
In the wake of the high-profile misdemeanours of the last few years, VPSC is focusing on moving the needle on Victorian public sector integrity; building trust, reducing misconduct and creating pathways to good decisions for all public servants. Ellis Jones worked closely with VPSC to develop a strategy to achieve this, over time.
The strategy was required to influence 33,000 board members and 285,000 staff members across over 3,300 public sector bodies. No small task, especially given the breadth and diversity of day-to-day decisions and behaviours that affect the integrity of each organisation and the public sector as a whole, as well as the internal cultures that enable or discourage speaking out.
Audience insight for long-term permeation
Ellis Jones began by identifying a two-pronged approach to first integrate, and then ensure the longevity of, the behaviour change vital to a successful outcome. The strategy would target both Leaders and Employees at the time and place of decision-making across all contexts in the workplace, with a constant consciousness of the values inherent in their workplace and their role.
A unifying concept
To encompass all occupations falling under the umbrella of public service, the unifying concept of ‘Victorians Deserve The Best’ was devised. This maxim promotes the value of serving a greater good, and functions as a reminder of the motivation for pursuing a public-serving vocation in the first instance.
Around this principle, a communications and behaviour change plan was developed, using contemporary communications approaches and behaviour change theory to move beyond systems and compliance, to motivating, enabling and nudging public servants to act in accordance with the public sector values. This work included building personas for diverse public servants – from policy officers and executive directors, to teachers and national park rangers – mapping key decision making contexts and desired behaviour, building overarching and audience specific messaging to compel action, and devising an action plan with key communications, stakeholder engagement and capacity building tactics.
A time and a place
Fostering integrity-related decision-making involved implementation of a ‘Nudge Theory’ which helps people make wiser decisions without losing their freedom of choice. It is a practice of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right information to guide, reinforce or change behaviour.
Omnipresent but non-invasive directives toward culture and ideology change required identification of the times and places wherein the opportunities for integrity-based decisions were being made. For both Leaders and Employees there was on over-arching connection to the ‘why’; not only to question their actions or immediate decisions, but as a bolstering reminder of their individual importance to the workplace and to all Victorians.
Our team further recommended the introduction of workplace support networks offering advice through anonymous online enquiries and resource-searching. Other recommendations include more environment-based ‘nudges’ or in-place reminders, such as stickers with key messaging on company cars, or instructive information brochures being distributed at staff meetings.
More direct pathways were created through instilling responsibility in the individual to ask if they don’t know what the ‘right’ thing is to do, and making responses both clear and non-judgmental. Positive reinforcement and physical representation of integrity in the workplace was also encouraged through the designation of Integrity Champions, monthly or bi-monthly reports and newsletters as well as rewards for adhering to and acting with or beyond the call of service to integrity in product and ethos.
Mitigating the risk of distancing the target audience, language, tone and structure of information was designed to be human-centric – favouring understanding over formality, action over passivity and usability for the audience over provision of surplus information. A key focus of the strategy was to build upon the work environment already in place so as to roll out a series of encouraging and non-invasive nudges, to infiltrate workplace culture and eventually bolster morale, self-perception and pride in the integrity of service in all workers.
In close consultation with VPSC and key stakeholders throughout their network, an Integrity Strategy document was developed to function as the go-to resource for key messages and missions for integrity-based questions from Leaders and Employees.
Further to this, a handbook entitled ‘Creating Great Places to Work: Leadership in the Victorian Public Sector’ was produced for distribution to Leaders across the VPSC network, along with a Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees. The distribution of this collateral not only provides the guidance and support that were the core needs of VPSC’s mission, but propagates the unifying concept of making a difference for Victorians across the whole sector.
Through the time invested in the production, roll out and ongoing implementation of this information and ethos, public sector workers are encouraged to hold themselves, their colleagues, leaders and work environments to a higher standard. Public sector workplaces are permeated with both visceral and enduring reminders that the work they do matters, Victorians depend on them and their call to integrity-based action is important, necessary and valued.