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Addressing the Shortage of Ministerial and Policy Advisors

Addressing The Shortage Featured

The frank and fearless public servant is a critical role in New Zealand’s government system, but recently we’ve seen a shortage of qualified, experienced Advisors, which is leaving gaps in teams around Wellington.

So, what is driving this demand and how can we ensure we continue to support our public sector clients?

What is Driving the Shortage?

Here at Beyond Recruitment, we are observing a number of different factors that may be contributing to the situation.

1.Career Progression

In recent months, we have seen a lot of career progression out of Ministerial and OIA Advisors and into broader Advisory positions.

Some of the reasons for taking this step include candidates seeking more variety, complexity, autonomy, advancement and salary increases.

While this is a positive move for these employees, it is essential that hiring managers have a steady stream of junior Advisors ready to fill the gap.

2.Impacts of COVID-19

Increases in workload and volumes of requests, hard deadlines, staff shortages and increased sick leave results from COVID-19 are challenges we hear about frequently.

In addition, Advisors report a trend towards proactive release by agencies which is also adding to their workloads.

Uncertainty, restructures and changes to functionality are also impacting teams across the board.

3.Changes in operating models

Across the public sector, we are seeing changes from teams of siloed functionality (i.e. strategic policy, operational policy and delivery) towards teams with hybrid functionality. This has impacted how Ministerials and OIAs are delivered.

We are also observing transitions between centralised and decentralised models, or building teams of broader government advisors with an MS/OIA skill set.

The Challenge of Meeting Requirements

The root of the issue lies not just in the talent shortage itself, but in the need to ensure government agencies have the skills and resources required to meet the performance standards of the Official Information Act. With the ambiguity and increased pressure in the market, hiring managers are looking to hire people with the right skill sets and relevant experience quickly, at any cost.

In the Public Service Commissioner’s release of OIA statistics earlier this year, Peter Hughes said, “Meeting the requirements of the OIA is a bottom line for the Public Service".

To further promote transparency and the integrity of the OIA, he decided to make more information available about agency performance, noting that this has held up against another sizeable increase in volumes, particularly in the health sector.

“Agencies have managed to maintain a high level of timeliness despite another significant increase in volumes,” Mr Hughes said in a statement.

“This is a satisfactory result considering the unprecedented number of OIAs agencies are being asked to process and being in the middle of the challenge of leading the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

This vital service is currently being performed by committed, hard-working and often entry-level public servants. To meet the requirements, Advisors with OIA and Ministerial services experience are having to hone their writing skills, practise writing for a range of audiences, and learn how to work collaboratively, engage effectively and meet targets and deadlines. People with this expertise are highly sought after among employers within the public sector.

The Way Forward

Here at Beyond Recruitment, we are discussing different strategies with hiring managers in the public sector to address the shortage of experienced Advisors, including:

  • Growing and developing less experienced candidates who are keen to enter the public service

  • Upskilling candidates in the Official Information Act and other relevant legislation

  • Retention strategies to ensure we keep talented professionals longer in this field

Our team enjoys identifying candidates with transferable skills, knowledge and aptitude who can be successful in these positions. We also network constantly to understand and support candidates who are seeking to transition between positions.

We would love to hear about your experiences of working with the OIA or hiring in this environment. If you’re looking at hiring for public sector roles in this challenging market, feel free to get in touch with a member of Beyond Recruitment’s Government and Policy team today to learn how we can help.

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