Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016

2.5 Leadership, Capability and Delivery

A strong emphasis on delivery and implementation was a central pillar of the first Reform Plan, published in 2011. This will continue under the new Reform Plan. Reform requires leadership at all levels to address the necessary change in culture and a workforce that is equipped to meet current and future challenges.

A Taskforce of civil servants from across Government Departments and Offices, working with Secretaries General, is leading a process to renew the vision and strategy for the Civil Service (see Section 3.1). The themes outlined below also form part of this programme of work and will be reflected and developed in that context.

2.5.1 Leadership

A high performing and accountable leadership cadre at the most senior levels of our Public Service is crucial in supporting economic recovery and driving effective delivery of services to the citizen. It is at the heart of successfully delivering on this Reform Plan.

Notwithstanding the high calibre of senior leaders, there is a need to strengthen the culture of driving, measuring and supporting high performance at senior levels in the Public Service. Future leaders must be highly resilient in meeting the challenges of a fast-paced environment, with strong implementation skills and a focus on collaboration and accountability. As a consequence, we now need to develop a strong and systematic approach to defining clear expectations of performance and to measuring performance among the leadership cohort. The contractual framework for senior civil servants will also need to be examined.
A high performing leadership cadre at the most senior levels of our Public Service is crucial in supporting economic recovery and driving effective delivery of services to the citizen.
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Senior leaders in the Civil Service are uniquely placed to support and enable wider change – assisting other Public Service sectors to achieve their objectives and progress reform. While high performance among individual leaders is crucial, it is equally important to ensure that there is real integration and collaborative working across the system.

In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, the Senior Public Service (SPS) was established “to nurture the collaborative culture needed to tackle the biggest cross-cutting social and economic challenges”, initially across the Civil Service and ultimately extending to the wider Public Service. This entails strengthening leadership and management capacity at an individual level, as well as developing leaders as a shared corporate resource for the system as a whole. Progress has been made in implementing the SPS Leadership Development Strategy 2013-2015, including in relation to initiating mobility at senior levels across the Civil Service.

Proposals to further strengthen mobility at Assistant Secretary level are being developed both as a means of broadening experience for senior managers and to ensure that a significant proportion of each Department’s Management Board has experience at a senior level outside their current Department. A pilot programme for mobility at Principal Officer level will also be developed. In addition, under the Leadership Development Strategy, high performance coaching is being embedded as an accepted leadership development tool.
The Senior Public Service (SPS) was established “to nurture the collaborative culture needed to tackle the biggest cross-cutting social and economic challenges”.
Notwithstanding progress made with the establishment of the Senior Public Service, the Civil and Public Service in Ireland is lagging in terms of best practice in the critical area of leadership development and talent management. The quality and calibre of top and senior level managers is one of the main determinants of the performance of the Public Service overall. The development of a structured, integrated and co-ordinated system for leadership development and talent management is an important priority for the future framework for human resource management the Public Service.
In addition, an updated competency model for the Assistant Secretary grade in the Civil Service has been agreed. This provides a strong basis for an integrated approach to recruitment, performance management and development at this level. In implementing the Strategy, there will also be a focus on extending initiatives, where appropriate, to the wider Public Service, as well as to the next generation of leaders within the Civil Service. Additional governance constraints within the current Civil Service system will also be addressed to fully exploit the potential for building a single unified high-performing leadership cadre.

2.5.2 Human Resource Management (HRM) Reforms

The delivery of significant reform necessitates a continuing strong focus on actions to optimise the utilisation of the Public Service workforce.

Progress made in the adoption of new ways of working and the reform of working practices achieve better and more efficient services with fewer resources. This requires a fundamental shift in how public servants work. Leaders and managers across the Public Service must have a clear sense of what needs to be achieved and they must have a strong focus on performance, delivery and results. Resources should be allocated where they will deliver the greatest return and value to the public from public resources.

Delivering ‘more with less’ on a sustainable basis can only be achieved through far-reaching reforms in the framework for the management of human resources in the Public Service. There must be a sustained focus on the greater realisation of the potential of the human capital embodied in the Public Service. Established, long-standing human resource policies and practices must continue to be tested to ensure that they firmly underpin business and organisational requirements, as well as promoting substantial further human capital development.
Priority areas for review in this context under this Plan include:-
  • grading structures - the case for flatter organisational structures facilitating, larger spans of management control and greater devolution of responsibility and accountability;
  • recruitment - to maintain the shift towards more open recruitment, support the appropriate recruitment of specialist personnel where required and the elimination of restrictive recruitment practices which act as an impediment to ensuring that recruitment meets business requirements;
  • mobility - enabling significantly greater mobility between public bodies to make best use of skills, expertise and experience readily available in the Public Service;
  • performance management - existing performance management systems in the Civil and Public Service have been designed to reflect good practice standards but need to be implemented consistently by managers to ensure that a proper and realistic performance dialogue takes place at all levels; and
  • training and development – it is essential that there is a detailed examination of how the effectiveness and efficiency of the Civil and Public Service in this area could be enhanced in light of the significant resources allocated to training and development activities.
Effective and sustainable reform in the above areas must be underpinned by a strong focus on human capital development through coherent and robust human resource policies. The Human Resource function (HR) has a key role to play in supporting leaders and managers across the Public Service in delivering on strategic organisational and cross-sectoral goals. HR plays a pivotal role in creating the skilled and talented workforce that is needed to deliver meaningful results that achieve better outcomes for society. HR will do this by identifying the skills and talents that we need in a modern Public Service, by investing in and developing these capabilities and creating systems that are geared towards high performance.

At the heart of the reform of HR will be a restructuring the way in which HR is delivered. Traditionally, HR in the Civil Service has been seen as an ‘administrative function’ rather than adding strategic value in Departments. In the Civil Service, significant steps have been taken towards enabling HR to play a more strategic role, in particular through the establishment of the HR Shared Service which has taken much transactional activity out of HR units. This structural change is a key milestone in the development of a HR Strategy and provides a platform for a more strategic role for HR in Departments and Offices.
There will be an intensification of the workforce planning process across the Civil Service to more closely align skills and competencies with emerging business needs.
There is a need to continue to enable HR units to operate more effectively through the simplification and consolidation of the HR policies to lead to efficiencies and more effective outcomes. There is also a requirement to develop HR skill and delivery through the professionalisation and mobility of HR personnel. This deep structural change which will enable HR units to operate more effectively is being supported by the development and refinement of central HR policies that will support and enable the retained HR function within Departments and Offices. The task is to develop a high performing workforce that possesses the range of competencies and skills to function more effectively in the more complex policy environment. There is also the imperative to address the very real demographic challenges facing the Civil and Public Service over the medium term.

In this context, there will be an acceleration of the workforce planning process across the Civil Service to more closely align skills and competencies with emerging business needs. Where clear gaps are identified in the skills and the range of competencies needed for effective delivery, there will be focused interventions in the area of learning and development for existing staff and new entrants. Roll-out of the new staff recruitment policy will continue over the medium term to address skills deficits and to help address the demographic deficit across the Civil Service. These new resources must be developed and supported to maximise the benefit to the Civil Service through talent management and succession planning policies and underpinned by integrated mobility policies across the Civil and Public Service. The objective is to have the right people in the right places to drive innovation across the public administration in support of economic recovery and sustainability.

There is a need to work smarter and seek to design ways of working that meet 21st century requirements. The potential rigidities inherent in the current grading structure may act as a barrier to performance and innovation of existing staff and new entrants. More importantly, talent must be given the opportunity to grow and develop within the Civil Service, as part of an overall retention policy in the coming years. Detailed examination therefore needs to be given to actions to re-configure working methods to help de-layer the system and move closer to teaming and coordination models that fully exploit the available talent and support effective and efficient service delivery.
There is a need to work smarter and seek to design ways of working that meet 21st century requirements.
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In developing a high performing workforce, it is critical that performance management systems are designed to support managers in getting the best from staff. There will be focus on the continuous improvement of performance management. Recent reforms such as the planned introduction of an electronic performance management system (ePMDS) in 2014 and the roll-out of calibration to the key Principal Officer and Assistant Principal Officer grade will be refined on the basis of experience and extended to other grades. A more rigorous performance management framework for senior civil servants will be critical to developing a high performance focus. In addition, maximising the impact of learning and development and feedback on performance will be important. In support of these changes, there needs to be investment and improvement in the skills of line managers.

A core element of building workforce capability is the effectiveness of a learning and development strategy. Ensuring that training and development is designed and delivered in a way that is clearly focused on and strongly supports the current and future need of the workforce will be central to reforms in HR.

The ambition for reform outlined in this section is primarily set in a Civil Service context but the key principles also must be applied in all other sectors.

2.5.3 Organisational Performance

Many of the commitments to reform set out throughout this plan will contribute to better performance at organisational level. This includes, for example, focusing more on outcomes, reduced duplication, better use of ICT, and HR and leadership reforms.

Organisational performance will also be enhanced through greater openness and accountability through the political reform programme and improved financial and budgetary information through the public expenditure reforms set out in this Reform Plan. Performance budgeting will ensure that there is greater transparency and scrutiny of performance and that resources are prioritised to ensure better outcomes.
The publication of new Strategy Statements by all Departments and major Offices every three years will link sectoral outcomes to departmental and agency operational activities and will set the strategic ambition for Departments and Offices in the coming years.
There will be a continuing focus on improving efficiency and effectiveness at organisational level across the Public Service. This will be done in a number of ways. For example, there will be a strong focus on the use of business process improvement to streamline key processes and eliminate duplication. The greater use of shared services for back-office functions will allow organisations to focus on their core strategic priorities. There will also be better risk management by individual organisations and within major reform projects.
There will be a continuing focus on improving efficiency and effectiveness at organisational level
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to increasing the delegation of budgets to local levels within the Public Service, subject to detailed plans and accountability arrangements. In this context, consideration will be given to new approaches to funding public bodies with an emphasis on devolving responsibility for budgets and other operational functions to local level. As set out in Section 2.3.1, new delegated arrangements for the management of staffing resources, underpinned by strategic workforce planning, will also be devised and rolled out on a phased basis.

2.5.4 Delivery of Reform

The delivery of the ambitious reforms set out in this plan will require a strong emphasis on implementation. Drawing on previous experience, this has been a key element of the 2011 Public Service Reform Plan and it is intended to maintain a focus on strong and effective programme management and governance arrangements, both centrally and within each of the main sectors, in the next phase of reform. This will be led by the Cabinet Committee on Public Service Reform which will provide strategic direction and also hold senior managers to account for the delivery of this plan. Consideration will also be given to the potential for external involvement in the governance model.
New Integrated Reform Delivery Plans for 2014 onwards will now be developed by all Departments and major Offices on foot of this new overall Reform Plan. These plans will set out how those organisations will implement the cross-cutting reforms set out in the overall plan, alongside sector-specific reforms and actions under the Haddington Road Agreement.
Leading the delivery of reform projects requires particular skill sets and many of the reforms set out in this plan require skills which are not always widely available. Key skills are required in change management, contract management, project management and a whole range of other areas. There must be a strong focus on upskilling, on the sharing of expertise and best practice on reform, and on learning the lessons from those projects that do not succeed. There will be a strong emphasis on the sharing of learning across organisations including through a range of networks on reform themes such as business process improvement, customer service, shared services, etc. The Reform Office web portal will be used as a mechanism to share tools and best practice guides within the system.

Strong leadership of the reform programme, at political and administrative levels, will be essential to achieve the necessary cultural change. Greater emphasis will be placed on how the Public Service communicates, both internally and externally. Staff must be provided with the information they need on how cross-cutting and organisation / sector specific change will impact on them, as well as the role that they can play in delivering reform in their own organisations. Managers will play an important role in this process and need to develop their competence, as well as putting in place the structures and processes necessary to ensure the input and involvement of staff in the reform process.

Having considered the strategic direction of reform in some key cross-cutting areas in the period to 2020, Section 3 addresses some priority sectoral reforms in the main sectors of the Public Service.
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