The Analysis and Report Case: Departmental Blues
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The Analysis and Report Case: Departmental Blues


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The case below is 'the case' with respect to the individual analysis and report.

You are working on behalf of a management consultancy interviewing a wide range of staff within a government department.  As a result of a recent change of governments, the new minister for this department has asked its senior leadership to report on the nature and causes of problems in this workplace and come up with some ideas to remedy them.  The minister believes this will be critical as it is apparent that the department seems to have been dogged by problems relating to an aging workforce, falling productivity and morale.  As the new minister noted when taking office 'Thanks to ineptitude of the previous government, this department among others has been run inefficiently and ineffectively for some time.  I have been elected to govern effectively and on my watch I intend to transform this department and to leave it in better condition than I found it.'  You have been commissioned by this departments Human Resources area to make assessments about the nature of workforce problems and report to it and the minister about what is going wrong, why it's going wrong and what can be done about it. 

Your first interview was with the HR Director Tony in which a staff retention issue was highlighted that was of obvious concern.  The department doesn't seem to be retaining younger staff for very long and while the core of older employees in senior roles have been there for many years, nearly all of the younger employees have been there for no more than a few years.  It seems many decide to leave before they've had five years accrued experience at the department; choosing instead to pursue careers in other departments or the private sector.  As a consequence the department is in danger of losing critical knowledge and experience very quickly when the older senior employees retire.  According to Tony, nearly all senior staff are due to retire over the next four years.  He notes that to some degree the opportunities elsewhere are always going to be tempting for some.  'This isn't one of the seats of power so to speak…' he noted, '…we are a small department without a lot of clout.  So it's little wonder that we've lost several staff to bigger departments such as The Department of Finance, as they will always have greater career opportunities.'

However, further interviews suggested there were a number of factors at work.  Inspection of the exit interviews (Done when staff leave the department to determine the reasons etc for their resignation) and staff surveys suggested there were deep rooted morale problems in key sections of the department.  Many younger staff noted that once skill based promotional opportunities dried up, there was little room for development within the department as most senior positions were occupied by the long standing employees.  Additionally, despite all the hard work being done, there were also problems with a lack of coordination between different work groups.  Project staff often felt their work required people to be permanently assigned from specialist areas such as Research and Accounting from the beginning.  Simply waiting for comment on draft reports from these areas wasn't providing the kind of informed and ongoing input that is ideally needed throughout the project's life.  This was directly undermining prospects for timely, quality outcomes because it generated avoidable work.  There also seemed to be a considerable degree of resentment among staff over the lack of appreciation shown by senior managers towards subordinates and their work conditions.  

Many employees noted there is some great work being done in the area of sustainability but, that there appeared to be a growing disinterest in their achievements and difficulties by successive ministers and many long standing departmental leaders.  One senior staff member named Steven; one of the few senior managers that junior staff respected, spoke openly to you about problems in the department.  He said 'Much of the work we do involves promoting change but, change isn't always a popular thing with ministers.  Generally ministers are concerned about their interests which ultimately are the interests of those that put them in power.  So the last thing they want are leaks or reports that go out without due vetting.'  He noted many staff call this vetting 'sanitization' as it often required the removal of content the minister didn't like.   Further that, 'once you get beyond a certain pay grade here, you really need to play the game of politics shrewdly or you might find yourself a loser in a restructuring.'  He also noted with some regret that the days of frank and fearless advice are long gone.  'These days many top positions in each department are political appointments.  So there's fewer promotion prospects for the career senior public servants and whether it's justified or not, a growing sense that you shouldn't rock the boat.'  He contended that this has also aggravated the problems that arise from doing more with less as senior staff sought to make ministers look good by cutting budgets.  

In this environment the pressures on lower and mid-level staff have been immense and had many consequences.  Unpaid overtime had increasingly become the norm in many sections as staff do their best to 'look good' in the hope of getting promoted or getting their supervisors support for reassignment.  Staff also complain that many senior staff seem to be untrustworthy and incapable of making good on promises of time off and development opportunities.  While some suggested a few senior staff are good at addressing such issues, they argued many were promoted merely out of their ability to 'churn and burn' junior staff with onerous workloads or because they were one of the ministers political cronies posted to keep an eye on things.  Additionally, information from exit interviews confirmed the improved pay, promotion and work conditions in industry (particularly mining) and other departments was a major reason for leaving.

Past attempts to remedy these problems also didn't help.  The HR Director noted that even the pay increases he worked hard to have approved by the last minister failed to stem the flow of resignations.  He worries that 'despite having a strong reputation for developing people and having interesting and challenging project work, we are now losing staff at such a great rate we risk losing the needed critical mass of essential skills and knowledge.  Something needs to be done before our most experienced senior staff start retiring, or we are in real trouble.'  While the skilled immigration rules have been relaxed recently, you are also concerned about this worrying picture.

Assignment question:

Write only introduction part in 250 words


2.1 Report Topic

The objective of the report is to investigate and analyse a wide range of issues within a particular government department. The report further dives into the specifics of the problems, namely; attrition, aging workforce, low productivity, low morale amongst employees and lack of coordination between the senior and junior team members.


2.2 Limitations

The report is majorly based on the interviews with the HR director and a senior staff member of the company which gives a very skewed picture of the whole problem. To obtain a holistic view, data must have been gathered from several employees across all bands and levels. Also, while interviewing employees only the negative aspect has been taken into consideration. 

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