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Annual Report 2018 - 2019

Supporting our staff to provide outstanding customer service

We continued to invest in our people, acknowledging that staff work in a challenging context and need to be highly skilled and well supported to deliver the best results for clients and for our community.

Fact file
1,326 staff statewide
666 based in our Central Sydney office and 660 staff based in other offices around Sydney and NSW
673 lawyers and 653 administrative and corporate services staff
68 Aboriginal staff
327 men and 999 women
63 lawyers whose expertise is acknowledged through specialist accreditation

Staff numbers over five years

Year Full-time equivalent* staff as at the end of financial year Actual staff as at the end of financial year
2014–15 945.85 1,046
2015–16 1,028.95 1,116
2016–17 1,058.79 1,163
2017–18 1,098.94 1,203
2018–19 1,178.48 1,326

* Under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 (NSW)

OBJECTIVE: A highly capable workforce

People Matter Employee Survey 2018 – listening to our staff and responding

The NSW People Matter Employee Survey was open to all employees across the NSW Government sector during June 2018. The survey represents a regular, important opportunity for our staff to have a say about their workplace and to help make Legal Aid NSW a better place to work.

The results show that our staff rate our performance highly. In every key area measured in the survey – engagement with work, senior managers, communication, high performance, public sector values, diversity and inclusion, flexible working satisfaction and action on results – we outperformed the public sector average, and importantly, we experienced year-on-year improvements across the board. This is a testament to the seriousness with which we take staff views and our commitment to continuous improvement.

"Our employee engagement score was 75 percent, which was an increase on our 2017 score of 73 percent and the sector-wide score of 65 percent."

Survey response rates among Legal Aid NSW staff rose considerably this year, from 52 percent in 2017–18 to 84 percent. We returned an overall employee engagement score of 75 percent, up from 73 percent the previous year. The employee engagement score for the public sector as a whole was 65 percent.

The survey results showed us that we needed to take steps to increase staff confidence in recruitment, management of grievances and the way we inform staff about organisational changes. We heard and responded to staff views in these key areas.

Following consultation with staff through focus groups and workshops, we made changes to increase consistency, transparency and fairness in recruitment. We introduced assessment centres for bulk recruitment actions and began automating processes relating to our talent pool and new staff, and expanded our recruitment team to deliver improved recruitment advice and support.

We implemented a number of initiatives to improve our communication about organisational changes, including biannual CEO visits to all offices. We also held planning workshops in each of our offices around metropolitan Sydney and regional NSW to tailor action plans to local needs.

Shaping a more flexible workforce

Between March and June 2019, we ran a flexible work pilot in our Grants division, in our Newcastle offices, and in our Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities to support our staff to work in ways that help our staff balance their personal and professional responsibilities, while maintaining or improving service delivery.

The pilot incorporated a range of flexible work practices, from condensed hours, to remote working and altered core hours. Two of the pilots were ‘team-led’, while the third was ‘manager-led’. With project-specific funding from the NSW Public Service Commission, external consultants reviewed the three pilots to provide Legal Aid NSW with insights we will draw on as we prepare as to make all roles in our organisation more flexible.

Transforming administrative functions across our organisation

We completed a detailed process review of administrative functions. This foundational piece of work will help us streamline work practices throughout Legal Aid NSW. The review was supported by the implementation of trials designed to support administrative staff facing high volumes of work and showcase new ways of working.

By making our business processes more consistent, we can deliver more efficient, consistent services for clients and support the wellbeing of our staff. Through this review, we examined in detail what administrative staff do and how they do it, and identified areas for improvement.

We established a Best Practice Working Group to develop solutions to those issues identified. The Best Practice Working Group includes administrative staff from across our organisation who workshop, develop and implement best practice solutions, with an emphasis on processes that make better use of information technology, and are aligned to platforms including our new Client and Case Management System.

Encouraging a ‘speak-up’ culture

We promote the Legal Aid NSW Code of Conduct with staff at induction and provided specialised training to established and emerging leaders and managers to assist them to resolve workplace conflict and to respond to alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct.

We increased our investment in this important area of our work with the appointment of an ongoing manager with responsibility for industrial relations and workplace standards, and of an industrial relations and investigation officer.

We received 40 workplace complaints about alleged misconduct, which was consistent with the previous year. A lack of respect and bullying continue to be the most common allegations raised, accounting for 27 percent and 23 percent respectively of complaints received.

Following a process of assessment and enquiry, most complaints (82 percent) were able to be resolved informally, or were determined not to involve misconduct. The remaining 18 percent were subject to formal investigation, down from 40 percent in 2017–18.

As a consequence of substantiated findings of serious misconduct in 2018–19, three ongoing employees had their employment terminated. One temporary employee had their employment contract terminated early due to unsatisfactory performance.

One public interest disclosure was received in the reporting period. We notified oversight agencies – the NSW Ombudsman and the Independent Commission Against Corruption – of the disclosure.

Consulting and collaborating with staff on major changes

We continued to work closely with staff to consult and collaborate on major organisational changes through:

  • our Peak Consultative Committee, which is composed of the CEO, representatives of People and Organisational Development and the Public Service Association, and met every two months
  • the Human Resources Sub-Committee, which is composed of the Director of People and Organisational Development and representatives of the Public Service Association, and met every two months, and
  • our Equity and Diversity Committee, which is chaired by the CEO, and met quarterly.

OBJECTIVE: Responsive business processes

Using data to manage our organisation

Increasingly, we draw on insights from our service data to help us monitor and plan where and how we work. This year:

  • We used quarterly performance scorecards to monitor performance across all parts of our organisation and keep us on track in 26 key areas of performance.
  • We developed office-level scorecards that will help us compare activity across our regional offices.
  • Monthly service reports across our practice areas helped us identify operational trends.
  • We developed a new demand forecasting model to predict the future cost of delivering our services. See Developing more sophisticated forecasting tools.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will review and learn from our flexible work pilots as we prepare to make all roles in our organisation more flexible.