40 civil servants at the P1M level resigned in more than a month

Dechen Dolkar 

In the civil service structure, those at the Chief or Deputy Chief (P1M) or P1 management level are considered a critical talent pool of leadership positions. The Chiefs, if found competent, rise to the executive level.

However, from the current resignation trend, the pool is drying up. There are many opting out rather than competing or waiting for a post at the top government jobs. Records with the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) show that 55 civil servants at the P1M position level resigned from civil services in the last two years.

There are varied reasons for experienced civil servants at the P1M leaving, mostly for better opportunities outside the civil service including going to Australia or Canada. One reason, many civil servants silently agree is the leadership assessment of officers in the P1M level conducted last year.

The leadership assessment exercise for officers in P1M position level was conducted as part of the process to identify promising candidates for executive-level positions. The assessments were expected to help sharpen the executive selection process.

As per the RCSC record, there are around 423 P1 managerial post-holders.  Only 230 participated in the assessments of which only 34 officers made it through the assessment, representing about 15 percent of the total applicant pool. They are now eligible to compete for executive positions.

Words going around is that many more are planning to resign since they did not pass the assessment and would remain stagnated in the same position. Some disagree that the mass resignation had anything to do with the assessment. “Civil servants like other Bhutanese are also looking for better opportunities,” said one. “Many found jobs with international organisations within the country, non-government organisations and Australia opening up to Bhutan coincided with senior civil servants leaving,” she added.

Some feel that the work culture and workload has changed with the transformation exercises. “Some changes had been for the better, but there is a lot of pressure on some with many resigning,” said another civil servant mulling to resign.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, cost of living, especially in Thimphu, has become expensive, said another. “People are looking for greener pastures to secure a comfortable life or secure their future. Australia provided a good option.”

A civil servant who got through the assessment said that life has changed. “It is meetings after meetings on top of our responsibilities. “The old belief that civil servants have cushy jobs with a lot of travel opportunities and perks is not true. If this can result in better services and equal pay for equal work, the reform is good.”

One of the chiefs who resigned recently said that there has been so much change in the workplace. “After more than 15 years of service it is only fair to hand over the chair to someone more energetic and promising,” the former civil servant said.

Across the civil servants, 95 chiefs resigned from 2021 until now. Out of which 55 chiefs resigned within two years.

As per RCSC record, a total of 40 P1s have been separated from the civil service this year in January to till now.  Out of which 14 are in managerial positions and 26 in specialist positions. Majority of those in the specialist position constitute the education and training services group.

The reform

Officials from RCSC said that the commission is committed to ensuring that the Civil Service leadership has the competencies and foresight to navigate the complex challenges that we are grappling with as a nation.

Bhutan needs leaders with competencies that can accelerate our development and secure a better future for our children. We are therefore enhancing our personnel (performance) management systems, according to RCSC.

“We are developing a Performance Based Incentives and strengthening our Reward and Recognition Frameworks to more adequately reward and recognise civil servants who contribute and perform well. At the same time, we will want to use the HR systems to hold our civil servants to higher standards of performance and service delivery,” the official said.

Officials from RCSC said that the Commission has been accelerating their implementation of the personnel management systems, even as they work with the respective agencies to relook their staffing requirements.

RCSC earlier said that the Commission will recruit senior civil servants on a contract.

The official said that the RCSC is in the process of developing new terms of employment for senior civil servants.

“We want to strike a balance between incentivising senior civil servants to perform at the highest levels, while not sending the wrong signals that their positions are secured regardless of their performance,” the officials said.