Capability Frameworks

A Capability Framework defines the behaviours, skills and knowledge your organisation and people need to succeed. It establishes a common language, so you can communicate easily across diverse teams. A Capability Framework also expresses your culture, by describing expected behaviours and values. In short, it gives your organisation clarity about how to do your work.

The NSW Public Service Commission have released a NSW Public Sector Capability Framework which indicates the knowledge, skills and abilities that public sector employees must demonstrate to perform their roles effectively. Local Government NSW’s (LGNSW) Capability Framework, based on PSC’s Framework, is rising in popularity as a means for local councils to achieve their workforce development goals.

On this page:

Why are they important?

Clear expectations are at the very heart of organisational success. A Capability Framework is the missing link to even higher levels of performance. Capability Frameworks put you in a stronger position to anticipate needs and ignite every position’s purpose. They also boost your ability to attract, develop and retain great talent.

It is the foundation for great results across the entire workforce development life-cycle. This includes recruiting and on-boarding, managing performance, developing capabilities, career planning and workforce planning. A Capability Framework also ensures your HR team can effectively align its activities with your organisation’s strategic goals.

Who benefits from a Capability Framework?

Capability Frameworks benefit every corner of your organisation. In fact, it will be the recruitment tool that transforms the entire government service.

  • Executives gain a strong understanding of how the workforce is managed and structured. It helps them to unlock leadership excellence.
  • HR gains a common workforce language, resulting in an even more positive impact. It is also able to more clearly communicate across divisions and teams.
  • Managers gain a proven tool for increasing performance. They also gain clarity around team and individual accountabilities.
  • Employees gain a clearer picture of how to excel and boost their career. Knowing exactly what is expected of them fosters a greater sense of belonging.

Getting started

Through our work we’ve seen the pitfalls organisations fall into, and organisations that have put it into the ‘Later’ (too hard) basket. So, we’ve developed the INS Capability Framework Implementation Roadmap. Our approach breaks down this process into four manageable steps for your peace of mind.

Use our Capability Framework Implementation Roadmap to workout what you need to do, and perhaps what steps you may have missed.

The INS Capability Framework Implementation Roadmap, while it has a long name, provides a simple but powerful approach to getting results out of the capability framework. And it incorporates the lessons we’ve learnt from other organisations from their implementations.

While each step seems simple, it can take some work to work through the detail and produce the work required. Some organisations are able to undertake this themselves, while others reach out for experienced expertise to assist. Choose for yourself whether you have the internal resources to make this journey, or need external assistance.

Step 1: Be prepared!

Ensure managers understand the need for the Capability Framework. This includes putting together a business case, implementation planning, gap analysis and mapping.

Preparation is key to articulating how the Capability Framework will benefit your council. One major aspect of this is developing a communications plan as it is crucial in you gaining organisational support. Adopting the Capability Framework will take time, resources and money. By developing a communications plan, you can ensure key stakeholders have the information they need.

Step 2: Let your staff know what’s happening and why.

Offer support and training if needed.

As you’ll know, communication is key to engaging staff. You must put communications, support, and Learning & Development plans plan in place to ensure employees are aware of organisational changes. This engagement should occur at the beginning of the implementation process. You need to first determine which employees need to be engaged, how to engage them, and when.

Step 3: Update your Position Descriptions in line with the Capability Framework.

Meaningful use of the Capability Framework comes about when it’s incorporated correctly into position descriptions. This provides the basis for capability-based recruitment, performance development, and capability and career planning. Your agency or council will need to adapt your position descriptions across the board when implementing the Framework. Updating position descriptions  can be quite a lengthy process. We have developed a tailored approach to these updates, and recommend piloting the update with a small business unit. Through this pilot, incorporate feedback received into the rolling implementation throughout the entire organisation.

Step 4: Integrate the Capability Framework into your workforce practices.

This includes recruitment and on-boarding, performance management, workforce planning, mobility and transition.

Once you’ve laid the foundation from the first three steps, you’re ready to integrate the Capability Framework into the main workforce processes.


Updating your council’s recruitment and on-boarding process is the easiest way to get value from the Capability Framework. This integration means that you can increase the talent pool available to your council. At present, position descriptions in the public sector are complicated as they are task-based. This can be off-putting for individuals applying for public sector roles. By moving towards capability-based position descriptions, individuals can understand what is required of them, and if they have the capabilities necessary to be successful in a role.

Performance (capability and career development)

The focus of performance management these days is on performance development. That is, providing regular and timely performance feedback, and capability and career development opportunities, rather than waiting until there is a problem to address.

Workforce planning

Capability Frameworks provide a common foundation for you to improve workforce planning. This allows you to align organisational goals to employee goals. Councils use workforce planning to ensure they can meet their needs and objectives by understanding what capabilities they need.

Mobility and transition

Managing employees and providing assistance to prepare them for new opportunities is critical to the successful implementation of any restructure. When done well, mobility and transition could see you keep good people, maintain the investment, and keep the knowledge your people hold.

Get the most out of your Capability Framework

Change isn’t easy but adopting the Capability Framework is worth it. We’ve all been there before. Yet another legislative change that requires reform or new adjustments. We usually implement reforms because we have to, or are forced to adapt, but the most appropriate and satisfying time to implement any change is when we can clearly see the benefits. But what does it all mean. Forget the fact that NSW government has to implement the framework. Compliance is only one part of the equation. Use this fantastic tool to help you create roles, recruit into those roles, manage performance, develop the capability of your staff, help career planning and assist in workforce planning.

On your journey to a workforce for the future, here are four things to keep in mind to minimise risks from a rushed foundation.

  1. Make sure you engage and inform staff, management and other stakeholders.
  2. Use the Framework to establish exactly what roles and capabilities you and your staff need to succeed.
  3. Let your staff know about their clearly outlined career path options. It will allow them to meet their full potential and encourage them to stay with you.
  4. It is essential to properly implement the Framework. The standardised definition of roles and organisational capabilities can help you manage organisational changes.

Utilise the opportunity to create an agile and responsive workforce for our community. Maybe you’ve implemented the Capability Framework to meet compliance obligations, or maybe you’re about to start the adoption of a capability framework and want to avoid these risks. Now it’s time to ensure you have laid a strong foundation as it underpins all the workforce performance processes. Not doing so runs the risk of poor performance results.

In the journey to create and maintain a high-performance workforce, compliance is only the first step. In our experience, government organisations that are proactive in addressing these four risks have a much higher level of performance.

Capability Frameworks in different jurisdictions

Capability Frameworks are not uniform across the entire Australian Public Sector. To find out which Framework is used in your state, click on the map below:

How we’ve helped our clients

  • Online career development and career motivation solutions
  • Career coaching for individuals
  • Bespoke workshops and action learning programs (real training ROI)
  • Development of strategic approaches to the delivery of corporate career development programs
  • Self-assessment tools to identify transferable skills and determine core interests, aptitudes and compatibility
  • Career development workshops and various learning and development programs