Lessons on human resource development in post-conflict nations

Talent Development from Ground Zero
A case study of talent readiness
By John Vong
June 2007

Good morning esteemed members of the HR Club. This morning I shall present a case study in developing Talent Readiness. I wish to share with the esteemed HR professionals participating in this morning’s seminar a situation where an organization is least ready to develop human talent and a situation where human talent is a scarce commodity.

I led a UN HRM Mission in Timor-Leste just after their war of independence. My mission was to develop talent for the civil service within two years to govern the country of one million people.

Background of Case Study

Building a viable Timor-Leste civil service to govern the nation has been one of the most difficult human resource development aspects of the UN’s mandate (Report of the Secretary General S/2002/432). Institutions and public records were destroyed and removed in 1999, and an estimated 7,000 civil servants fled the territory, leaving a vacuum in all areas of government. The development of East Timorese skills in the areas of administration, management and governance was limited during the years of Indonesian rule. The majority of the technical and senior and middle-level management positions in government were occupied by Indonesian officials. The human resource base is therefore extremely weak. Training and capacity building to develop a professional and effective public administration remains a major challenge in the coming years.

Early in 2001 UNDP funded a mission sponsored by the National Planning and Development Agency to prepare a 10-year programme appropriately called the Capacity Development for Governance and Public Sector Management (GPSM). Its focus was twofold: (i) to prepare the ground for the transition to a new administration; and (ii) to develop and strengthen basic capacities essential for the functioning of a public administration supportive of a market economy in a democratic system of governance. It was decided that the key capacities for talent development to be:
 Public service delivery;
 Drafting policies, legal and regulatory frameworks;
 HRM for civil service;
 Planning and budgeting;
 Records management;
 Information technology management.

In my mission, I designed 11 talent development initiatives under three foundational pillars, in collaboration with the Minister of State Administration. (See Project Overview chart).

Justification for the 3 pillar approach to Talent Development

The skills and knowledge gap as earlier identified by AETCB and IMF studies form only the skills and knowledge pillar.

The second pillar is that of the systems and processes that must be set in place for the skills and knowledge to operate.

The third pillar of work attitude and behaviour, that maximises work performance, has to be integrated into talent development.

The 3-pillar revelation was important to UNDP HRM Mission because the core components of the project were to develop skills and knowledge (as in the strengthening of the National Institute of Public Administration and the National Directorate of Public Services).

However the skills and knowledge has to be developed within the systems and procedures. Thus the Civil Service Act and its accompanying Code of Ethics must be prepared and an integrated Personnel MIS must be implemented.

In addition, the HRM Mission found it necessary to build stronger work ethics and work behaviours. We organized the Organisational and Team Diagnostic (OTD) Clinics through the Prime Ministers Office. The clinics represent a comprehensive study on each division or ministry and identify performance gaps in skills and knowledge of each individual, and the systems and process and work attitudes and behaviours necessary to achieve the annual action planning process.

At end of the HRM Mission, 293 civil servants from 13 public sector agencies have participated in the OTD Clinics. The results recommended institutional and staff development interventions under the National Capacity Development published in the UNDP Strategy for Strengthening the Public Service (2003) and delivered to the Development Partners.

The UNDP National Capacity Development Map comprises of institutional and staff development interventions under the pillars of skills and knowledge, systems and process, and attitudes and behaviors was made available to each ministry and state secretariat. Basic principles of the Balanced Scorecard approach have been introduced in the institutional development.

Lessons learnt

Firstly: The top management must believe that Talent Development is the only way to build a sustainable organization (an organization that is lasting).

Secondly: There must be strong commitment from the highest level for Talent Development. A key evidence of commitment is the budget allocation and staff resource allocation.

Thirdly: The allocated budget must be consistent with the outputs/outputs to be delivered and achieved

Fourthly: Every HR consultant must know how to design and deliver projects using the log frame analysis approach (where outputs are measurable, where time frames and man days for output completion are set; and where the process for output achievement is clearly described).

Fifthly: Leadership development must be separated from normal talent development.


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