Leadership and Talent - Senior Leaders
Chief executives of State Services agencies are our most senior leaders. Together, they are the senior leadership team for the State sector.
Following the 2013 amendments to the State Sector Act 1988, chief executives now have statutory responsibilities for both their individual agencies, as well as how responsive their agencies are to collective interests. Stewardship and collaboration are at the heart of senior leaders' expectations to support the system-wide achievement of results.
Stewardship means senior leaders must actively plan for and manage people and resources over the medium to long-term, both within their agencies and across the system for collective good. This means ensuring that people are deployed to where they will meet the greatest need or where they will most benefit from development.
Overseeing the process of matching people to system need and development opportunities are career boards.
Career boards are the mechanism by which chief executives collectively pool their knowledge of system, sector and agency need and couple this with their insight into talent and potential.
Career boards lead succession management. This means taking a planned approach to ensure that, for every senior leadership position, there are credible successors ready for appointment - a "pipeline" of talent. Similar processes are in place for key positions.
Career boards also oversee senior leader development. Providing the right developmental experiences at the right time is increasingly understood as central to growing senior leadership.
While formalised academic study will always have its place, on the job learning is effective in supporting the development of critical thinking, strategic management and other skills. Senior leaders need exposure to a range of sectors, roles, service delivery and operational approaches, communities and customers. The Leadership Development Centre (LDC) help to deliver this development.
How do they work?
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.
Career boards operate at sector, regional and system levels.
The three sector career boards focus on sector capability and career development opportunities that give senior leaders essential learning experiences to take the next step upwards. The sector career boards are:
- Social & Justice Career Board
- Business Facing & Natural Resources Career Board
- External & Security Career Board
Career Board membership includes the chief executives of agencies in those sectors.
There is a regional career board for Auckland. This has a wide membership focusing on meeting the diverse needs of Auckland.
At the system level, career board leaders and the State Services Commissioner co-ordinate an overall view of needs and leadership development opportunities at the highest level.
In the next year you can expect to see:
- all career boards utilising common tools and practices,
- a stronger supporting infrastructure, and
- a deepening of career boards, integrated with agency and system-wide processes
Senior Leader Development and Deployment
Career boards and chief executives also oversee senior leader development and deployment. They have tasked SSC with finding more efficient ways to move senior leaders around the system to build both individual experience and system leadership capability.
Providing the right developmental experiences at the right time is increasingly understood as central to growing senior leadership.
While formalised academic study will always have its place, on the job learning is effective in supporting the development of critical thinking, strategic management and other skills. Over their careers, senior leaders need exposure to a range of sectors, roles, service delivery and operational approaches, communities and customers. This broadens and deepens their skills and helps them deliver better results for New Zealanders.
SSC has produced a new set of tools and resources, available on our website, to support these processes. These tools, along with the new talent management system and common assessment and benchmarking approach, will mean we can apply an increased level of sophistication to matching system needs and a person's development needs with the right learning opportunities. LDC is also a partner in delivering senior leader development - more information about their role can be found on our website.
Key positions were established in 2013 following the amendments to the State Sector Act 1988. Key positions are a mechanism for identifying the most system-critical roles at a point in time. These are designated as key positions under the Act by the State Services Commissioner, following consultation with the respective agency chief executive. Once designated, appointments can only be made to the position with the Commissioner's agreement.
This provides both the chief executives and the Commissioner with oversight of the positions, to ensure they are held by people with the right talent, while also ensuring there are credible successors for future appointment.
Key positions are a mix of strategy, operational, policy, and functional leadership roles. They have a significant impact across the State Services system and are critical to the delivery of services, government priorities or emergency responses.
The list of key positions will change over time in response to changes in government priorities and as new areas of critical need emerge - however a regularly updated list is available on our website.
Key positions can also be designated for the developmental opportunities they can offer.
How do they work?
The system of key positions reflects chief executives' shared responsibility for building the capability and capacity of the State Services as a whole, not just within their own agencies.
A current focus is better explaining the value and purpose of key positions. Watch for a set of tools and resources which will help support a common understanding of key positions. There will also be a review of the mix of key positions to ensure they are relevant and reflect the capability required for delivery of key government priorities.
Once that has happened SSC will be working to ensure we there is a strong succession pipeline for system critical key positions and to look at identifying and implementing 'developmental' key positions.
Functional leadership is defined as leadership, on a cross-agency or cross-system basis, of an aspect of business activity (for example, ICT and procurement). It is aimed at securing economies or efficiencies, improving services and service delivery, and developing expertise and capability across departments.
Functional leadership is about common business activities and approaches that can create more benefits and cost savings to government than agencies operating in isolation.
It works by; driving efficiencies, though economies of scale and reducing duplication; improving service delivery; and developing expertise and capability, through co-ordinated professional development, and deploying capability to where and when it is most needed.
Functional leadership complements both sector and agency leadership.
Functional leadership is a key pillar of the Better Public Services programme. It evolved from 2012, following the Advisory Group Report (PDF, 1MB) - revealing that while New Zealand's public management model is the envy of many for its strong vertical lines of accountability, it does not foster cross-agency work or a whole of government perspective.
Functional Leaders and Heads of Profession were established to enable greater efficiency and effectiveness in many areas of cross-government work including:
Functional Leaders and Heads of Profession have different mandates and their operation is still evolving. SSC is working with them to align and integrate the leadership and capability aspects of functional work programmes with system-wide talent management.