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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Supporting our staff to provide outstanding customer service

OBJECTIVE Supporting our people

Review acknowledges the complex role played by legal administrative staff

We reviewed the role of our legal administrative staff from February to April 2017.

Our administrative staff are much more than traditional legal secretaries—as well as supporting lawyers, the review showed that our legal support officers seek to provide an outstanding level of customer service to our clients, often under very difficult circumstances.

The review was commissioned in an environment where people are often expected to do more work with the same or fewer resources and where the technology is changing constantly.

Independent consultants made recommendations that group separate initiatives into those that we can do immediately or in the longer term.

Better recruitment practices

We improved our recruitment practices through:

  • workforce planning to develop a toolkit for a positive workplace environment and resilient workforce
  • consistent and compliant practices, addressing some of the results from the Public Service Commission’s People Matter Employee Survey 2016
  • a redesign of recruitment and selection training for hiring managers
  • a working group to establish a framework for Practical Legal Training for eligible law students across Legal Aid NSW.

Measuring ourselves against the Public Sector— staff rate our performance strongly

In 2016, we were invited to participate in the Public Service Commission People Matter Employee Survey. The survey results showed us what we were doing well and where we need to improve.

The results show that our staff rate our performance strongly—particularly when compared with the Public Sector. Of the 103 core questions (not including demographic and motivation questions), Legal Aid NSW rated higher than the sector on all but five.

The introduction of Individual Planning—our new performance and planning system—addressed a number of lowly scored questions from the previous survey in 2014. The response to the question, “I have a current performance plan that sets out my individual objectives”, demonstrates how far we have come. The Legal Aid NSW response in 2014 was 23 per cent against a Public Sector response of 52 per cent. In 2016, our response rose to 88 per cent against a Public Sector response of 62 per cent.

Individual Planning has now become a part of Legal Aid NSW day-to-day business and is used to develop our staff’s capabilities.

" Almost 90 per cent of staff have individual performance plans compared with 62 per cent in the Public Sector."

A ‘speak up’ employee culture led to an increase in complaints

The People Matter Employee Survey in 2016 highlighted that staff are not aware of how to report complaints. We promoted the workplace standards services package which consists of the Code of Conduct, Respect Guidelines, Complaints Management Guidelines and Dealing with Unsatisfactory Performance and provided information encouraging a speak up culture. This greater understanding of the complaints process led to an increase in the number of complaints for 2016–2017.

There were 41 complaints compared to 22 the year before.

A lack of respect (34 per cent) and bullying (18 per cent) continue to be the most common allegations.

The majority of complaints were resolved informally—60 per cent—up from 42 per cent last year.

Whilst there has been an increase in the number of complaints, only four structured performance improvement plans were implemented. This is consistent with 2015–2016.

Three employees had their employment terminated (two for misconduct, one for performance), two were suspended and three resigned before misconduct processes were completed.

No public interest disclosures were recorded but two matters were notified to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.