Your input is needed to help shape the future of public service

By Daniel Gerson, Project Manager, Public Employment and Management, OECD

Public employees are the key to better public service, and yet the ways in which they are managed are often outdated.  How should we be managing our public employees and setting public employment policy? What should a fit-for-purpose public service look like?  The OECD and its member countries are developing the first international Recommendation on Public Service Leadership and Capability and we want to hear from you. A public consultation is open to all public employees and interested citizens (see below for link to our consultation page).

Evolving public service challenges

Historically, public servants have been a major actor in modern society’s greatest achievements: health care, education and child care, access to water and sanitation, energy, communication, response to disasters, science and technology, among others.  Public servants contribute to policy development, invest public funds in essential services collectively needed by communities, uphold the rule of law, and ensure fairness and equality in society. Public servants also deliver many goods and services, at times during critical events or crises, or when markets fail to do so.

Like other sectors, the context and challenges of the public service are evolving rapidly. The capabilities of public servants and those who lead them are constantly required to adjust to challenges that are increasingly complex and specific. Public service leaders are expected to work across organisational boundaries, sectors and jurisdictions to improve the impact of services and address ongoing and emergent policy challenges. They must balance objectives and multiple bottom lines, manage and transform vast public organisations, motivate and inspire their workforces and be trusted partners to an ever-growing list of partners and stakeholders.

Too often, public employment systems are seen to be too slow to bring the right skills in, too rigid to re-skill existing employees and reallocate talent to emerging areas of need.  In many areas, public services suffer from legacy employment policies which were designed for another context.

What is the draft Recommendation?

OECD Recommendations are international standards which reflect agreed-upon good practices and principles on a particular subject or policy area: in this case public employment and management. The Recommendations are not legally binding, but by adhering to the instrument, it is understood that parties agree to the tenets within and will work in earnest to implement them. OECD Recommendations are adopted by the OECD Council, consisting of the representatives of the 35 OECD member countries and the European Commission. The OECD monitors adherent’s implementation of Recommendations and reports back to the OECD Council and the general public through the publication of statistics, peer reviews and other thematic reports.

To date, very little international guidance exists to address the complex challenges posed by people management and civil service reform in public administrations. As the first OECD Recommendation to address public sector employment, the draft Recommendation fills an import gap. Those who adhere to it are not only committing to ensuring their public services are fit for purpose for today’s policy challenges, but also capable of taking public sectors into the future. Leadership plays, and will play, a key role in raising to the challenge and hence the title of the Recommendation: “Public Service Leadership and Capability”.

Why your input matters…

The OECD wants to hear from you on the work done thus far in preparing the Recommendation. How does the draft Recommendation currently read from your country’s perspective? What would you add, if anything, to make sure the instrument responds to the challenges you have or foresee in the public service? Your input is an essential part of the drafting process. For more information, to review the draft Recommendation and to provide your views, visit our web page:

The public consultation is open until 14 September, 2018.

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