The public service sector needs a leadership cohort with a diverse set of skills to grapple with Artificial Intelligence (AI), says Public Service and Administration Minister, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo.
Minister Dlodlo was speaking at the opening of Future of Work Indaba hosted by the DPSA from 14-15 March 2022 held at Gallagher Estate and Conference Centre with the objective of helping public servants to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“The desire for better workforce management and development requires a leadership cohort that has a diverse set of skills for preparedness to deal with Artificial Intelligence (AI), a digital workforce and to prepare the workforce to meet new service delivery demands.
“The challenge in obtaining data for forward looking insights becomes more about finding the right strategic questions to ask that will navigate the workforce and departments into the future effectively,” she said.
According to the Minister, the South African public service is not unique in the world in that it has similar challenges and trends facing other organisations across the globe that impact the workforce.
Minister Dlodlo singled aging public service especially at the SMS level as one of South Africa’s unique challenges.
She told delegates that out of the 9678 members of the Senior Management Service (SMS) across the public service, only 67 of them are under the age of 35.
Shockingly, she said the majority of SMS members at the Executive level of Director-General, Deputy Director-Generals and Chief Directors will reach retirement age before 2027.
“That is a mere 5 years from now. Even more shockingly, is that the majority of senior managers that will be reaching retirement age are in the space of ICT Infrastructure, eServices and Performance Management, which then gives rise to the question: Are these the people that can lead us into the future?
“Based on data available on PERSAL, the next layer of Deputy Directors and Assistant Deputy Directors are also largely above the age of 40 years.
“This means that within the next 15 to 20 years, the majority of managers within the public service will be reaching retirement age.
“What implications are there for institutional knowledge, skills transfer and the opportunity to redesign the Public Service of the future?
“The Indaba must attempt as a matter of importance to answer the question of whether the current public service is capable and equipped to overcome and subsist within a turbulent economy whilst being prepared and future-ready,” she said.
Minister Dlodlo said the economic turbulence experienced by the South African economy has an enormous impact on the South African government and the workforce which is made worse by ongoing electricity disruptions and mistrust between organised labour and government.
“The public service is only now understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and profound effect it has had on departments’ ability to operate and the regulated workplace conditions and protocols within which public servants must work.
“Our responses require a public service that is even bolder than before and utilise metrics that are forward-thinking, that can help facilitate and drive decisive actions essential for the delivery of services,” she said.
“Over the next two days I am hopeful that the “Future of Work Indaba” will reflect on the President’s call and provide workable solutions on how we can reduce red-tape in government’s dealings, and how we can fast track the public service to leap into the digital transformation era,” she said.