What are we doing to develop future leaders?

SSC is working in partnership with State Services chief executives and their agencies, and with the Leadership Development Centre, to create an integrated approach to leadership and capability development and deployment for the whole State Services system. This new approach will enable the State Services Commissioner to deliver on his expanded mandate as Head of State Services (HoSS) under the State Sector Amendment Act (2013).

We need to put in place systems and resources to support the introduction of the new approach. While SSC is leading this initiative, we will actively involve senior leaders throughout the process and also enlist external expertise when necessary.


Why are we doing this?

To ensure a pipeline of capable, high performing people for senior leadership roles in the State Services. It will also help us identify critical skill gaps and work with agencies to address these.

The Better Public Services Advisory Group Report (2011) identified leadership as the single most critical driver of successful change in the State sector to deliver better public services for New Zealanders. We need to develop the capability of State Services leaders and specialist staff to deliver outstanding results and value for money in an increasingly complex and challenging environment.

A focus on results demands:

  • technical mastery of key skills needed by the State Services system
  • deploying high performers where they can best deliver on government priorities
  • a talent pipeline to provide for seamless succession into senior leadership roles
  • maximising the return on our investment in training and developing our people.

In response to the BPS Report recommendations, the State Sector Amendment Act establishes an explicit role for the Commissioner for developing senior leadership and management capability for the benefit of the system as a whole. This is different from the past approach where chief executives focused on the development of staff in their own departments, for the benefit of their departments.


What are the benefits of the new approach?

The new approach to leadership and capability development and deployment across the State Services will result in:

  • a leadership pipeline from graduate through to emerging leader and senior executive levels, providing enhanced leadership opportunities
  • an increase in viable candidates for senior leadership and system-critical positions
  • identification and management of capability gaps in system-critical functions
  • an increase in technical and specialist skills required by the system
  • flexibility to move high performing people to where they can make the greatest contribution and deliver on government priorities
  • greater diversity among State Services leaders, bringing different perspectives to decision making
  • targeted investment in training and development providing better value for money
  • broader career opportunities in the State Services, helping us to attract, grow and retain talent.


How is the new approach being developed and implemented?

The State Services Commission is leading this initiative, but we're not doing it alone.

Through an extensive engagement programme involving more than 80 State Services chief executives and senior leaders, we've come up with a leadership and capability development and deployment approach that is widely supported. It focuses on identifying and developing leadership talent at all levels, from graduates to emerging leaders and senior executives.

SSC is now identifying priorities for its implementation and will continue to work with chief executives and their agencies and with the Leadership Development Centre (LDC) to make it happen. The new approach will build on best practice within agencies, the current Career Board process and well regarded LDC programmes.

We expect that putting the new system in place will take about three years.


What does this mean for the Leadership Development Centre?

The Leadership Development Centre (LDC) will continue to provide leadership development services. The LDC will also have a crucial role to play in supporting chief executives in fulfilling their responsibilities for developing leaders in line with wider State Services and agency needs.


What does this mean for the State Services Commission?

Our business is a people business - how we develop and mobilise people in the State Services is core to the results we deliver.

Through the expanded powers of the Commissioner under the State Sector Amendment Act, SSC now has specific responsibility for actively managing senior roles in the Public Service, similar to the Treasury having specific responsibility for setting the Budget.

The Commission is primarily focused on chief executive roles and a number of key positions. This means that, SSC, in agreement with chief executives, can move talented people to positions where they can make the greatest contribution to achieving priority results and can give high performers enhanced development opportunities. It's about having the right people in the right roles with the right skills at the right time.


How does this affect the Career Board process?

The Senior Leader Career Development Programme, including the current Career Boards, identifies and develops senior leaders. The new leadership development approach will support the work of the Career Boards by providing a stronger focus on improving senior leadership and capability development for the State Services as a whole.


What does this mean for State Services chief executives?

The dual role of chief executives as both heads of their agencies and leaders of the State Services system as a whole is critical to the delivery of the Better Public Services reforms and the changes enabled by the new State Sector Amendment Act. Chief executives are expected to be stewards of the system. This stewardship role means building the capability and resilience of agencies to address future challenges.

Chief executives are charged with leading their agencies and also have collective responsibility in assisting the Commissioner to develop senior leadership and management capability in the wider Public Service. They are required to balance the needs of the system with the needs of their agency.

The new system-wide, approach to leadership and capability development and deployment will mean State Services senior leaders are better able to deliver results in an increasingly complex and challenging environment that demands:

  • a greater focus on customers
  • leading across agencies to maximise collective impact
  • a shared focus on stewardship of the public management system
  • transforming service design and delivery to achieve greater value for money.


What does this mean for people wanting careers in the State Services?

The new approach to leadership and capability development and deployment will help the State Services attract and grow talented people. It will enhance career opportunities. This change will enable the State Services Commission to move high performers to critical roles and give talented people more opportunity to gain experience and grow capability in a range of roles in different agencies. It's about stretching people through challenging experiences. It provides for wider-ranging career pathways within the State sector, making it a more attractive and rewarding place to work.

There is greater recognition that all public servants are part of the same system, even though they work for individual agencies.


How do you make sure it doesn't undermine people's own ability to develop their careers?

Individuals will continue to be responsible for managing their own careers, but there will now be a system-wide framework for people with leadership potential to develop their careers in. The new leadership development approach also meets the wider need to focus on delivering outstanding results for New Zealanders. It doesn't undermine the principle of merit based appointments.


Will this mean there will be separate career paths for managers and specialists or technical experts?

We envisage that there will be technical experts who will advance through a management development pipeline and there will be others who go through a technical development pipeline. In addition to technical specialists, we will also be developing senior leaders who understand technical issues when they are making decisions. There's increasing recognition that chief executives require some understanding of technology and what it can do for their business and improving service delivery. It's also important that senior leaders know how to operate in a political context. Integral to the new system is ensuring that people have the capabilities and skill set to lead in the State Services today and in the future.


Last modified: