Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs

Instigating leadership development programme is increasing the numbers of Pasifika people working in management roles within the state sector.

Pacific Island leadership set to soar

Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs logoA leadership development programme for people of Pacific Island descent has had a big effect on its participants and the prospect of increasing cultural diversity within the ranks of public sector management.

Although people of Pacific Island descent are well represented in the public service, most are employed in administrative and processing roles in large service delivery organisations. They are significantly under-represented in senior leadership and management positions.

“Demographically, New Zealand is changing,” says Dr Colin Tukuitonga, then Chief Executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. “But in this respect, no change has happened over the last 15 years. There has been a lack of progress and we don’t believe change will happen unless we have a planned structure to intervene.”

Using the experience and tools of the Leadership Development Centre (LDC), the Ministry established a Pacific Leadership Development Programme to provide training and support for high-potential state sector employees of Pacific Island descent for leadership roles across the state sector.

The first intake of 21 participants, mainly from the health and education sectors, started in June 2009. The second cohort of 27 participants, from a much broader selection of 12 state sector agencies, started in June 2010.

Being effective means creating an intervention which leads to a measurable impact. Efficiency is achieving a result in the most effective way.

“Over a period of a year, participants attend two five-day sessions, where they discuss leadership and are allowed to think about cultural implications,” says Dr Tukuitonga. Although the leadership programme is from the LDC, it is infused with cultural considerations and tailor-fitted to the audience.

“We also invite leaders to come along and discuss the issues.” Speakers have included Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Hekia Parata, community leaders, and business people, such as Joan Withers. Participants also have a professional development plan worked out for them and have a lot of reading to do throughout the year.

A mentor system is set up, and smaller groups of participants are formed to network and support each other.  The programme has received very positive feedback and recognition.

A recent independent 360 review, in which the participants and their managers from both intakes were surveyed, revealed almost universal career gains. “Three-quarters of the participants had a more senior role or have had their roles significantly extended,” says Dr Tukuitonga. “The managers of these folk are very happy with the changes in the participants.”

Dr Tukuitonga is intent on further developing the initiative and extending it into a two-tier programme. “There is a lot of talent at the lower levels [of the public sector] and we are discussing introducing a programme of a shorter duration for this group.”

He says these people could then do the more extensive leadership development programme at a later date.

Were Dr Tukuitonga to approach this project again, he says he would have benefited from having staff dedicated to the project. “I have put a lot of time into this myself, and we have mostly operated it from existing staff.” One contractor was bought in to facilitate the programme, and a small steering group supports the programme and participants.

In future, Dr Tukuitonga says he would like to see more government agencies come on board. “The public sector is very much about going along with what has already been done and the departments all tend to do their own thing. But here’s a programme to which we can all contribute.”

The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs/LDC Leadership Programme was a finalist in the IPANZ 2012 Excellence Awards.’

Based on an interview with Dr Colin Tukuitonga, former Chief Executive, and Daile Bramwell, Director, Corporate Services and Organisational Development, on 27 June 2012.

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