Part 4: Preparing staff to recognise and respond to issues for Māori

The Treasury: Capability to recognise and respond to issues for Māori.

In this Part, we describe how:

  • the Treasury takes a deliberate approach to managing its culture;
  • the Treasury provides a flexible work environment;
  • staff have access to resources to improve their knowledge and experience of Māori culture and perspectives;
  • the Treasury’s recruitment of Māori staff is in line with projections; and
  • the Treasury took advice to help it improve the recruitment and retention of ethnically diverse staff.

Deliberate approach to managing the Treasury’s culture

We wanted to know if the Treasury’s internal arrangements prepare staff and provide them with ongoing support to confidently recognise and respond to issues for Māori. Overall, we found that they do, although the Treasury continues to improve its practices as part of its annual equal employment opportunities work programme (see paragraphs 4.17-4.29), and we identified areas where refinements could be made.

The Treasury recognises the importance of its workforce and of considering implications for staff in its 3- to 5-year planning and day-to-day activities. The Treasury regularly seeks ways to further improve its people management to achieve its outcomes.

Improvements in the Treasury’s culture are the product of a deliberate and managed work programme that began in the late 1990s. The work programme included an examination of the Treasury’s culture – for example, one report explained why female staff left the Treasury. The Mauri Initiatives, as the responses were called, have been implemented and reviewed as needed to make continuous improvements to staff management. This is a fundamental element of the Treasury’s integrated approach to knowledge, risk, and capability management (see paragraphs 1.13-1.18).

Initiatives to improve the Treasury’s responsiveness to Māori and Māori issues have been supported by the continued commitment and leadership of senior managers and chief executives since the late 1990s.

Providing a flexible work environment

The Treasury has the necessary systems, structures, and processes to respond to Māori as staff members. It has the usual range of human resources and EEO policies and practices expected of a public service department.

The Treasury’s management structure and formal delegations take account of flexible working hours for staff. Although managers remain responsible for the quality of advice written by their staff, team leaders may have the authority to approve the release of advice routinely or in the absence of a manager or peer.

Accessing resources on Māori culture and perspectives

Several resources are available to help staff improve their knowledge and experience of Māori culture and perspectives.

  • A one-day Amorangi workshop encourages staff and management to adopt a bicultural approach to their work.
  • A one and a half day Māori perspectives workshop (Wetahi Whakaaro Māori) is available to assist in enhancing staff awareness of Māori perspectives; to build and enhance capability; and to aid the creation and use of analytical approaches to recognise and respond to issues that might have a Maori dimension or perspective.
  • Te Rito (a self-learning interactive Māori language, culture and heritage resource) and Te Ngutu Kura (a Māori-English-Māori dictionary) are electronic resources available to all staff on the Treasury’s intranet.
  • The Treasury’s wharenui was opened in 1991 and re-commissioned in 2004 as an environment to nourish all staff. The wharenui is also known as the marae-in-the-sky because of its position on the 14th and top floor of the Treasury’s building, and the ‘heart of the Treasury’. The wharenui’s history and its significance to the Treasury are described on the intranet.
  • The Treasury’s Publication Design Guide describes the symbolism of the spiral that is used on documents.
  • A directory of staff with expertise on issues for Māori is available on the intranet.
  • Opportunities are taken to put occasional resources on the intranet, such as recordings of the Treaty of Waitangi debates held at Te Papa in 2005.

Policies allow for the use of the Māori language in the Treasury documents. The wharenui’s protocols take account of public service requirements for equal employment opportunities. Māori and non-Māori staff were involved with the review of the protocols as part of the re-commissioning of the wharenui.

Access to additional resources or training can be arranged if training needs are identified through the Treasury’s personal development processes.

The range of resources available and the Treasury’s initiatives to improve capability minimise the need to rely on Māori staff to explain cultural issues to non-Māori staff. Instead, staff with knowledge or expertise in Māori cultural or policy issues (who may or may not be Māori) are used to improve capability.

There is no assumption that Māori staff will be involved in:

  • preparing policy advice where there are issues for Māori;
  • internal Māori cultural activities within the Treasury; or
  • preparing and revising internal policies and protocols involving Māori (such as protocols for the wharenui).

Knowledge management is about assessing how information should be delivered. The Treasury staff receive essential information at induction, by e-mail, or at staff meetings. Other information is made available on the Treasury’s intranet, with staff able to seek out information on topics of interest to them.

We found that some of the Treasury’s newer managers were not aware of the in-house training and tools relating to Māori responsiveness. This means that they cannot ensure that their staff have access to the resources to gain the skills and knowledge needed for their job.

The Treasury acknowledges the need for a common approach to learning and development within the organisation. The Senior Management Group has agreed to establish a centralised Development Centre within the next 2 years, which will provide for more targeted and prioritised resourcing of specifically identified development needs, and the design and delivery of learning and development programmes. This should ensure that managers are made aware of training and tools relating to Māori responsiveness.

Recommendation 1
We recommend that the Treasury ensure that new employees, including managers, are provided with information about the activities and resources available within the Treasury to recognise and respond to issues for Māori.

Recruiting Māori staff

The Treasury takes a broad approach to improving its capability to recognise and respond to issues for Māori – it is not relying on increasing the proportion of Māori staff to reach its objectives.

The Treasury meets its obligations under the State Sector Act 1988 to prepare an annual EEO programme and report on progress in implementing the programme in its annual report. Each branch writes its own EEO objectives annually – these are monitored and progress reported to the Senior Management Group.

The Treasury’s long-term aim is to implement EEO Policy to 2010 (State Services Commission, 1997), which is a long-term, strategic response to addressing discrimination in the workplace and building public service capability and performance. EEO Policy to 2010 was endorsed by all public service chief executives of the day, and aims to realise a diverse public service that reflects the community it serves and that will be more effective at formulating and testing policy advice and ensuring that services are delivered appropriately.

Before deciding on its EEO objectives for 2005 and 2010, the Treasury’s intention was to employ Vote analysts with mainly economics and accounting qualifications. These disciplines have traditionally attracted few Māori graduates, limiting the Treasury’s ability to increase the ethnic diversity in this core group of staff. The Treasury now recruits Vote analysts with a broader range of academic backgrounds, but this has not led to a proportional increase in staff identifying as Māori. The reasons for this are not clear.

Since 1999, the Treasury has had an explicit commitment to increasing the ethnic diversity of its workforce. In June 2000, the Treasury set indicative forecasts for increasing the proportion of Māori staff by 2005 and again by 2010. At 30 June 2005, 6.3% of the Treasury’s employees identified as Māori. The Treasury had forecast the proportion of employees identifying as Māori to increase to 6.4% in 2005 and 6.9% in 2010.

The Treasury’s commitment to recruiting internally for many vacant positions may have organisational benefits, but it reduces the opportunities for increasing ethnic diversity. External recruitment will increase ethnic diversity only if it attracts ethnically diverse applicants. The Treasury staff work with university EEO staff when visiting universities as part of the graduate recruitment round.

Recruiting and retaining ethnically diverse staff

The Treasury’s EEO Consultative Committee is chaired by a Deputy Secretary and includes a representative from Te Aniwaniwa, a formal Māori network within the Treasury. In 2004, the EEO Consultative Committee commissioned an external review of its recruitment and retention policies and practices to assess whether:

  • they were free of unfair bias; and
  • they supported the Treasury’s commitment to building and maintaining an ethnically diverse workforce.

The reviewer found that the Treasury’s policies and procedures generally satisfied the criteria of being free of unfair bias, but that unintended bias did occur in the implementation and operation of the system. The reviewer recommended that the Treasury undertake further analysis of potential issues once it had considered what outcome it expected from increased ethnic diversity.

The Treasury subsequently confirmed the main purpose for increasing ethnic diversity as being to improve capability, and its secondary purpose to provide a richer cultural workplace. In 2005, further work was undertaken to review whether the Treasury had the required capability to achieve its outcomes. This review included identifying existing and emerging capability gaps and suggesting initiatives to address the gaps.

The Treasury collects data about changes in its workforce that may help it to identify any ethnicity-related issues. Turnover rates are not analysed by ethnicity because the small sample size would result in large percentage variations. In 2006-07, the Treasury’s human organisational health reports, which include reports on staff leaving, were amended to track data by ethnicity. The organisational climate survey reports already report results by ethnicity.

Some of the recruitment and retention issues identified by the reviewer (which we also identified during our audit) are summarised below:

  • The State Services Act 1988 requires the impartial selection of applicants. Managers are not trained in recruitment and selection practices and specifically not in the diversity aspects that would include the use of tools for testing their own attitudes and assumptions, identify their own bias, and learn the skills to recognise and address bias as it occurs.
  • Recruiting managers are encouraged to increase their understanding of EEO issues but they are not required to attend formal training.
  • The Treasury does not routinely advertise in diverse media to encourage ethnically diverse candidates to apply for vacant positions.
  • The Treasury’s competency framework includes a competency that can include knowledge of Māori culture and/or language if it is a requirement of the position. The competency framework does not include a competency relating to the knowledge and skills to respond to Treaty of Waitangi and Māori issues.

While we recognise that recruitment practices can always be improved, we consider it onerous to recommend that the Treasury make it mandatory for all managers involved in recruitment to undertake diversity training before recruiting staff. However, we expect the Treasury to continue to offer managers the opportunity to increase their understanding of EEO and diversity issues.

It is uncertain whether advertising in diverse media would increase the numbers of Māori applying for vacancies. If the Treasury were to consider advertising in diverse media then, before it does, we suggest that it conduct appropriate inquiries to identify the likelihood of such advertising being successful.

As the Treasury creates and enhances more standardised frameworks to understand and respond to issues for Maori, it would become possible to create an expert competency based on the knowledge and skills needed to respond to Treaty of Waitangi and Māori issues.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that, when its standardised frameworks for analysing Māori policy issues are sufficiently reliable, the Treasury draw up a set of competencies to ensure that there is a common body of knowledge and skills among staff to respond to Treaty of Waitangi and Māori issues.

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