Induction course on national and provincial level

Date: 13 Feb 2002

Introduction

As an introduction, attendants had to recall and write down some of their experiences pertaining to induction within the public service. Several issues came up but of great importance were the following:

  • Generally, induction goes only as far as orientation to the physical work environment and the immediate contact staff. Some officials, particularly the newly appointed, need briefing on life-skills such as banking, cash management and related topics. Macro policy issues are assumed to be understood by incumbents before they are appointed.
  • There's not much value attached to induction in government and in departments where it is practised, it is only a 'nice to have' programme. This is also confirmed by the lack of senior management support for induction. Induction should be seen as an opportunity to empower public officials with a better understanding of the culture, values and regulations of their departments and more broadly, of the public service.
  • Induction is often treated as a once-off, time specific occurrence. (2-3 days immediately after assumption of duty). Induction should be a process that includes monitoring and evaluation as well as follow-up training. There was support for the concept of reorientation and training.
  • Induction should not be confined to officials in lower ranks. Senior officials also need to keep abreast with the current changes and developments within the public service.
  • There are no prescripts and standards for induction within the public service. This therefore results in lack of uniformity and a fragmented approach to training.

Those who attended included government officials from various departments, both nationally, i. e. Water Affairs, Land Affairs, Public Service Commission, etc. and provincially, i. e. KZN and Gauteng and Mpumalanga. The session was facilitated by a team from the German Development

Cooperation (GTZ) who also have an interest in promoting learning sessions and in particular have extensive experience on this topic from the work undertaken with the Mpumalanga Provincial Government. GTZ also provided financial support for the session.

The session forms part of a series of learning network sessions that will take place throughout the country mainly to promote information sharing and interaction among the different departments within government to improve the quality of service delivery.

Aim of the Session

Up to now induction and orientation within the public service has been an departmental responsibility whereupon each department would decide whether to have it or not. In addition, there are no standards that govern the content, scope and nature of induction programmes. As a result, the Department of Public Service and Administration convened this session in order to:

  • To promote understanding of a best practice model on running an induction course for government.
  • Acceptance of a strategic goal for induction.
  • Common understanding of the technical nature of an induction course.
  • To establish mechanisms to implement and further develop induction courses.

Lessons learnt

Three officials representing the national Department of Land Affairs (DLA), Water and Forestry (DWAF) and the Premier's Office in Mpumalanga respectively, made presentation on their induction models.

  • Department of Water Affairs and Forestry:
    Induction and orientation at DWAF takes place over three days within one week of appointment. Induction covers a wide array of topics both work-related (intra-departmental) and legislative. These are presented by experts in an informal and interactive atmosphere.
  • Department of Land Affairs
    DLA's approach to induction and orientation is not very different from that followed at DWAF. At DLA, a working group was formed comprising officials from various internal service providers in order to produce one manual. The manual gives an overview of public service as well as the Department itself including the various departmental line functions.
  • Premier's Office: Mpumalanga
    In Mpumalanga they follow a provincial rather than a departmental approach to induction and orientation. The programme is a joint effort by officials from different departments within the province. During induction, government officials are addressed by the premier and other senior government officials. Because of the involvement of senior officials within government theprogramme is more structured and thus also appealing to the various public officials. It was interesting to note that the Premier's address is on video and used in the absence of the Premier.

Within these presentations critical issues were raised about the content and methodology followed in Induction Programmes. In each case the courses were fairly new or even in a pilot phase and therefore one could not make any judgements on the impact it had. Areas where no clear answers were reached by practitioners were in relation to the timing and frequency of induction courses.

Strategic goal of induction

This statement was offered as a possible point of departure for the group and while it was accepted it requires further consideration.

To equip new members of the public service with an understanding of the overall principles, policies and work practices in order to create a platform for successful performance (good governance and service delivery) and ongoing development of public service members.

Key lessons that were extracted from the group work and the presentations were discussed in detail. These include the following:

  • There has to be a sound induction and orientation policy that is supported by a strong commitment from management and government at large.
  • Co-ordination: At departmental level, induction falls within the ambit of HR. However, for it to be more effective induction has to be institutional with HR enjoying the support of the entire department, both logistically and otherwise.

At the provincial level a strong inter-departmental network is required to oversee fundamental issues such as quality of content and timing or frequency of induction. Such linkages should go beyond provincial boundaries to include national departments. The advantages of having inter-departmental linkages are manifold; i. e. to formulate and monitor macro frameworks and policies and to ensure uniformity across government as regards content as well as methods used in induction programmes and target groups.

Suggested characteristics of a good induction programme

  • Induction should be integrated into the general HR policies within public service and should form part of the competency/performance contract of a new recruit within public service.
  • Induction programmes have to revolve around the human factor, be needs-driven and also satisfy the requirements of the Skills Development Act
  • In addition, the output, i. e. materials, should be of an appropriate level but user-friendly. Also, it should be flexible and current, that is, up to date.

Other issues

  • Monitoring and evaluation: The possibility of constantly monitoring and evaluating the progress of public servants has to be explored. This could form part of performance management and could possibly include mentorship programmes as well as the provision of further training where necessary.
  • Accreditation: Induction programmes could be formally structured into a recognisable, SAQA approved qualification that would in turn be build into the performance contract of government officials. It was however noted that due to the decentralisation of induction, that accreditation would require substantial work and standardisation.

Way forward

  • Generic manuals as well as a CD-ROM should be provided that deal with broad issues around induction and the public service and the new public management frameworks.
  • There should be regular web updates on further developments on issues relating to induction.
  • Experts in the field of induction should be introduced in forthcoming learning network sessions to provide guidance.
  • Accreditation should be followed up.
  • The next session should look at unit standard alignment.

This short report captures some of the content of the live session but it cannot substitute for the value participants gained from the interaction with counterparts in other departments and provinces, who were grappling with the same contextual issues. The report therefore offers an entry point, but seeks to create the physical link for HR practitioners and managers with the content and expertise from the environment of the Public Service.

Last update: 31 August 2011

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