Conducting a simulated election exercise

In June 2012, we conducted a simulated election to provide staff with an election-like experience and the ability to practise their roles in delivering an election. This is a very important preparatory exercise leading up to the next election.

The objectives of the simulation were to:

  • provide staff with effective training experience,
  • deliver an extensive simulation of activities undertaken during an election,
  • test functionality of AEC processes and systems,
  • give staff a hands-on election experience that builds their confidence, and
  • enable staff to complete tasks in an election-type environment and within a tight timeframe.

The effectiveness of the simulated election will be reviewed following its completion in July 2012.

Improving the management of electronic transactions

In 2011–12, we established the electronic transaction management project. The aim of the project is to improve the management of our electronic transactions and achieve better business outcomes by using contemporary electronic transaction technologies. This project is a key priority for the AEC. During the 2010 Federal Election, we received an unprecedented level of electronic transactions, such as phone calls, emails, call centre enquiries, faxes, online enquiries and online enrolment transactions.

We expect that the volume of email traffic and online enquiries will continue to rise, so we have looked at how we can minimise manual intervention by staff and maximise self-service. We have also researched how we conduct our business, both internally and when interacting with voters. The focus of the project is currently on email management so that we can minimise the workload for staff dealing with email at the next federal election. Work on the project will continue throughout 2012–13 and is expected to deliver better outcomes for both staff and voters.

Providing library services

Our library in the National Office continued to provide staff with a wide range of information services.

The library is a proactive library service that supports the operational, informational and research needs and activities of all staff. It also aims to optimise access to information resources for its decentralised client base.

The major focus of requests from staff was for reference support services, including literature and subject-based searches.

In 2011–12, we included three significant databases – EBSCO’s Academic Search Complete, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre and Political Science Complete – in the library’s resources. These databases will meet the broadening demands from staff for reference materials. The databases are available from the AEC intranet, but can also be accessed externally from home computers or from mobile devices such as iPhones, iPod Touch devices or iPads.

The library’s book collection is continually being updated with new reference material. A range of reference material, such as historical publications, reports, journals and links to services, were provided to staff. Most journals are now available online, although some print copies are available.

Interlibrary loan and document delivery services continued to provide staff with a necessary resource.

A complete set of redistribution reports and election statistics from 1901 are now catalogued and available in chronological order for viewing in the library.

Records management staff and library staff collaborated to ensure that appropriate resources were preserved, and have worked together to preserve items of historical interest.

In May 2012, our Librarian was deployed to Kathmandu to help the Election Commission of Nepal to set up its library in the newly established Electoral Education and Information Centre. This work falls under the Public Sector Linkages Program, in partnership with AusAID.

Supporting staff through effective communication

Our distributed network of staff across national, state and divisional offices continued to pose particular communication challenges. To meet those challenges, we continued to invest in internal communication throughout 2011–12. We developed and implemented a range of strategies to ensure the delivery of clear and consistent communication.

New communication framework

We developed a communication framework to ensure that internal communication is aligned to our business direction and supports the delivery of business outcomes. The framework lays out an ambitious program of work to support agency communication through to the next election and ensures that our internal communication follows a model of continuous improvement.

NPM Bulletin for operational staff

We introduced the National Program Managers’ Bulletin, a new corporate communication channel. The bulletin is a regular newsletter for our operational staff based in state and divisional offices around the country. The NPM Bulletin has replaced two other newsletters and a range of ad hoc communication via minutes and emails. Our aim was to overcome business silos and reduce the number of communication channels that our staff need to access. It is now easier for staff to obtain the information they need to do their work. To date, feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive.

I think the NPM bulletins are great! They give a good overview on what is happening around the AEC at the moment. The simple format means they are informative without being overpowering

AEC staff member

Preparing for election time

To support effective communication during election time, we applied lessons learned from the 2010 Federal Election and developed a new election communication framework.

At the next election, election information will now be delivered to staff via our intranet newsfeed. This means that we can deliver election news in real time, without delay. This is very important as internal communication switches firmly to an operational focus during an election. We must also follow a day-by-day timetable to meet legislative requirements. Information flows rapidly during this time – even urgently.

Using a newsfeed also means that, for the first time, our approach to election communication is consistent with the way we communicate in non-election periods.

We tested the new framework during the simulated election to evaluate its effectiveness and implement any necessary changes prior to the next federal election.

Overall, the approach has been well received, although staff advised that there are still too many different channels of communication. This makes channel management an ongoing priority for us.

Rollout of SharePoint

We rolled out SharePoint as a collaboration tool across the organisation. This new tool filled a much-needed gap in our corporate communication.

A working party of key stakeholders met regularly to ensure that SharePoint was effectively integrated with other communication products and channels. They flagged and managed implementation issues, such as branding, governance and staff training.

SharePoint is now widely used by staff for collaboration and document sharing. Careful information management has seen it become better integrated with the AEC intranet, pointing the way to the next phase of our online evolution.

Communication and change management strategies

We developed communication strategies for a range of programs and projects, including the Year of Enrolment and the simulated election. We also introduced change communication principles to support project teams.

Providing portfolio and project management expertise

In September 2011, we established the Portfolio Management Office as part of a suite of re-alignments in the AEC. The new role strengthens a number of existing functions, including strategic and business planning, risk management and project management across the AEC. Portfolio management, project delivery and a centre of excellence were retained as key functions in the expanded Portfolio Management Office.

Throughout 2011–12, we utilised project management techniques to deliver better outcomes for projects in areas such as delivering value for money, milestone achievement and benefits realisation. PRINCE2 project methodology continued to deliver effective project management.

Establishing larger work units to improve career growth and service delivery

During 2011–12, we expanded the current range of larger work units in metropolitan areas. This initiative involved co-locating a number of specific divisional offices, which were previously located in individual sites in close proximity to each other, into larger single sites. It also involved the creation of new site office structures to enable us to provide a stepped career path and the opportunity to build capability incrementally.

The larger work units initiative was driven by two key factors:

  • our commitment to addressing staff concerns about limited opportunities for career progression, and
  • the need to deliver services in ways that meet the public’s expectations of convenience and efficiency.

We undertook a comprehensive consultation process with staff to determine these new working arrangements.

Larger work units are a key mechanism through which our three themes of modernisation, collaboration and investing in our people are actualised. Through the creation of new structures and larger work units, we have created new business processes that enable effective and efficient delivery to the public. The structural changes provide staff wishing to pursue their career with the AEC with a stepped and structured approach to building their capability as an electoral administrator through targeted development. This provides benefits to the AEC in the longer term, through succession planning and retention.

The sites

The larger work unit sites varied in size and structure but generally brought together two, three or four offices. Staff from the selected offices were closely involved in planning and implementation, based on agreed structural and staffing models endorsed by our Consultative Committee. We designed the structural and staffing models to meet the needs of our service delivery model whilst maximising efficiencies through bringing offices together. Structural changes were cost-neutral, with new roles introduced only following natural attrition.

South Australia’s approach to larger work units

The South Australian State Office embarked on the most ambitious use of larger work units. Staff took advantage of leases expiring in a 12-month period in a large number of metropolitan divisional offices. Once the leases expired, they incorporated all of their metropolitan divisional offices into a single site, located at the existing State Office premises. The final office relocation has resulted in nine divisional offices being located with the State Office in the Adelaide metropolitan area.

The South Australian State Office underwent a significant refurbishment, with the official launch of the new unit to take place in July 2012.