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Hanisch, Erica --- "Staff survey is a vote of confidence for the AFP" [2001] AUFPPlatypus 7; (2001) 70 Platypus: Journal of the Australian Federal Police, Article 7

Staff survey is a vote of confidence for the AFP

By Federal Agent Erica Hanisch, Media and Public Relations

Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary of England and the founder of modern policing, proposed nine principles of policing in his revolutionary paper that lead to the establishment of the first police force in London in 1829. Within these principles, he stated that:

"...the police are the public and the public are the police; police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen, in the interests of community welfare and existence."

As recognised by Sir Robert, police officers are first members of the public and implicitly bring to their profession the same range of expectations as other members of the public bring to theirs. The Australian Federal Police is an organisation just like any other, comprising employees who work for a wage and who have the same sorts of career ambitions and desires for supportive workplace conditions that employees of any other organisation might have. And just like any other organisation, these desires and ambitions and their realisation will have a profound impact upon employee job satisfaction and productivity.

In realising this, the AFP commissioned a staff survey, designed to identify workplace experiences, both positive and negative, and their relationship to job satisfaction. An independent research company, Workplace Research Associates Pty Ltd, was contracted to analyse the survey data and prepare a report.

Approximately 1300 survey forms were distributed in every region over a six week period between mid-January and 28 February 2000. Some 1194 completed surveys were received, giving a response rate of almost 92 per cent. This represents the views of just over 42 per cent of all staff employed by the AFP.

While the survey was conducted 12 months ago the final analytical results were received just before Christmas, 2000.

According to Simon Overland, the Chief Operating Officer of the AFP, the survey has given the organisation both good and bad news. "Although I would have to say, and this is borne out by Workplace Research Associates, the news is mainly good," he said. "Team leaders in particular are to be congratulated on the results of this survey as it reflects well on their abilities to manage staff."

Simon noted that while the results were unremarkable for an organisation like the AFP, the AFP is concerned about some aspects. "For example, we need to work to reduce further the low incidence of negative workplace experiences for staff and to better understand, and if possible to remedy, the causes of dissatisfaction amongst AFP staff," he said. "I don't pretend that we can ever reduce these issues to zero, but we are keen to do all that we can to minimise their incidence.

"It is pleasing to note that actual staff turnover for the past 12 months has not matched the forecasts evident in the survey data," Simon commented. In fact, the 11.48 per cent attrition rate fell far short of all the forecasts that had been made that year.

"The recommendations [at the conclusion of the report] provide a good starting point for us and I am pleased to say that we have commenced action in relation to improving our workforce planning capacity." A new Team Leader Workforce Planning, John Blake, has been given the responsibility of redesigning workforce planning processes and improving linkages to other planning processes. "We accept the other recommendations and will implement them over this next year," Simon continued.

"This has been a valuable learning experience. It is essential that we repeat this experience because it is vital that we receive this feedback and, more importantly, act on it. Our new employment framework is predicated on open communication. This survey and those we will conduct in future are important components in continuing to improve the processes of communication and understanding."

An executive summary of the survey findings follows.

Positive Team Leader/Supervisor Behaviour

Staff were surveyed about the extent to which their immediate supervisor/team leader displayed a range of positive behaviours. The majority of staff rated their supervisors or team leaders very favourably, indicating that they displayed a range of positive behaviours often or very often. The individual supervisor/team leader behaviours that were most frequently observed and experienced by staff were:

• having their viewpoint considered when a decision is made;

• being informed about matters that affect them and affect their job;

• being shown concern for their rights as an employee;

• being treated with respect and consideration; and

• having their supervisor/team leader suppress their personal biases and act impartially.

There were few group differences in ratings with the exception that staff aged 19 to 29 years or those who have been employed for 1 to five years with the AFP tended to report the highest incidences of positive supervisor/team leader behaviour.

Career barriers

Staff were surveyed about the extent to which they had experienced various career barriers in the previous 12 months. In general, the majority indicated that the various types of barriers were either not applicable to them or that they had not experienced them at all over the past 12 months. Those who did experience barriers noted lack of training, lack of career guidance and the perceived existence of exclusive networks as being of concern.

Negative Work Experiences

In the last part of the questionnaire, staff were asked to indicate whether and how often they had been subjected to a range of negative behaviours from their work colleagues. The majority of staff indicated that they had either never experienced the various types of negative behaviours or experienced them once in the past 12 months.

Of the few who did experience negative behaviours, those behaviours most often experienced related to rumour mongering, being embarrassed in front of colleagues or members of the public and inappropriate stories or jokes.

Job Satisfaction

Survey respondents were asked to indicate how satisfied they were with their current job.

• A significant majority of staff (73.2 per cent) reported being 'Satisfied' or 'Very Satisfied' in their current roles.

• A further 15.2 per cent were 'Neutral' in relation to their level of job satisfaction.

• Only 8.3 per cent of respondents were 'Dissatisfied' and a further 3.3 per cent were 'Very Dissatisfied'.

Group differences revealed that 30 to 39 year olds and those who had been employed with the AFP for five to 10 years and 10 to 15 years were the most dissatisfied.

Further analysis also revealed that staff who reported being 'Neutral', 'Dissatisfied' or 'Very Dissatisfied' also reported significantly higher incidences of negative work experiences compared to staff who reported being 'Satisfied' or 'Very Satisfied'.

Interestingly gender, type of member (sworn or staff), employment status (full-time or part-time) and place of deployment were all unrelated to levels of job satisfaction (i.e. there were no sub-group differences for these variables). The two key predictors of levels of job satisfaction were the extent of career barriers and the incidence of positive supervisor/team leader behaviour.

Voluntary Turnover

Despite reasonably good levels of job satisfaction, the survey showed somewhat high levels of intended voluntary turnover. Some 84 per cent of staff said that they are unlikely to leave; however, the remaining 16 per cent said that they were either likely or very likely to leave the organisation in the next six months.

The survey examined the relationship between intended voluntary turnover and other factors. In summary, the main findings of these analyses were:

• the three factors that best predicted intended voluntary turnover were: career barriers, job satisfaction and age; and

• intended voluntary turnover was also significantly correlated with the degree to which staff experience career barriers and the degree of isolation they feel.

In general, there were no significant gender differences in turnover intentions.

Examining group differences, the following results emerge:

For staff who are likely to leave:

• those in the 15 to 20 years service category more frequently indicated that they were likely to leave the AFP in the next six months compared with other groups; and

• team members as opposed to team leaders were more likely to leave the AFP in the next six months.

For staff who are very likely to leave:

• those with 10 to 15 years service and more than 20 years service were significantly over-represented in the category of 'very likely' to leave the AFP in the next six months compared to other groups; and

• significantly fewer community police said they were very likely to leave the AFP in the next six months compared to national and regional staff.


The survey's main findings showed:

• a relatively high proportion of staff reported experiencing a range of positive supervisor/team leader behaviours;

• a relatively low incidence of staff experienced career barriers of various kinds;

• there was a relatively low incidence of negative behaviours displayed by supervisors and work colleagues;

• there was a relatively good level of job satisfaction in the organisation; and

• there was a somewhat high level of intended voluntary turnover reported by staff.


Based on the more detailed findings of the survey, a number of recommendations have been made by Workplace Research Associates Pty Ltd to enhance the management of staff relations in the AFP.

Recommendation 1:

That the AFP analyse actual turnover since February 2000 to determine how closely intended turnover is related to actual turnover.

Recommendation 2:

That the AFP regularly monitors turnover to determine relative trends and to inform workforce planning.

Recommendation 3:

That focus groups be held with staff, particularly those who are 30 to 39-years-old and/or have five to 15 years service, to investigate survey issues further, identify any additional issues and generate strategies and solutions that would increase job satisfaction and minimise voluntary turnover.

Recommendation 4:

That focus groups also be conducted that are targeted at females. These focus groups could be conducted in parallel with those suggested in Recommendation 3, however, the issues and strategies that apply specifically to women could be investigated.

Recommendation 5:

Specific strategies relating to female staff that flow from focus groups may be suitable for incorporation in the revised Equity and Diversity Strategy.

Recommendation 6:

That, once further strategies and initiatives are identified from focus groups, members be given priority access to these initiatives where appropriate.

Recommendation 7:

That the AFP reviews its approach to training to ensure that it meets the needs of staff and that particular attention be paid to the issue of access to training.

Recommendation 8:

That the AFP reviews its approach to career guidance.

Recommendation 9:

That supervisors/team leaders be recognised for their provision of a high level of positive staff management behaviours and that these behaviours be reinforced in existing or planned supervisory training.

Recommendation 10:

That further coaching and training be made available to supervisors/team leaders on the giving and receiving of positive and negative feedback.

Recommendation 11:

That the survey be conducted again at a two to three year interval to determine the stability of the results and the likely effects of any changes or interventions.

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