Government faces considerable challenges with regard to human resources as it struggles with the limitations endemic to most public organisations such as low budgets. However the right people, skills development programmes and incentive mechanisms can attract high calibre staff and inspire existing staff to greater effort.

Says Haseena Parak, director at Human Capital Institute, a business unit within institute: "Building a world class civil service requires world-class staff.  Government has to become smarter with refreshing outdated HR policies. As good skills within an organisation are lost through churn, valuable IP is lost,  performance diminishes, moral plummets and responsibility and accountability vanish.
"A major challenge is that the HR function has become so far removed from departments that they have little control over staff specification, selection and appointment. In addition, fundamentals, such as remuneration, job descriptions, tariff structures, project management, training and skills development, and incentive programmes need to be overhauled and updated. Only then will improvements begin to be seen."
Government struggles to match the salaries paid in the private sector, says Parak. "In fact, the remuneration is sometimes as much as 50% below industry
standards. The result is a compromise of quality and commitment."
Another problem is that where people fill roles they are not qualified to perform, there is a certain amount of protection of these individuals. "Instead of this culture of defensiveness, pro-active methods of staff development can be introduced," says Parak. "Performance management assessments should pick up these discrepancies and correct them through skills development or other actions."
For government to have best industry skills it needs to match industry standards and remuneration. "But there is a lot more to retaining skilled staff and building an efficient organisation," notes Parak. "A incentive programme must be created to retain skills, knowledge management mechanisms must be implemented to retain intellectual property, and progression opportunities must be instituted to ensure job satisfaction and growth.
"To properly utilise skills, a challenging environment must be created," she emphasises. "If skilled staff stagnate, they will move on or begin to moonlight. Investments in skills development programmes should, however, be aligned to the needs of the department."
While government contracts more skills for less, job descriptions are often way off the mark, tariff structures are not appropriately defined and staff, when appointed, are not properly managed. "This results in disjointed efforts and a lack of direction," says Parak. "To improve its results, government must plot outcomes and align appropriate roles and functions to achieving these goals.
"A key problem is that government looks for particular skills rather than the delivery of a project. Accountability and responsibility must be part of the job description and payment should be linked to outcomes, rather than be time based," she says.
According to Parak, government needs to take a few simple steps to begin enhancing its employee base. It should:
* Lift the remuneration base to be more industry related as SARS has done
* Put more emphasis on government wide technology councils and give them a mandate that allows them to fulfil their roles
* Look to Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to deliver certain components
* Training is a long term solution that can be applied at an operational level. At a strategic level, mentorship is required.
* Empower each unit in government (eg, ICT) with their own HR function.
* Create a policy for staff retention that includes remuneration at industry standards, employee wellness programmes, training and skills development aligned to strategy, bonus or incentive programmes, KPIs and balanced scorecards, structures and benefits that make jobs attractive.