5. Strengthening demand for a skilled leadership in Brazil’s federal administration

This chapter assesses the demand for a senior civil service cadre with the skills needed to innovate. Governments can use the appointment system to send clear signals of skills demand if they search for, and appoint senior civil servants based on an objective assessment of those skills. This suggests value in implementing merit-based selection processes for senior civil service positions. Performance management systems also help to maintain demand after selection, by regularly assessing the leaders’ deployment of the demanded skills. This chapter looks at both of these in turn and recommends actions to enhance demand for innovation skills in the senior ranks of Brazil’s federal public administration.


Identifying leadership competencies (see Chapter 3) and building their supply (see Chapter 4) are two important steps to enhance leadership in Brazil’s federal administration. However, to truly ensure that leaders innovate, supply must be matched by a demand for these skills and competencies. The sporadic approach to the supply of innovative leadership skills in Brazil may partially originate from the lack of system level demands for these skills. Brazil’s demand drivers creates few incentives to improve supply-side interventions and make a more sustainable federal leadership system moving forward.

Senior civil service (SCS) systems in OECD countries generally ensure demand for a skilled leadership cadre through three interlinked human resources processes: job profiles, appointment (recruitment and selection) and evaluation. Although these processes are relatively nascent in Brazil, some institutions are using them to better attract and recruit senior civil servants with the right competencies, and motivate them to use those skills (see, for example, Odelius [2010]). Three areas where building the demand for innovation-related skills and behaviours could be considered are:

  • Job profiles describe what is expected of a particular position in terms of achievements and the specific skills and competencies needed to be successful. They are a clear statement of the skills needed and link the objectives of a position with those of the organisation. Job profiles help to ensure that the right person is appointed to a position and is held accountable for results. In Brazil, job profiles are rarely used in SCS positions.

  • Recruitment, selection and appointment processes ensure a match between individuals appointed to a position and the skills identified in the job profiles for that position. However, in Brazil, SCS appointments tend to be made without the support of transparent merit-based criteria or processes.

  • Evaluation systems act as a backstop mechanism for the recruitment process, to ensure that the appointed individual performs to expectation (often defined in the job profile and/or performance agreement) and is held accountable for achieving results and leading effectively. In Brazil, there is a lack of effective accountability systems for results, although there is a high level of individual accountability for spending, overseen by the various audit authorities. This imbalance creates an environment where careful spending is far more important than achieving results, and thereby produces a significant and complex set of disincentives for leaders to support any risk associated with innovation.

The lack of tools for defining job profiles, recruitment and performance evaluation in Brazil’s senior civil service are not new. The 2010 OECD Review of Human Resource Management in Brazil highlighted that fragmentation and capacity gaps affected public sector performance and the quality of leadership, while also recognising that basing different HRM activities on a common competency framework would help the federal administration build a skilled workforce for good performance. In parallel, there is a vast literature that identifies many fragilities of the Brazilian system. The following sections aim to consider possible ways that Brazil could address each of the categories above.

Box 5.1. Recommendation of the Council on Public Service Leadership and Capability

The 2019 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Service Leadership and Capability includes a very specific focus on building leadership capability; in fact, it is the second principle in the Recommendation. The sub-principles reinforce the need to balance supply with a range of demand drivers which not only emphasise merit-based appointments, but also the environment necessary for senior civil servants to perform effectively vis-à-vis the political leadership.

The Recommendation recommends that adherents build leadership capability in the public service, in particular through:

  • Clarifying the expectations incumbent upon senior-level public servants to be politically impartial leaders of public organisations, trusted to deliver on the priorities of the government, and uphold and embody the highest standards of integrity without fear of politically motivated retribution.

  • Considering merit-based criteria and transparent procedures in the appointment of senior-level public servants, and holding them accountable for performance.

  • Ensuring senior-level public servants have the mandate, competencies and conditions necessary to provide impartial evidence-informed advice and speak truth to power.

  • Developing the leadership capabilities of current and potential senior-level public servants.

Source: OECD (2019b), Recommendation of the Council on Public Service Leadership and Capability, https://www.oecd.org/gov/pem/recommendation-on-public-service-leadership-and-capability.htm

Job profiles and recruiting for innovation in the senior civil service

Predetermined appropriate qualification and performance criteria for all positions: In order to have a merit-based system, there needs to be a transparent and logical organisational structure, which clearly identifies positions and describes the role and work to be performed by these positions. Criteria for selection, linked to the specific tasks to be performed, help to guide an objective selection process. Merit systems generally strive for criteria which is specific, objective and measurable. This can be a challenge when it comes to behavioural and/or cognitive competencies, which are harder to assess and rank, but which are increasingly vital as predictors of success, particularly at management and leadership levels (see Box 5.2).

Objective and transparent personnel management processes which assess candidates against the criteria specified in (1) above. This includes recruitment/appointment process, and other processes such as performance assessment, pay and dismissal. In general, the following principles should be applied to all of these processes:

  • Transparency: In most merit systems, human resources decisions are taken in the open, to limit preferential treatment to specific people or groups. Decisions are generally documented in such a way that key stakeholders, including other candidates, can follow and understand the objective logic behind the decision.

  • Objectivity: Decisions should be taken against predetermined objective criteria and measured using appropriate tools and tests that are accepted as effective and cutting edge by the HR profession.

  • Consensus: Decisions should be based on more than one opinion and/or point of view. Multiple people should be involved, and efforts should be taken to strive for a balance of perspectives, particularly on processes which are less standardised and open to subjective interpretation, such as interviews or written (essay) examinations.

Open application processes that give equal opportunity for assessment to all potentially qualified candidates. This is key as it helps to ensure that the best person for the job is able to come forward and be considered for the job regardless of their location, demographic characteristics, social status or political affiliation.

Oversight and recourse mechanisms to ensure a fair and consistent application of the system: As with any rule-based system, institutions and processes need to be in place to ensure consistent and fair application. Most countries address these issues through three interrelated mechanisms. The first is by assigning authority for the oversight and protection of the merit system to an independent body with investigative powers and authority to intervene in HR processes when breaches are deemed to have happened or to be imminent. The second is to have recourse mechanisms available to candidates who feel like they have been treated unfairly. The third is to ensure that all people managers have a clear and consistent understanding of the system and their discretion within it.

Most OECD countries have a specific recruitment process for senior civil servants, which often involves a more centralised recruitment process, monitoring and oversight; the use of special recruitment panels or committees to ensure multiple perspectives and accountability of appointment decisions; and in some cases, the use of assessment centres, which aim to assess management and leadership competence through various psychometric testing and simulation activities. Together, these aim to address many of the required elements of a merit-based recruitment system as described above.

Figure 5.1. Common elements of selection processes for senior managers in OECD countries
Figure 5.1. Common elements of selection processes for senior managers in OECD countries

Note: Response of OECD countries to the question Q79a. [If there is a specific selection process for senior manager, does it involve does it involve (select all that are applicable): all vacancies are published separately from other civil servants; a more centralised recruitment process/monitoring/oversight; recruitment is made with special panels; greater use of assessment centres; different set of standardized exams; final decision is bound by report of panel/assessment centre; other

Source: OECD (2016), Strategic Human Resources Management survey”

Box 5.2. Leadership competency assessment

One of the significant challenges when establishing merit-based recruitment for senior leaders is to develop ways to assess the right leadership competencies, which tend to be difficult to evaluate objectively.

Increasingly, OECD countries turn towards specific expertise to support this kind of decision making, often in the form of assessment centres, which use a range of tools such as psychometric tests, simulation exercises and interactive role-play to test candidates’ judgement and interpersonal skills in generic situations. The benefit of this kind of input into the decision-making process is that it can be conducted by objective professionals, usually occupational psychologists, who are experts in detecting people’s reactions and underlying behavioural competencies. The down side is that it is costly. Therefore, when used, they are usually only used at the end of a process to gain greater insights on the top candidates.

Studies also suggest that the best indicator of a candidate’s leadership abilities is their previous demonstrable experience. This can be incorporated into interviews and written exams, then verified through reference checks. For example, if the position requires someone to lead innovation in the delivery of educational services, candidates could be asked to describe a time when they led innovation in a previous job. The key would be to establish a question that is not too specific, and to look for the transferable qualities that demonstrate the leadership competency in question. Multiple assessors should be present, and from different backgrounds, so as to reduce the risk of biasing the process.

As the 2010 OECD report pointed out, the DAS system is generally opaque (OECD, 2010). Understanding the mechanics of political appointments is complex, but is likely to go beyond political party influence and involve different degrees of motivation related to interpersonal relationships and some technical capacity (see, for example, Lopez and Praça [2018]).

Given this complexity in the political system, it is unlikely that Brazil will remove political discretion in appointments, and it would be unwise to do so completely. If selected and managed well, appointees from outside the civil service may bring with them innovative practices and new insights and approaches that can help to improve routines and generate better services for citizens. However, recruiting external expertise does not automatically guarantee an increase in innovation. Unless skills gaps are identified and targeted in recruitment criteria as part of a defined job profile, any increase in innovation capacity due to private sector expertise is by chance rather than by design.

Figure 5.2. Identifying senior managers in OECD countries
Figure 5.2. Identifying senior managers in OECD countries

Note: Response to the question: Q76: Irrespective of the existence of an official “senior management”, how are senior managers identified? Please check all that apply.

Source: OECD (2016b), “Strategic Human Resources Management Survey”.

The same issue arises when appointing from the civil service. Traditionally, “merit” is only a consideration for entrance into the civil service rather than with each position or promotion. The only certainty is that civil servants bring experience and knowledge of the public sector, which is usually lacking in private sector appointees, and can therefore be a necessary and valuable complement (Lopez and Praça, 2018). But without an approach that identifies and uses skills as part of the selection process for senior leaders, skills gaps will continue to exist and could be a strong barrier to transformative, innovative leadership.

By contrast with Brazil, about half of OECD countries have all senior management positions open to external recruitment and vacancies tend to be published on line.

A majority of OECD countries (twenty countries) have one or more processes in place to ensure a degree of merit in political appointments of senior civil servants (Figure 5.3). In 2008, the Australian government introduced a policy implementing transparent and merit-based assessment in the selection of most Australian Public Service (APS) agency heads and other statutory offices working in, or in conjunction with, agencies that operate under the Public Service Act 1999. In Canada, the Clerk of the Privy Council plays a key role in the selection of deputy ministers, based on short lists proposed by the Committee of Senior Officials, and senior personnel administers the process.

Figure 5.3. Accountability for merit in political appointments in OECD countries
Figure 5.3. Accountability for merit in political appointments in OECD countries

Note: Response to the question: Q95: Are there any processes in place to ensure a degree of merit in political appointments of senior civil servants?

Source: OECD (2016b), “Strategic Human Resources Management Survey”.

Regardless of the individual responsible for appointing or the sector from which the appointee comes, there are also systems and mechanisms that can help to ensure each appointee possesses strong leadership skills. For example, the US system enables a thorough vetting of the highest level appointees by the Senate (and the public by extension) and subjects lower level political appointments to the same competency framework (referenced in Chapter 3) as the career Senior Executive Service. While Senate confirmation may not be specifically oriented towards competency assessment, it at least enables a public discussion about whether candidates have the competencies required for the job. The Chilean system uses a transparent meritocratic process to select the top three candidates from which the government may choose (Box 5.3). Meanwhile, Korea’s senior civil servants all undertake an initial competency assessment process to enter a pool, from which the government may choose to fill specific positions. In all these cases, the government is free to make the final selection, but there is a system in place to ensure that the government is accountable for its choice.

Box 5.3. Merit-based senior civil service recruitment in Chile and Peru


Chile’s Senior Civil Service System (Sistema de Alta Dirección Pública, SADP) is the region’s most established merit-based selection and management system for senior public leaders, which has helped to ensure highly qualified executives are selected to lead the modernisation of Chile’s public sector and overall economic and social development. The existence of a centralised, merit-based programme for selecting and managing senior executives places Chile among a growing group of OECD countries that increasingly recognise the value of ensuring merit at the highest levels.

The existence of criteria such as “innovation” and “flexibility” in the competency framework for the SADP provides an opportunity to discuss and further refine this competency, towards more clearly defining what this means in practice.


The implementation of the 2013 civil service in Peru was fundamentally a large-scale public sector innovation process, as Peru pursued innovations in its civil service structure, as well as the tools and mechanisms that will be used to manage its civil servants. Peru’s central human resources management authority, the National Civil Service Authority (SERVIR, in its Spanish acronym) has begun by incorporating some of the principles of public sector innovation and innovation labs in developing policy and tools. For instance, the consultation mechanisms and design processes included early consultation with key strategic partners such as the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Public Governance Secretariat of the Presidency of the Council of Minister, as well as an opportunity for public comment through their website.

The success of Peru’s Public Managers Corp, created in 2008 as a first step to professionalise the management level of Peru’s civil service, inspired the new Civil Service Law to further improve the recruitment of the top three layers of all public organisations. The law imposes strict and rigorous selection processes, including evaluation of experience and education, psychological and competency-based assessments, knowledge testing, and a final interview. Once successful, managers are appointed to a position for three years, with the possibility of renewal twice for a total of nine years.

1. Sources: OECD (2017b), Innovation Skills in the Public Sector: Building Capabilities in Chile, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264273283-en; OECD (2016a), OECD Public Governance Reviews: Peru: Integrated Governance for Inclusive Growth, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264265172-en.

Investing in the selection of talented leaders

In Brazil, there are some elements of a selection system for leaders emerging at all levels of government. At state level, experiences from the Public Ministry of Rio Grande do Norte, and the states of Goiás and São Paulo have included some assessment of technical skills and knowledge in selection criteria for appointed positions (Camões and Balué, 2015). Analysis of these experiences suggests that meritocratic processes for selecting senior civil servants contribute to a cultural change, much welcome in a context where public managers are required to have more legitimacy in performing their functions (Ávila et al. [2013] cited in Camões and Balué [2015]).

The federal administration also has some experiences using selection processes for leadership positions, such as the selective processes for DAS announced on the Federal Civil Servant Portal (Portal do Servidor do Governo Federal).1

While there is no accepted government framework for leadership, competency-based recruitment processes have started to emerge. Some organisations have implemented competency models to shift towards a more competitive and open hiring process. The Treasury Ministry and Brazilian Development Bank are using various forms of competency-based hiring. Many other organisations that the OECD interviewed expressed interest in moving towards this model, but using competency models for appointment and hiring decisions remains subject to the will of political leaders.

Finally, civil society organisations have also started advocating for a more merit-based and transparent leadership recruitment process in some parts of Brazil’s public administration. For example, Vetor Brasil is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to prove to public institutions that running open merit-based leadership recruitment processes can lead to better and more efficient public services, and be a win-win for all parties involved. They do this by running recruitment processes for public agencies who request their services so that they experience the results first hand. Thus far, they have only been invited to work at the state and municipal levels.

Creating legal incentives and improving transparency for greater accountability

The creation of the FCPE in 2016 provided a legal basis on which to develop minimum criteria for all DAS and FCPE positions. Recently, the presidential decree establishing minimal criteria for DAS/FCPE levels states that every individual appointed to any of these positions should have a “clean reputation” and a clean criminal record,2 as well as a professional profile or academic education compatible with the function to which s/he is appointed. Table 5.1 specifies the additional criteria for DAS and FCPE 2-3, DAS and FCPE 4, and DAS 5-6.

Table 5.1. Minimal criteria for specific DAS and FCPE positions

Criteria (it is compulsory to fulfil one of the following:)

DAS and FCPE 2-3

DAS and FCPE 4

DAS 5-6

Professional experience in related fields

2 years

3 years

5 years

Experience in a trust position in any power, including indirect federal administration

1 year

2 years

3 years in DAS 3 or above

Have a specialist, Master or doctorate degree in a related field

Be a public servant OR military



Have attended training in a school of government in related field

120 hours



Note: DAS: Senior Direction and Counselling Group; FCPE: “commissioned functions”. Minimal qualifications. N/A: not applicable.

Source: Decree No. 9.727 of 15 March 2019, Dispõe sobre os critérios, o perfil profissional e os procedimentos gerais a serem observados para a ocupação dos cargos em comissão do Grupo Direção e Assessoramento Superiores - DAS e das Funções Comissionadas do Poder Executivo - FCPE.

The establishment of minimum criteria is a positive sign and signals a recognition that some level of merit should be considered in the appointment of senior civil servants. However, potential appointees only need to fulfil one criterion among the few indicated in the decree. In addition, selection processes remain optional. Whenever selection processes are organised, the hiring authority still has the discretion to appoint the candidate it wants. Finally, hiring authorities may still appoint individuals that do not fulfil any of the specific criteria listed in Table 5.21. To do so, the ministry above the hiring authority needs to justify why it is appointing someone who does not respect the decree, considering any specificities of the position or the limited number of applicants.

The need to justify the exceptions to the decree creates a degree of public accountability for appointments. This could also help to create data and a public record on such matters for the first time and disseminate information about political appointments. Increasing transparency in the appointment procedures of senior civil servants is particularly useful within systems that appear complex to reform like Brazil’s. OECD countries and beyond are also using transparency as a means to increase accountability for decisions that affect values and ethics of the public sector. In Paraguay, for example, public disclosure of civil servants’ requests to receive multiple pay is being used by the Secretaria de la Función Pública to try to prevent civil servants from requesting exceptions to the rule of single pay (OECD, 2018).

Transparency needs to be a priority to be effective. This implies an effort to improve active and passive transparency. While many efforts have been concentrated on active transparency (namely open online information), Brazil still needs to improve responsiveness to requests for information. In Brazil, access to public information remains difficult despite the approval of the Access to Information Law in 2012 (Michener, Contreras and Niskier, 2018), with more than half of the requests for information remaining unanswered. Many OECD countries are also using data transparency to improve HR policies. Canada opens by default its datasets related to staffing to facilitate performance monitoring of the staffing system in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and fairness (Government of Canada, 2017).

While still far away from ensuring the kinds of competencies identified in Chapter 3, this new decree may provide a foundation upon which a more thorough skills-oriented system can be developed in the future. The decree can also be useful in the sense that it creates space for the diversity within Brazil’s federal administration, where there are many differences among institutions, careers, structures and topics. In this context, the capacity and political will of hiring authorities should influence the success of any transformation of the SCS system.

Aligning incentives to build demand for innovation leadership

Most OECD countries’ SCS systems include a specific performance management process, which assesses leaders’ job performance against agreed-upon objectives and competencies with their superior(s). Twenty-two OECD countries have specific performance management regimes for the SCS, and in seven OECD countries, senior civil servants have the same performance management regime as other civil servants (OECD, 2019a). Performance management regimes for senior civil servants tend to include performance-based pay (nineteen countries), dismissal as a result for poor performance (seventeen countries) and performance agreements with the minister for the higher hierarchical levels (sixteen countries). Performance criteria usually vary between outcome and output indicators, organisational management indicators and, in some countries, 360° appraisal (OECD, 2019a). By contrast, in Brazil, civil servants and managers in particular know little about the content of the position when they are appointed, as the information is simply not available in most cases (see, for example, Instituto República [2018]). This issue goes broader than the SCS system as the Brazilian administration does not have a standard way to identify, classify or describe positions in the federal administration (OECD, 2010).

Appropriately defined and aligned performance objectives are elements that help to drive a culture focused on results, and accountability of senior leaders. It can also be a very useful tool to make room for more innovation, particularly in a highly risk-averse public sector such as Brazil’s. While it is generally difficult to assess innovation as a performance objective itself, outcome-oriented performance objectives that address system improvement and societal outcomes can be an important motivator to encourage innovation. Giving a senior leader the explicit objective to be open to find new ways to address issues and achieve better results can be particularly important in Brazil, where incentives are strongly perceived to align against innovation. A common narrative in the public sector links the risks of innovation with personal career risk. Individuals could find themselves in court and held personally accountable for any perceived failures resulting in loss of public funds, including when undertaking necessary innovation-oriented experimentation.

Managers are incentivised to do only what is explicitly written in the law in order to avoid having their actions scrutinised by control bodies. The general perception is that excessive control creates distortions, leading to an environment where there is no benefit to leading innovation nor transformation – only significant risk to one’s own career and prosperity (see, for example, Gaetani [2018]). While the Court of Accounts is well advanced in audits, evaluations, supervisory proceedings and co-ordination across the public sector, a recent assessment of the court also highlights that “excessive evaluation processes or indicators can lead to evaluations that managers see as an administrative burden. Research by ENAP also suggests that managers’ responsibilities often consist in responding to control and audit requests (ENAP 2018). In turn, this can undermine a results-oriented culture that is conducive to producing reliable, timely and accessible evidence” (OECD, 2017a).

In the absence of outcome-focused accountability (e.g. for achieving improvements in public services), accountability is focused primarily on controlling inputs and guarding against the perception of wasteful spending and/or corruption. While spending accountability is a fundamental necessity of public administration, it creates a significant disincentive to innovation when not balanced by accountability for results.

Recommendations and roadmap

This chapter has focused on the demand-side of the senior civil service system model, and therefore complements the recommendations from Chapter 4. While one set of recommendations does not preclude progress in the other, they should be considered together to maximise value. For instance, most of the recommendations related to supply seek to create an infrastructure that can develop future leaders. But without engaging with the demand-side, the newly formed infrastructure will have a limited effect and be underutilised.

While the supply-side recommendations are focused on expanding the capacity of the Brazilian system to build, develop and support innovative leaders, the demand side is focused on the people management levers that incentivise the need to develop these skills. These levers are effective and proven signals to people within and outside the system that the public sector demands and expects public sector leaders with the competencies necessary to advance innovation in their organisations.

As discussed in this chapter, traditional levers like job profiles, recruitment and selection processes, and evaluation of senior leaders are some of the most effective and proven ways to create strong demand for innovative leaders. Because these are traditional levers, there is a well-tested path forward. As such, an organisation like the Secretariat of Planning and Management could play a critical role in sponsoring and encouraging the testing of these methods as well as scaling them government wide. The National School of Public Administration (Escola nacional de administração pública, ENAP) can support in the piloting and assessment of different approaches.

Blending these steps with some of the innovation competencies creates recommendations and a roadmap to move forward. The recommendations take into account the recent decree as well as realistic and achievable steps in Brazil’s context. As with the supply-side recommendations, these are separated into:

  • Immediate: Activities that can begin immediately and are logical next steps based on the understanding of the current system.

  • Second-stage: Activities that represent the logical follow-up to the short-term recommendations. These activities will require some reassessment based on feedback and outcomes of the implementation of the short-term recommendations.

  • Longer term: Activities that require careful planning, greater investment, more time and a strong systemic foundation. These recommendations will need additional evaluation as changes in complex and dynamic systems are difficult to predict over a long time frame.

Table 5.2. Roadmap for demand-side recommendations


Immediate recommendations

Second-stage recommendations

Longer term recommendations

Develop merit-based hiring practices that assess innovation competencies

Map and analyse existing initiatives in the federal public administration

Pilot various approaches to competency assessment

Scale across the administration and embed in legislation

Include innovation-oriented objectives in job profiles and performance assessments

Develop templates for job profiles of senior civil servants, including leadership competencies

Pilot regular performance assessment processes

Scale across the administration and embed in legislation

Communication and feedback

Immediate recommendations

The new decree creates an immediate opportunity to start using competency-based recruitment and hiring. However, any implementation of new and possibly contested methods requires careful assessment and analysis. This suggests an opportunity to further develop expertise on recruitment and selection in ENAP or the Ministry of Economy whose role would be to map activities and systematically gather lessons in a way that can lead to ongoing growth and progress.

The first step could be to map and assess successful merit-based recruitment initiatives that are already underway in the Brazilian public administration. With a shift of the status quo, there is an opportunity to use the innovative approach of positive deviance. Within any large community (like the public sector), there are people using uncommon, but successful, approaches and strategies that enable them to find effective solutions to a problem. Within the Brazilian context, there are already some leading institutions such as the Treasury and the Bank of Brazil attempting to achieve better hiring for senior civil servants through competency-based methods. By mapping these examples, ENAP and the Ministry of Economy can learn and share what is already working in the Brazilian context. ENAP’s 2019 event “Coffee with Selection” (literaral translation of Café com Seleção) explored merit-based recruitment processes for SCS, to increase awareness across the civil service3. A short scan, building on the findings from “Coffee with Selection”, could reveal the breadth and variety of different practices, their success factors, and hence their viability for replication and scaling. A further study could help to determine their value added, based on, for example, cost-impact analysis.

In parallel to the research phase and in line with on-going work, ENAP and the Ministry of Economy could develop a template for SCS job profiles, which should include, at a minimum, a broad description of the scope of responsibility for the position, a number of more specific objectives, and the skills and competencies that are needed to meet them. These could then be developed for a number of positions. This process should be open and collaborative, collecting input from key stakeholders, including implicated senior managers, auditing organisations and the HR community. At a minimum, these profiles should be developed for any position that will be subject to merit-based recruitment pilot projects, and for those who will participate in performance assessment pilots.

Second-stage recommendations

Building on the ground work conducted above, the Ministry of Economy, with support from ENAP, could develop pilots to test various merit-based recruitment methods for senior civil servants with organisations whose leaders are keen to participate. These pilots work best when participating organisations are motivated volunteers, since they require good will and an open mind from all involved. Starting with a “coalition of the willing” rather than imposing through legislation can help to develop quick wins and generate positive momentum forward. Organisations should also be chosen which represent variety – e.g. policy ministries and service delivery agencies, big and small, economic vs. social policy, etc. – in order to ensure that results are robust and reflect more than one specific context. Pilots could also be designed to test more than one methodology, taking an experimental approach.

In parallel, ENAP and the Ministry of Economy could launch pilots to develop approaches to ongoing performance assessment of senior civil servants based on the job profiles developed above. International practice suggests that performance assessment for senior leaders should be kept simple and be used as a way to increase accountability for results. The systems work well when both sides see it as legitimate and beneficial. Considerations similar to those above should guide pilot design. It would also be important to ensure that evaluation criteria encourage innovative behaviour, as they can often have the opposite results. Given that there is no certainty initially, these pilots should not be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a leader in a first phase, but to discover if the process produced better results and the efficacy of the new criteria.

As pilots start to deliver results, it would be useful to use those results to iterate and improve. Pilots could be used as a learning opportunity to understand what works and test new ways of thinking. If the public sector is to develop a learning culture, these pilots are an opportunity to demonstrate that culture in practise. Pilot participants and the centre of expertise could be prepared to iterate as new information is gained, scale where there is success and diffuse what works. Organisations could be encouraged to tweak job profiles and the recruitment and selection/performance assessment process as more information, data and knowledge are created. It is unlikely that any single pilot or attempt will be perfect, and therefore, the need for flexibility and adaptability is key. Strong communications and signals from the Ministry of Economy could parlay early success into finding other forward leaning leaders willing to go through the same process.

It could also be useful to integrate the competency model (recommended in Chapter 4) into the pilot phases once ready. While this would ideally happen at the outset, pilots do not require a common competency framework to already develop insights into process and assessment. The competency model could be easily integrated into later iterations of the pilots once organisations become comfortable managing the processes involved.

The centre of expertise could also develop a database on recruitment and appointments at senior levels. As the minimum qualifications are required for DAS and FCPE due to the 2019 decree, a database could be used to track competencies, job profiles and appointments across the administration, whether merit-based or traditional. This information could better inform further adjustments to the decree, especially looking at impact and patterns on how the decree is being used.

It could be useful to develop indicators to assess progress and success. While much of the focus for competency-based hiring is on top-level leaders, one important indicator that could be tracked is how the competency model trickles down into the system. Is the meritocracy within the civil service starting to use these new competencies as well? Collecting and analysing this information gives another indicator if demanding new competencies from top leaders influence the competencies demanded at lower levels of the public sector.

Longer term recommendations

Building on the success of the pilots, the Ministry of Economy could scale and formalise effective practices in job profiles, recruitment, assessment and evaluation. This could be accomplished by updating the decree or developing more detailed legislation to provide greater specificity on leadership competencies and evaluation processes.

However, to truly understand if Brazil’s leaders are more actively driving public sector innovation, the centre of expertise could conduct evidence-based evaluations. Early evaluations should be conducted for each of the pilots to determine whether the innovation competencies and behaviours are being properly utilised. This could include the use of employee engagement surveys. Later, evaluations would have to be expanded to look not only at a change in behaviours, but having a results-driven orientation and more public sector innovation.

As societal and public sector challenges become more complex and more interconnected, innovative leaders do not just represent competencies, but a new approach to solving problems. These challenges are cross-cutting and unable to be solved by one ministry or a single individual. Instead, evaluation could be used to reinforce cross-cutting societal goals that are the priorities for the government. This would encourage collaboration, define priorities and help to support leaders to tackle these complex challenges.


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← 1. See, for example: https://www.servidor.gov.br/assuntos/oportunidades/oportunidades-de-cessao (accessed 5 February 2019).

← 2. According to Complementary Law No. 64 of 18 May 1990.

← 3. For more information, please see https://repositorio.enap.gov.br/handle/1/4098

5. Strengthening demand for a skilled leadership in Brazil’s federal administration