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  • Our people and capabilities

    A professional and productive organisation

    Strengthening our culture

    The ATO is focused on building and sustaining a professional, accountable and responsive workforce that is engaged with the community and energised by working together. Having the right culture is crucial to this, ensuring a positive experience for staff so they can deliver the best possible experience for our clients.

    In 2016–17, the cultural transformation of the ATO under way since 2015 as part of our reinvention program, was recognised as a finalist in the category of Innovation and Creativity in Human Resources at the 2016 Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) Awards.

    Our cultural transformation is based on embedding the following traits in everything we do:

    • client focused
    • united and connected
    • empowered and trusted
    • future oriented
    • passionate and committed.

    In 2016–17, we continued to build upon our ‘What does this mean to you?’ campaign, which invited our people to share their ideas and stories on what the cultural traits mean to them, and what they are doing to bring the traits to life. We also reviewed our policies and training to ensure they support the cultural traits.

    We launched a new recognition strategy and tool in 2016–17 to reinforce the behaviours we want to see. One element, our online recognition gallery, enables staff and managers to recognise others in the workplace, thereby encouraging innovative and positive behaviour.

    A range of initiatives have been introduced to strengthen the ATO’s leadership and culture strategies, including:

    • senior executive service (SES) masterclasses that cover a range of topical leadership issues
    • development programs that strengthen the leadership capability of high performing or high potential SES Band 1 and Executive Level 2 staff, thereby building a ‘bench strength’ of leaders capable of taking on more complex or more senior roles
    • building foundation leadership skills for staff at all levels.

    Our transformation continued through 2016–17 and is reflected in the level of our employee engagement, attendance, and workplace health and safety, as follows:

    • Employee engagement has improved since the previous year, with ‘job’ and ‘team’ engagement tracking higher and ‘supervisor’ and ‘agency’ engagement remaining steady.
    • Average unplanned leave fell during 2016–17 to 13.2 days per full-time equivalent, compared with last year’s result of 14.4 days.
    • Our workers compensation premium has reduced, down 40% to $11.2 million for 2017–18, from $18.6 million in 2016–17. Our five-year average cost per claim of $55,100 is just 66% of the Australian Public Service (APS) five-year average cost of $92,700. At 30 June 2017, we had almost 570 open accepted claims, down from around 740 a year earlier.

    A sustainable and responsive workforce

    We continue to reshape our workforce, using a mix of employment arrangements, to align with evolving business priorities. The goal is to ensure we have a flexible, responsive and high-performing workforce that adapts easily to changes in business requirements. The focus is on modernising human resource management activities, attracting the best people through easier recruitment and implementing flexible solutions that drive high performance.

    In 2016 and early 2017, the ATO experienced an unusual period of additional recruitment to support critical priorities such as the Tax Avoidance Taskforce. This was on top of the usual large-scale recruitment for tax time and for entry level programs (including graduates and Indigenous employment).

    ATO recruitment covers a very broad set of capabilities, ranging from customer service through to information technology, audit and law. This approach helps us target specialised and niche disciplines like forensic accountants and data scientists, which are key to our success in a more complex economy.

    Those ATO staff not working directly with clients are supporting those that do. Our workforce and enabling processes and tools are designed to ensure an integrated approach. For example, we are trialling multidisciplinary teams to take a whole-of-client perspective when dealing with small businesses. The aim is to improve the client experience and debt performance, and prompt positive shifts in future compliance behaviour. Multidisciplinary teams comprise staff with the necessary skills and knowledge in income tax, superannuation and indirect taxes, to provide a full service to clients for all tax and super obligations, without the need to refer them to other areas of the ATO.

    Improving support with new systems and tools

    To better support staff in delivering client services, we are building an information system to provide a consistent and adaptive view of the tax and superannuation position of our clients. The Enterprise Client Profile will provide a whole-of-client view of personal, obligation and risk information. The intent is to support a coordinated and tailored approach to engagement (across all taxes and obligations) based on client choices, behaviour, circumstances and risk. In March 2017, we rolled out the first release to staff working with individual clients. We will continue to evolve the design of the system to reflect client preferences, behaviour, circumstances and risk.

    Other tools and systems implemented for staff during 2016–17 include:

    • access to the client view of myTax when providing assistance to taxpayers over the phone or via web chat
    • a standalone toolbar to enable staff to move between systems and channels when assisting clients
    • the myATO app, which provides staff with the ability to view, project and convert their leave balances, apply for leave, and view, download and print their payslips and payment summaries
    • telepresence facilities, providing greater interaction between staff across sites.

    In addition, our staff digital experience strategy has been implemented to further develop the skills of staff working with new technology and digital systems.

    Building our capabilities

    Effective training and development builds competencies. It also fosters cultural traits such as empowerment, passion and commitment.

    We launched a new approach to staff training and development in 2016–17, recognising that our existing capabilities needed further development to meet future needs. The ‘professional stream’ initiative broadens our organisational view of capability, highlights the depth, breadth and importance of each profession in the ATO, and delivers on our commitment to develop a contemporary and expert workforce.

    The initiative focuses on 11 core professions, including accounting and finance, and analytics, risk and intelligence. Employees receive learning toolkits tailored for their specific professional stream to identify the professional development opportunities relevant to them. This approach, combined with our short sharp learning sessions – Learning Express – has seen staff perceptions of learning and development in the ATO increase by 11 percentage points compared to the 2016 APSC Census results.

    Attracting and promoting diverse talent

    As well as maximising opportunities for existing staff, our recruitment program aims to attract new talent using new approaches, to reflect the diverse community we serve.

    This year, we have seen significant growth in entry level programs, including around 120 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants in our Evergreen program, close to 280 participants completing our 2016 graduate program and 360 commencing the 2017 program. In February 2017, our graduate program was recognised in the Financial Review’s Top 100 Graduate Employers, coming in at 19th overall, and placed as the highest ranked APS graduate program.

    Our Opening Doors program aims to attract talented professionals from diverse backgrounds who may have experienced barriers to gaining employment previously. Through activities targeted at under-represented groups, we aim to raise the profile of these employees in the workforce and promote flexible work opportunities. To date, we have focused on refugees, armed services veterans and high calibre professionals, including women and carers, who require flexible working conditions. During 2016–17, we recruited 24 refugees, 7 veterans, and another 33 professionals on non-ongoing contracts through the Opening Doors initiative.

    Our workforce initiatives support the wider APS undertakings on gender equity, Indigenous employment and diversity, in line with the APS Unlocking potential report released in 2016. The ATO strives to be an inclusive employer, where diversity is embraced by everyone and employees can be themselves in the work environment.

    We have a strong track-record in progressing initiatives that support diversity and inclusion. In April 2017, we updated and published our Diversity and inclusion plan 2017–2019 to reflect our achievements and to respond to other influences such as the APS Unlocking Potential report.

    Diversity focus areas outlined in our plan include:

    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
    • cultural and linguistic diversity
    • disability
    • gender equality
    • mature age people
    • lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

    Our plan continues to use our SES as champions for special and affirmative recruitment and reasonable adjustments. SES champions have been appointed – for Indigenous employees, LGBTI employees and people with disability – to provide visible leadership on the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

    In May 2017, the ATO was one of only 10 employers that received a Gold Employer award at the 2017 Pride in LGBTI Inclusion Awards, recognising progress against the Australian Workplace Equality Index. We also supported other diversity events, including International Women’s Day events, the Australian Network on Disability Annual National Conference, and the AHRI Inclusion and Diversity Conference.

    We monitor our performance in supporting diversity and inclusion through seven key performance criteria.

    TABLE 2.6 Diversity and inclusion performance criteria and targets

    Performance criteria


    Percentage of employees identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

    2.5% by December 2018 (with an interim target of 2.1% by December 2017)

    Percentage of female representation at EL and SES classifications

    By December 2019

    • Approximately 50% in EL classifications
    • Approximately 50% in SES classifications

    Percentage of employees identifying as having disability

    Trending to 5% by December 2019

    Percentage of employees identifying as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)

    Maintain current levels (>20%)

    Percentage of employees identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex

    • Establish benchmark reporting by December 2017
    • Increase the rate of self-identification in 2019

    Biennial assessment against the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI)

    • Continued improvement in AWEI
    • Obtain Gold status by December 2019(a)

    ATO employees completing the ‘An Inclusive & Diverse ATO’ training package

    Training package completed by:

    • 100% of employees within the human resources (HR) job family by end 2017
    • 100% of employees with line management responsibilities by end 2018
    • 100% of new employees from April 2017
    (a) Achieved in 2016–17.
      Last modified: 30 Oct 2017QC 53754