At the time of the 2013 PIF Review we found that the system for leadership development across the public service had been weak and there was no identifiable pipeline of talent across the system. Buy-in from agencies to the LDC courses for tier 2 and tier 3 leaders was poor and the meta-analysis of PIF reviews revealed that leadership development within agencies was inadequate, with 62% rated as ‘weak' or ‘needing improvement'. SSC had recently launched new programmes to address these weaknesses, including the introduction of Career Boards, but these had not, at that stage, produced results.
The changes made to the State Sector Act in June 2013 were designed to strengthen public service leadership at the system, sector and agency level. It introduced the concept of stewardship across the system and provided statutory powers to enable the Commissioner to implement change, such as the power to designate system critical roles as key positions and to deploy leaders into different roles and agencies for their development or for the benefit of the system.
SSC then established the Leadership and Capability Development and Deployment (LCDD) programme, based on a model co-created by SSC and Drs Mike Pratt and Murray Horn. Its purpose is to integrate system-wide capability development and leadership initiatives into a single culture change programme, to develop Great Agency Leaders into Great System Leaders.
The LDC has been repositioned as a joint venture between the Commissioner and public sector chief executives with a key role in developing senior leadership at both system and agency level. The Commissioner assumed the chair of the LDC board and is leading the development of more robust and systemic ways of assessing leadership potential and development needs. These changes have been effective.
In mid-2014 SSC appointed a Government Chief Talent Officer to lead the programme to identify and develop leaders and talent. Since then, progress has been evident:
- Career Boards have gained traction and are increasingly recognised as a valuable tool by the Chief Executives who sit on them. These sector-based Career Boards have facilitated the movement of senior leaders for development and Chief Executives are able to share ideas for the development of talented individuals in their agencies. Importantly they are enabling the SSC to compile for the first time a comprehensive picture of talent across the system. Career Boards have also identified credible successors for all key positions and ensured development plans are in place for those individuals.
- A talent management toolkit has been prepared and distributed for use by Chief Executives and their leadership teams in adopting consistent, effective, talent management practices in their own agencies. This is a practical and step-by-step guide to setting up a talent matrix and implementing internal talent management. All Chief Executives have committed to implement a talent map for their top three tiers of management, by 30 June 2015.
There are several other tools and programmes in development. They include:
- The Auckland Career Board, which includes the Auckland Council as well as the public service agencies that have a significant presence in Auckland and is aiming to include private sector companies to steward careers and broker development opportunities for leaders living in Auckland;
- Development of a common leadership assessment and benchmarking tool for Agencies to use. This is being developed with assistance from private sector providers who will be able to provide assessments for Agencies and assist with the creation of development plans for their staff. The use of data analytics to support talent development is vital to enable consistency and systematisation of the programmes;
- Reviewing and updating a Leadership Success Profile to establish a common success profile that can apply to all senior leaders in the State Services;
- Procuring a talent information system to store leadership information across the system;
- Developing leadership and capability of Functional Leaders and Heads of Profession to lift practice, performance and capability;
- Piloting an Emerging Leaders Fast Stream Programme, which will select high potential emerging leaders and develop their knowledge, skills and experience using placements within three different departments over three years;
- Developing a State Sector Graduate Programme, building upon the success of the first Intern Programme held last summer for 100 State servant interns.
There is a sense of real momentum in the Leadership and Talent Development Team. Chief Executives are also starting to see potential value in these new programmes and tools. It is an area where SSC is seen to be delivering on its planning and expectations and implementing their plans effectively. This area has come a long way since the 2013 Review but there remain some gaps to fill and projects to be completed.
- Although credible successors for key positions have been identified by Career Boards, succession planning is still not mature. There is no clear Chief Executive succession strategy and there tends to be a bottleneck in some Agencies at Tier 2 level, where permanent roles can become a barrier to succession.
- Succession planning should also encompass Chief Executives themselves. As a first step, the SSC, using Career Board data, has identified potential successors for all public service Chief Executives. This is particularly important as, unlike other public service positions, the Chief Executive appointments have fixed terms of appointment. But in addition SSC should actively identify and support Chief Executive's own development and career opportunities to maximise the options for the State services and the Chief Executives themselves.
- The Commissioner's power to move leaders for the benefit of the system is a valuable tool to drive system reforms across Agencies. Chief Executives I spoke with questioned whether it had in fact been applied. For example this power could be used to enable emerging leaders to get experience in different roles across the Public Service and also to overcome Tier 2 bottlenecks. In fact there have been at least 16 moves of Tier 2 and 3 leaders identified through Career Boards or by SSC directly and most have been achieved by mutual agreement. Nonetheless SSC should consider whether more active use of this power would be helpful for system reform.
- The more effective use of secondments to develop Tier 2 and Tier 3 leaders could extend across private sector and Australian state agencies. Some agencies have effectively developed their own transfer and secondment opportunities with Australian and other Commonwealth counterpart agencies, but these could be made part of the SSC toolkit for talent development.
- Leadership and talent development initiatives need to be systematised so that they are undertaken within a framework and are therefore sustainable and effective over a longer term. Otherwise they run the risk of being ad hoc or one-off, dependent upon the skills or expertise of particular individuals and not part of a long term programme. They need to be embedded in the Agencies themselves so that they become accepted and adopted by all.
- The communication between Chief Executives/SSC and the individuals who are identified as system and sector leaders and shown on the Career Boards is not yet consistent. As a first step, the Commissioner has written to all Tier 2 leaders updating them on the work of Career Boards and other leadership initiatives being led by the SSC and encouraging them to engage with their Chief Executives about their own development. This will be followed up by letters from the LDC. Clear and timely communication with the individuals who are on the Career Board is needed so that they know and understand their positioning and what this means for their future development. This information should be used to inform their personal development plans. While this responsibility must be primarily that of the relevant Chief Executive, SSC must ensure that this happens given the responsibility of the Commissioner and the Government Chief Talent Officer to develop the talent pipeline.
- There does not seem to be effective enough alignment within SSC between the Leadership and Talent Development Group and the SAPG. SSC needs to be sure that the same tools are being used to develop Chief Executives as are used to develop the talent pipeline. All of these functions, including the PIF and Continuous Improvement teams, need to be very closely aligned so that there is a common experience and strategy across system reform. They are all components of SSC's core business and should be more effectively integrated.
- Consideration could be given to transferring responsibility for Chief Executive development and succession planning to the Leadership and Talent Development Group, in conjunction with LDC, to emphasise the connection and alignment between the appointments and succession and the leadership and talent development functions within SSC.