Getting to know the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework

From its inception, one of the key priorities for the NSW Public Service Commission has been the development of a Capability Framework for the public sector. A well-articulated set of capabilities was essential if the Commission was to achieve its objective of building a high-performing public sector workforce.

While the concept of a capability framework is familiar to those working within the Commonwealth public sector, it represents a new approach to workforce management for the NSW public sector. The capabilities are essential inputs, and provide a consistent underpinning, to everything from the design of roles through to recruitment and performance management. So while it might take some time to become familiar with the Framework, there are practical benefits to be realised from applying it.

For recruitment and selection, the Framework provides the platform for designing roles around the broader skill set required for their successful execution. Role descriptions no longer revolve around the tasks required to be completed within the role but instead focus on the key capabilities required for the role. So, rather than recruiting on the basis of past experience in executing specified tasks, the field can be broadened to attract candidates with the critical skills needed to carry out all dimensions of the role. There is a much greater chance of attracting applicants who will be able to develop the role into the future and who will truly be the “right person for the role”.

For managers, the capabilities provide benchmarks as to what can be expected of staff at different levels. It can often be very difficult to assess softer skills such as communicating effectively or working collaboratively within a team. The Capability Framework describes what these skills should “look like” in execution and provides practical examples of how they should be demonstrated according to the requirements of the role. Managers therefore have an objective basis for assessing employees’ performance and can use these benchmarks to coach staff to bridge performance gaps.

Finally, for public sector staff, the Capability Framework provides a roadmap for skills development and career progression. It shows how staff need to develop their skills through stages, such as:


In our experience, the Capability Framework is a valuable resource across all elements of the employment cycle and will support the development of a more agile, mobile and flexible public sector workforce in NSW. It is worth getting to know.