Human Resources

The range of entrants into diplomatic services the world over is increasingly diverse in the subjects studied, regional and personal background, as well as age (intake age has risen in most countries). Yet, they are elites in talent quality, chosen as the best among a large number of applicants.17 Effi cient management of this resource is the hallmark of the best services. This entails the following:

  • Objective, transparent management that carries conviction with the cadre; oversight of this process is usually a major responsibility for the MFA permanent head.
  • Career management that tolerates individuality and facilitates early selection of high flyers.
  • A calibrated promotion system, ideally a blend of in-depth tests, transparent selection, grooming the best for high office.
  • “Bidding” methods for assignments, via an open process.
  • Inculcation of language, area and thematic expertise to match actual needs, as they evolve.
  • Extensive “in” and “out” placement at all levels, breaking down network insularity, real and perceived, including assignments with non-state (business associations, think tanks).

The best services use elaborate methods for talent identification and selection of high value assignments.

Examples: The British FCO uses a “Job Evaluation Senior Posts” system to assign a numerical value to each (a JESP score of 8 for the head of mission (HOM) at Port Moresby, 9 for the deputy chief of mission (DCM) in Lisbon, 20 to 22 for the top six directors general at the FCO, 22–23 for the envoys to Delhi, Moscow, Berlin, and Paris, 25 for the UK permanent representative at Brussels, and 28 for the permanent under-secretary, among the 450 senior jobs). All the posts are up for bidding, with a single page application, to be considered by the “No. 1 Board,” final approval by the Foreign Secretary. Singapore uses an annual “Current Evaluated Potential” (CEP) method (borrowed years ago from Shell), which calculates the level that all offi cials with more than five years of service are expected to reachafter about 20 to 25 years of service and then guides the offi cials’ career tracks accordingly. The score is not communicated to the offi cials, but those estimated as the best are groomed for high office. Australia demands that those aspiring to promotion must apply. The US, with a like method, demands that applicants who fail to get promoted for six years must leave the service. Mexico requires promotion applicants to write out why they merit promotion; they take a written exam in several subjects; the board that interviews them includes a professor from a reputed university (the applicants pay their own travel cost). In 1995, Nepal opened up 10 percent of posts to lateral entry by qualified specialists; contrary to initial doubt, this has worked well.


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