The State sector needs to grow its leadership talent to deliver great services and results for New Zealanders. Understanding current talent within the sector is key to helping build a deeper and more diverse pipeline of strong leaders for the future. The Leadership Capability Development and Deployment Programme within the SSC is developing system-wide initiatives to reduce the risk of talent gaps affecting the delivery of services to New Zealanders. A common approach to talent management is being implemented. This focuses on cross-agency deployments to build system leadership capability. The SSC undertakes data analytics to further inform this work and measure progress over time.

Early in Career

The SSC is investing in attracting, developing and retaining new talent for future system leadership with the Early in Careers work programme.Previous research is available in earlier information releases (2016 and 2017). The SSC plans to update this research next year.

Qualification levels

The 2013 Census results show that Public Service employees are more qualified than those in the private sector, State-owned enterprises, and local government.However, they are less qualified than employees in the state health and education sectors.

Public servants are becoming more qualified over time. The proportion with no post-school qualifications decreased from 37.7% in 2006 to 32.4% in 2013. The proportion with a degree or higher qualification increased from 40.5% to 47.7% over the same period. Social, Health and Education Workers in the Public Service in particular, had a strong improvement in qualification levels, though there were improvements in all occupational groups.


The SSC has been encouraging government agencies to sponsor secondments of talented staff as part of their professional development. Secondments offer experiential learning opportunities that the home agency may not be able to provide. There were 264 Public Service employees on secondment as at 30 June 2018. This is an increase on the 244 secondments in 2017 and is the highest number since the HRC survey started in 2000. Note: that secondments within departments are not included in these figures.

These opportunities are particularly useful for aspiring leaders to gain valuable experience in a broader range of contexts across the State Services and beyond. Secondments also support better cross-agency collaboration by creating new relationships and a better understanding of the operational challenges and opportunities across the sector. Collaboration improves decision-making by incorporating more diverse perspectives.

Senior leaders

Senior leader stocktake

As at 30 June 2018, there were 1,133 senior leaders in the Public Service (defined as the top three tiers of managers with chief executives being tier one). This compares to 1,025 senior leaders last year.Contributing to this increase were the addition of three new agencies – Pike River Recovery Agency, Social Investment Agency and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS). NZSIS was previously a non-Public Service department.

Within agencies the average length of service for tier two leaders, excluding those on fixed-term contracts, was 7.2 years in 2018, down from a peak of 12.1 years in 2007.The average length of service for tier three leaders in 2018 was 11 years and has remained relatively unchanged for the past ten years.

Annual sick leave usage for senior leadership is very low, at 4.3 days in 2018.This compares with 6.3 days for the ‘all managers’ group and 8.2 days, on average, for all Public Service employees.

Senior leaders are moving around the system

Effective senior leaders are expected to have experience in a range of contexts. Secondments are a good way of building this experience. The number of secondments in leadership and management positions has grown over the past decade. As at the end of June 2018, 53 Public Service managers were on secondment, around three times higher than at June 2007. A new indicator of mobility around the system is the number of senior leader deployments facilitated through Career Boards [1]. There were 44 such deployments in the year to June 2018, up from 27 the year before.

Increased mobility can also be seen in 2015 research using the linking of the HRC into Stats NZ’s IDI. The graph below shows there was an increase in the number of Public Service tier two leaders who were not in the same role three years earlier, with a higher proportion of roles being filled by recruitment from other Public Service departments. Note: Wellington-based senior leaders were more likely to come from within the public sector, while Auckland-based senior leaders were more likely to come from the private sector.

Where tier two leaders were three years earlier.


[1] Career boards are made up of chief executives from across the State Services. Chief executives use career boards to bring talented people together with opportunities. This involves matching talent to roles, either to meet specific system needs, or where individual development can be offered through on the job training and support.

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