Part 3: The Commission's Corporate Capability

The State Services Commission: Capability to Recognise and Address Issues for Māori.


The Commission’s corporate capability in relation to Māori has two closely related (and to some extent overlapping) features:

  • One relates to the way in which the Commission carries out its external roles.
  • The other is concerned with the Commission’s management systems, processes and practices as they relate to the Commissioner’s role as a “good employer” as required by section 56 of the State Sector Act.

In this Part of the report we consider how well the Commission is equipped to address these two features. In so doing, we discuss:

  • strategic objectives and capability needs;
  • the Māori Responsiveness Strategy;
  • human resources policies and practices;
  • access to advice on Māori issues; and
  • information systems.

What We Did

We examined how the Commission’s Māori Responsiveness Strategy was put together. We discussed the focus of the strategy with senior managers in the Commission, seeking evidence of policies and practices relevant to the development and maintenance of organisational capability. We examined:

  • the competencies required of staff and managers;
  • policies for recruiting and retaining staff;
  • policies for meeting the needs of Māori staff in the Commission;
  • training programmes in Māori responsiveness and on the Treaty of Waitangi;
  • sources of advice available to staff on Māori issues; and
  • information systems relevant to the work of Commission staff on Māori issues.

In the course of our discussions, we also considered the Commission’s ability to measure the impact of its Māori responsiveness initiatives.

Identifying Capability Needs

The Commission has articulated its strategic objectives in respect of Māori through its Statement of Intent. These objectives are reflected in its Output Plan.

The Commission’s Statement of Intent for 2003 observes that the State sector has to do more to respond to the needs and demands of Māori, and notes that this task will place extra demands on the Commission’s capability. Improving State sector performance in Māori responsiveness is identified as a priority for the Commission in 2003. The Commission makes a commitment to assisting the Public Service to develop its capability to engage with Māori, and notes that it requires staff who understand the Commission’s role in responsiveness to Māori and have the capability to address issues that impact on Māori.

The Commission’s Māori Responsiveness Strategy

Compiling the Strategy

The Commission has defined its role in relation to Māori as being –

to provide assurance to Government that chief executives develop and maintain their department’s capability to address issues that impact on Māori, firstly as Treaty partners and Māori as citizens, and secondly as Public Service employees who identify as Māori.

The Commission has used this definition of its role to assess its capability needs. It has also taken account of the requirement for the State Services Commissioner to meet his statutory good employer obligations under the State Sector Act.

The Commission has recognised the need to establish the capability to understand the debates and practices surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi and, where relevant, to act on opportunities to actively engage with Māori. The Commission compiled the Māori Responsiveness Strategy, containing its three-year commitments in relation to responsiveness to Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi. After compiling the strategy, the Commission then looked at its capability to deliver the strategy.

An internal working group (described in paragraph 3.43 on page 41) drew on a range of resources from inside and outside the Commission, and considered the approaches and strategies adopted by other departments. The Commission’s Management Team formally adopted the Māori Responsiveness Strategy in February 2003.

Members of the working group have continued to be involved with implementing the strategy, while carrying out their day-to-day work. They are also sources of advice on a range of Commission matters as they relate to Māori – for example, within the Deputy Commissioner Teams.

What Does the Strategy Contain?

The content and focus of the Māori Responsiveness Strategy reflects the Commission’s roles and employer obligations. Specific action plans, which are discussed further below, underpin the strategy.

The strategy has four strands:

  • two focus on the Commission’s external interactions with departments and across the Public Service (Treaty of Waitangi and Responsiveness to Māori); and
  • two focus on the Commission’s internal activities and support (Responsiveness to the Commission’s Māori staff and Mātauranga Māori5).

The strategy is supported by action plans contained in the Commission’s plan for developing the SSC’s Māori responsiveness capability. These action plans include, among other things:

  • enhancing the skills and competency requirements of the State Services Commissioner and Branch Managers in respect of Māori responsiveness and the Treaty of Waitangi, and strengthening their responsibilities to promote the Commission’s capability in relation to Māori responsiveness;
  • increasing the expertise, knowledge and understanding of staff relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori responsiveness; and
  • refining recruitment, retention and performance management policies to address the need for Treaty of Waitangi and Māori responsiveness competencies.

The Commission has already made some progress under its action plans. For example, most Commission staff attended a training programme in 2002: “Treaty of Waitangi and Government Responses: Understanding the Context”. Managers have attended an introductory course in Te Reo Māori6, which has now been expanded to all staff, and a section on Māori responsiveness has been made available to staff on the Commission’s Intranet.

Monitoring Implementation of the Strategy

Responsibility for leading implementation of the Māori Responsiveness Strategy rests with the Branch Manager, Corporate Services Branch. The business plan for the Corporate Services Branch has as one of its objectives –

implementing agreed actions from the Māori Responsiveness Strategy and the work on developing the Commission’s Māori Responsiveness Capability.

The Commission acknowledges that, to date, reporting on implementation of the strategy to the Management Team has been largely informal, taking place through weekly meetings of Branch Managers. In addition, some information on diversity and ethnicity is provided in a regular status report to formal monthly Management Team meetings on the staff profile of the Commission. The Commission intends to present more formal, specific quarterly reports to the Management Team in the future.

Human Resources Policies and Practices

We examined staff competencies, recruitment processes, training, and the nature of the workplace in order to establish the extent to which these supported the Commission’s Māori Responsiveness Strategy.

Staff Competencies

The Commission has a competency framework designed to serve as a guide to the development of staff capability and performance. The framework specifies competencies focused on supporting the Commission’s performance in two key areas:

  • being the authority on public management and departmental performance; and
  • delivering results and outcomes, adding value, and meeting promises within the letter and spirit of the Commission’s values.

The framework specifies, for all Commission positions, a common set of required core technical knowledge, skills, and behavioural competencies. Core staff competencies include knowledge and understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the ability to identify and analyse issues for Māori in their work. These competencies were reflected in the job descriptions we examined.

The six areas of core technical knowledge and skills include Treaty of Waitangi Knowledge and Skills, and Māori Responsiveness Knowledge and Skills.

Many of the behavioural competencies require staff to be able to consider implications for Māori or to have regard to the Treaty of Waitangi context as necessary in their daily work. The competency framework refers specifically to issues for Māori in relation to the behavioural competencies of:

  • analytical thinking;
  • client or stakeholder service commitment;
  • conceptual thinking;
  • Government and sector awareness;
  • leadership; and
  • relationship building and management.

Where necessary, position descriptions require staff to have additional specialist knowledge and skills in relation to Māori responsiveness or the Treaty of Waitangi – as reflected, for example, in requirements for the position of Director, Treaty Information Unit. General staff selection criteria include an understanding of, and/or willingness to learn more about, equal employment opportunities (EEO) and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Recruitment Processes

The Commission’s Recruitment Guidelines require selection panels for positions demanding a good knowledge of Māori responsiveness to include at least one Māori member or someone with a good knowledge of Māori issues. Māori staff are invited to sit on interview panels when considered appropriate. In some instances, Māori from outside the Commission are invited to sit on a panel – such as for the appointment of Branch Managers.

When using consultants to recruit staff, the Commission has a policy of searching for potential Māori candidates. From time to time, it has also contracted a consultant to search for potential Māori candidates for selected roles.

On induction, staff are referred to training resources available through the Commission’s Intranet.


After staff were invited to assess their own knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi, in 2002 the Commission engaged a consultant to deliver a Treaty of Waitangi training programme to staff. The programme included modules on:

  • The Treaty Articles;
  • The Treaty, Law and Public Policy; and
  • Treaty relationships.

The modules were accompanied by case studies, and contained discussion about the relationships between the Treaty, Māori, and the State Services Commission. The training programme is to be repeated.

The Commission is also running a series of seminars – inviting speakers to talk about various aspects of the public sector’s interactions with Māori.

Promoting a Culturally Sensitive Workplace

The working environment can affect staff motivation, morale and retention, and the public image of a department. The Commission has put in place policies that recognise the needs of Māori staff.

The Commission has established a process to assess the significance of Mātauranga Māori for the organisation. This involves determining what knowledge, skills and experience of Māori customs and culture are needed for the Commission to perform well.

Initiatives already taken include:

  • training some staff and managers in Te Reo Māori;
  • establishing a Māori responsiveness resource on the Commission’s Intranet;
  • delivering Treaty of Waitangi training; and
  • reflecting Māori responsiveness considerations in planning documents.

The Commission has a waiata group that supports various Commission activities, and staff follow Māori protocols where appropriate. The Commission has policies in place for koha7, and an EEO Policy and Plan.

Through a Tikanga Development Fund, the Commission offers financial assistance to Māori staff members wanting to undertake tikanga development. The Commission has a policy of supporting its Māori staff to be actively involved in activities outside the Commission that assist Māori. The Commission’s Leave Policy makes provision for staff to take leave for tikanga purposes, and for appropriate leave in the case of bereavement or tangihanga. A designated meeting room – Te Waahi Korero – is used as a marae environment within the Commission.

A process is under way to define the Mātauranga Māori needs for all staff, and is looking at individual roles, teams, branches and Commission-wide needs. Initiatives include:

  • organising block courses in Te Reo Māori;
  • documenting and promoting tikanga protocols for the Commission;
  • extending the appropriate use of Māori customs (e.g. use of the waiata); and
  • organising seminars and training courses on the Treaty of Waitangi.

Access to Advice on Māori Issues

The Commission’s approach to the maintenance and dissemination of advice and expertise on issues for Māori has been to rely on the willing sharing of knowledge among staff and managers, and to make use of natural contacts and networks in a small organisation. The Commission does not have a position or unit with the sole responsibility for providing advice to staff on matters relating to Māori with respect to the business of the Commission or to its internal management. Nor has the Commission established formal networks, champions, or knowledge leaders in this field.

However, there is a practice of drawing on the skills of relevant staff to carry out particular tasks when required. For example, three Māori staff were represented on the working group that compiled the Commission’s Māori Responsiveness Strategy, and (where relevant) internal Māori staff have been involved in interview panels for recruiting staff.

Staff have on-line access to a trial analytical tool – a four-page document that prompts staff to consider questions in relation to three aspects of effectiveness for Māori:

  • responsiveness;
  • the Treaty of Waitangi; and
  • indigenous rights.

The tool encourages Commission staff to consider, in the course of their work, the context, problems, outcomes and implications for Māori of policies or projects. Currently in trial form, the tool is being tested by the Commission for use in its work with several departments.

Information Systems

One of the Māori Responsiveness Strategy actions to be completed in 2003 is to provide useful resources to staff through the Commission’s Intranet. The Intranet contains links to a wide range of searchable information held within and outside the Commission. It includes a large amount of reference material related to Māori culture and history, research and current issues, and serves as a resource library for staff and a channel for communication across the organisation.

The Intranet has a site dedicated to internal and external resources relevant to Māori responsiveness, including:

  • training material on the Treaty;
  • the Commission’s Māori Responsiveness Strategy, background papers, related accountability documents, and policies for Māori staff; and
  • • links to departmental Māori responsiveness strategies or programmes.

Our Views

Māori Responsiveness Strategy

The Commission has considered its capability requirements in respect of Māori, having close regard to its defined role, its strategic objectives, and the Commissioner’s statutory good employer obligations. These capability requirements are outlined in the Māori Responsiveness Strategy.

The Commission drew on appropriate skills to compile the Strategy – forming an internal working group comprising three senior managers and three Māori staff. These, and some other staff members, continue to be involved in implementing different elements of the Strategy, as well as serving as sources of advice across the organisation on issues for Māori. Care needs to be taken to manage the demands on the time of Māori staff to ensure that their work commitments are balanced. The Commission has assured us that it is well aware of this risk.

To establish whether the Strategy is being successful, it is important that the Commission monitor and measure progress against it in a systematic way to ensure that initiatives are having the desired effect.

The Strategy is supported by well-defined action plans. However, informal monitoring of progress in implementing the Strategy is not currently providing the Commission’s senior management with a clear periodic assessment of achievements against those action plans. The Strategy contains initiatives to improve accountability and to formalise monitoring and reporting.

The Commission should explore ways to evaluate the impact of the Strategy. Assessment approaches could include periodic evaluations by staff of their own knowledge and familiarity with Treaty and Māori responsiveness issues. This evaluation would identify areas where the knowledge or understanding of staff could be improved by targeted activities, promoting a more consistent level of skills and competencies across the Commission.

Feedback from external stakeholders could provide further useful information for monitoring and reviewing the focus and direction of the Strategy.

Clear responsibility has been assigned for monitoring progress in implementing the Strategy. However, accountability across the organisation for meeting the goals of the Strategy and for promoting the achievement of the Commission’s strategic objectives for Māori needs to be strengthened through branch business plans and the staff performance management system.

All branch business plans or similar accountability documents should contain a clear commitment to implementation of the Strategy. This responsibility is not currently reflected across the Commission. The Commission intends to ensure that, by 30 June 2004, branch business plans include activities that support the implementation of the Strategy.

Moreover, each branch of the Commission performs functions and carries out activities that contribute – directly or indirectly – to the achievement of the Commission’s strategic objectives for Māori. Each branch business plan should explain how its functions and activities relate to the achievement of the Commission’s strategic objectives for Māori, and how it will contribute to meeting the Commission’s goal over the coming period.

The Commission needs to devise measures to make staff accountable for meeting core competencies in respect of Māori responsiveness, and for having appropriate regard to Māori responsiveness and Treaty issues in their work. The Commission acknowledges in the Strategy that Statements of Accountability (performance agreements) rarely address Māori responsiveness accountabilities. Once defined for each branch, Mātauranga Māori needs are to be built into position descriptions.

Human Resources Management

Human resources policies, working practices and information systems should be designed to maintain and enhance the Commission’s capability to give effect to its roles in relation to Māori, and to promote a culture and environment that encourages diversity and is responsive to the aims and needs of Māori employees.

The Commission’s human resources policies, working practices, and information systems are designed to maintain and enhance Māori capability, and to promote a responsive culture and environment. Staff competency requirements, recruitment processes, training, and Māori protocols and policies support capability by defining relevant skills, maintaining staff understanding of issues for Māori, and meeting the cultural needs of Māori staff.

The Commission’s competency framework identifies competencies relevant to the roles and work of the Commission as they relate to Māori. Where appropriate, recruitment processes are tailored to meet the special competency requirements of particular positions.

The Commission has also put in place programmes to train staff on Treaty issues and to make them familiar with the relevance of Treaty and Māori responsiveness issues for their work.

The Commission has put in place policies to recognise the needs of Māori staff, and to create a culturally sensitive workplace. Further initiatives are under way.

Access to Advice

Staff members have access to various sources of advice on Māori issues:

  • Māori staff members;
  • independent advisers;
  • the analytical tool; and
  • resources on the Commission’s Intranet.

The Commission’s trial analytical tool has the potential to serve as a valuable reference for staff members in a variety of work situations. At present, it is little used. The Commission intends to continue developing the tool, to extend its use to more departments through the Deputy Commissioner Teams, and, once it has been revised, to apply it more widely in the Commission. We encourage the Commission to give priority to encouraging staff to test the tool, in order to establish where it could most usefully be applied.

The Commission’s Intranet offers a rich variety of information for staff, including references and research material about issues for Māori.


We recommend that, in implementing action plans identified in its Māori Responsiveness Strategy, the Commission give priority to:

  • monitoring progress in implementing the Strategy and its plan to provide formal, periodic reports to the Management Team;
  • considering ways to assess the impact of the Strategy, including through feedback from staff;
  • introducing appropriate measures to make staff accountable for meeting core competencies in respect of Māori responsiveness, and for having appropriate regard to Māori responsiveness and Treaty issues in their work;
  • ensuring that each branch business plan or similar accountability document –
    • contains a clear commitment to implementation of the Strategy; and
    • explains how its functions and activities relate to the achievement of the Commission’s strategic objectives for Māori, and sets out how it will contribute to meeting the Commission’s goals over the coming period; and
  • completing its testing of the analytical tool, in order to establish where and how it could most usefully be applied in the Commission.

5: The Commission defines Mātauranga Māori as Māori knowledge and related skills.

6: The Māori language.

7: A contribution or gift.