Skip to main content

Performance-Based Arrangements for Senior Civil Servants

Go Search
New Atlas
Atlas, A-Z
Atlas Maps
MPP/MPA Programs
Core Topics
Illustrative Courses
Topic Encyclopedia
Concept Dictionary
Career Tips
Best Practices Project


Practice Advice on Human Resource Management

Performance-Based Arrangements for Senior Civil Servants (OECD)

Description: The OECD advises that practitioners see the benefit of well-structured performance based arrangements for senior civil servants in motivating staff and ensuring agencies and programmes are responsive to changing political and managerial priorities.

Commentary: OECD researchers conducted a series of interviews with practitioners about the implementation of performance based compensation arrangements. They found three key lessons for those considering implementing or improving systems to stimulate performance:     

1. Political involvement in hiring must be tightly managed. The OECD states that the selection of the right staff in the first place is an absolute precondition for subsequent performance. To achieve this objective, political involvement need not be deterred completely, but it must be tightly managed. 

2. Performance should contribute to promotion decisions, as senior civil servants are as likely to be motivated by these as by financial rewards.

3. Retention of skilled and competent staff is essential for organizational success. A continuing loss of good staff will more than cancel out any possible gains from performance management arrangements. Therefore, retaining good staff through adequate compensation, terms and conditions is significant.

It is important that there is a clear “line of sight” through the maze of government performance objectives and targets, and to keep in mind that the most productive use of performance measurement is dialogue rather than control. Many practitioners noted the potential political risks of placing performance squarely on the table. Promises to improve performance in the future can result in a greater level of public debate about any current levels of poor performance in the present. They noted other risks – not the least that elaborate performance management arrangements can encourage an unmanageable degree of gaming and disproportionate transaction costs. However, they also noted that pragmatism is more important than purity, and that inaction can also present risks. Caution and modesty in developing a more integrated performance regime for the public sector are necessary, but that at the same time there is also a case for a more determined approach when change is essential.

Source: OECD (2007). Performance-based Arrangements for Senior Civil Servants OECD and Other Country Experiences. At (accessed 20 September 2012).

Page Created By: Ben Eisen on 23 September 2012. Updated by Ian Clark on 2 January 2013. The content presented on this page is drawn directly from the source(s) named above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases of material drawn from it. The opinions expressed in the source and presented on this page do not necessarily reflect the official institutional positions of the organization responsible for the source’s publication.


 Concepts relevant to this Best Practice

There are currently no favorite links to display.

 Other Best Practices relevant to this Best Practice

There are currently no favorite links to display.

 Other Resources relevant to this Best Practice

There are currently no favorite links to display.

Important Notices
© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance