Have you seen a recruitment committee in the public sector speaking with one voice?

By Dr. Ralf Biele

Taking care of tomorrow's challenges is a very complex task and in day-to-day business, there is often too little room to spend time on this subject. A change of the head at the top of an organisation is often associated with leaving the status quo and making necessary changes and course corrections for the future. Then you take the time to think about the future of the organisation. What is completely clear for the private sector is of course also true for municipal companies. In the public sector, there is an urgent need for efforts to fulfill the services of general interest, or to achieve a positive business result in the long run. What is the best way to align a very heterogeneous group of stakeholders?

We can never predict the future, but we can prepare for it. And one thing we know: that we do not know what the future will look like for, let's say, a municipal hospital. What impact will demography, digitalisation, medical progress, patient rights, hospital funding, politics or data protection have, to name only a few? If your company is in need of a new executive at the top, the future might seem easier to shape. It is associated with the expectation that old problems will be solved and new challenges will be managed. But, what kind of manager and profile must it be, who is able to handle all the demands, who is able to keep the course in difficult waters and who always takes the right decisions?

Imagine you are the moderator in a committee meeting in which the requirement profile for a new administrative director for the municipal hospitals is to be decided. The committee members represent the different parties in the city council, the trade union and various other representatives. There will be more or less 10 people with different thoughts, opinions, interests and knowledge about the world they are living in. As we see in big politics today, these interests tend to move further apart.

No matter how different the interests are at the beginning of the process, they must be sensibly pooled to arrive at a profile for an administrative head. If this is not successful, the selection of the final candidate will be a disaster, because it will not be possible to agree on harmonised criteria for evaluation. So, how can this be accomplished?

Getting aligned

What I often see in the starting phase of the process is that the thoughts of the committee members are full of demands, expectations, but also of greed, insecurities or fears. This is not really surprising, because people often project their feelings onto something. In business, this should not play a role, because feelings or emotions are only an imperfect reflection of reality. But, how can we get rid of all these emotions?

  1. The foundation: Based on my experience it is easier to start from some kind of image or vision of how a community hospital should function in the future. And each of the participants, regardless of their political opinion, will have an interest in a hospital providing good medical care and surviving economically. If image and vision are clear, then they must be translated into figures and KPIs. The SMARTer the goals are, the more solid is the foundation. And, this is a much better basis than feelings.
  2. What has to be done: If I have the committee members on the same page, then the question can be clarified what a future administrative manager has to do to get closer to the set goals. Certainly, there will be differences here but the scope for endless emotional debates is narrow because it is limited by the future range of results.
  3. Skills and competencies: To act in order to reach the goals, the manager needs a set of skills and competencies. The committee can create a list and evaluate its items according to importance. If the requirement profile begins with the discussion of skills, the result is a profile permeated by political interests and often unrealistic desires.

This is the way to achieve a positive result in the public sector: do not start with the discussion regarding which degree or qualification a new manager should have, but rather define the goals by which his future success can be measured. The committee members looking for a new administrative head then have one message and one voice. Start with KPI's and you are on the safe side even under difficult conditions.

Do you want to discuss the topic further? Please reach out to Ralf Biele, Partner & Director at Mercuri Urval´s office in Dresden