Monthly archives: April 2009

Recruiting the private sector for civil service jobs

The Malaysian Insider recently reported that Najib wanted to bring in professionals to work in the civil service. Some of the criticism was that a lot of GLC executives relied on government sector contracts and were not performers in their own right. Another major issue is that the civil service has traditionally stood for lifetime employment. It was also one of the pillars of the Malay rights, with over 80% Malays in the civil service. The other 4 pillars were UMNO, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Armed Forces and the sultanate.

This brings us to the question of reforming the civil service. With a huge cost of RM41 billion, the only option to reform and increase efficiency would involve the following changes:-
1) Large scale retrenchment. Cutting salaries is not an option with the low salaries of the civil service. What is clear is that our civil service is clearly bloated with non-performers who believe that they have “a job for life”. Removing deadwood would be a very sensitive move, with potential political backlash. To deal with this, the government could implement retraining programs for the retrenched workers. Civil servants who don’t meet the standards set should be let go. Singapore has effectively done away with the job for life and non-performing civil servants get sacked. Implementation of retrenchment could be done via the group which would be more palatable given the communal nature of Malaysians. This was successfully implemented using A
ppreciative Inquiry with the Santa Ana Star Casino to downsize employees.
2) Pay for performance. The civil service clearly needs to implement a performance based remuneration system with objective measures. What they need is to have low basic pay but high performance bonuses for achieving clear benchmarks e.g. number of passports processed per day. This structure needs to be put in place at every level of the organization. Due to the Malaysian group mentality, what may be successful would be a group/team Key Performance Indicator.
3) Process changes. Most successful corporations today use a lean management structure. The civil service needs to rid itself of its hierarchical structure and adopt a lean management. This will aid process efficiency. Also, the civil servants should be empowered at each level to speed up decision making. All the processes currently in place will have to be studied to ensure that support the goal of the new and reformed civil service.
4) Leadership. This project would require a leader who is culturally aware, emotionally intelligent and with a tremendous amount of self resolve. He would need to divide his time into:-
a) developing the vision,
b) defining key strategies to achieve the vision
c) communicating the vision (rallying the troops)
His team would need to translate the vision of the new civil service down to every level – from the head to the tea lady. Every person in the organization should believe in the vision, find it meaningful and know what he/she has to do to help the organization achieve the vision. He may want to take a leaf out of Carlos Ghosn’s efforts in transforming Nissan.
5) Training. Each individual needs to know how to behave in the new way and this will require a combination of training and coaching.

While the intentions of bringing in private sector professionals may have been noble, it would also require the 5 steps laid out above. As with most businesses or transformation programs, the implementation is key. Private sector professionals alone will not guarantee a new civil service.