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The Chief Executive Recruitment and Induction Process

The process undertaken by SSC for recruitment of Public Service Chief Executives is exhaustive and rigorous. The steps in the process - Planning, Sourcing, Assessing, Selecting and On-Boarding - comprehensively cover an A3 sheet in diagrammatic form. Those Chief Executives I spoke to who have recently undertaken the process (there have been 14 Chief Executives appointed in the past 2 years) found it thorough and very demanding, but were impressed by it and felt they had been well treated throughout. There is confidence among Chief Executives that the process is resulting in the appointment of the best candidates for the role.

However there is some concern as to whether the vacancies are attracting the best candidates to apply. There is a perception that these roles may not be attracting the best candidates from Tier 2 level. Possible reasons suggested were that the roles are seen as very demanding, attracting a high level of political and media scrutiny that can be difficult to deal with. Also the Public Service Chief Executive appointments are for fixed terms (usually for 3 or 5 years) whereas all other roles in the State services are permanent roles. It was suggested to me that some public servants who might be expected to apply for positions and are otherwise qualified may lack the motivation to do so. However, I note that SSC's recent experience does not tend to support this hypothesis.

I heard criticism of the time the recruitment process takes and there is a general feeling, particularly from Ministers, that the process needs to be more agile and adaptable, to be able to take account of particular circumstances. This concern is being addressed by SSC, which is using its own continuous improvement specialists to assist in streamlining the process and reduce the separate steps. These improvements are currently being trialled. Effectiveness and efficiency measures have also been developed. These will be applied as a part of the trial.

The value of the SSC's Chief Executive induction process is more difficult to judge. Some Chief Executives felt it was little more than identifying people they should meet, others felt that they knew their way around the system well enough that they really didn't need (or get) any particular induction. This will inevitably vary with the background and experience of the new appointee. But one comment made by a number of Chief Executives was that they felt ‘on their own' and somewhat isolated following their appointment. After the intensive process of recruitment and appointment, when they receive significant support and pastoral care, this can be an uncomfortable contrast, particularly for Chief Executives who are new to Wellington and/or the public service.

The 2013 Review identified that some Chief Executives, particularly from small agencies, would value more interaction with the Commissioner after appointment. This issue remains and I deal further with the issues of Chief Executive support and development later in the report.

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