President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear Colleagues!
It has been a long time since we — I mean all the plenipotentiary presidential representatives – have got together in this format. I believe it is useful for all of us and I plan on using it more often.
With regard to today's topic of conversation, I want to talk about our personnel policy. And not just talk about it, because we need to reconsider our approach to this policy.
What we have on our agenda is the need to create an entire system to upgrade the professional elite in our country. In order to do this we need to create a national pool of skilled management personnel. The strategy that we have adopted between now and 2020 will bring about fundamental changes in the economic and social fabric of our society. Recently we have talked a lot and very specifically about the innovative economy, a strong state and global competitiveness. This is what we should be doing, this is consistent with our plans. But we tend to forget that such a transition in these areas can be effected only with the active help of the most talented, enterprising and intelligent members of our society. We need well-trained managers for this. And I am not talking about some abstract concept here but about actual people. These are people who need to have these abilities, who want to work in these areas, and who have the knowledge, dedication and desire to do it.
Frankly, the state has not devoted a lot of time to this issue. We have certainly talked about the work done by plenipotentiary presidential representatives, the Presidential Executive Office and the government cabinet of Russia, but we have no coherent system in place. There was such a thing in Soviet times, the nomenklatura system of personnel training. Its obvious disadvantages as well as certain good qualities are clear to everyone, but it is no longer functional for understandable reasons. In the last 15 years we have come up with nothing to replace it. And as a consequence cronyism and personal connections very often play a part in decisions on appointments to senior positions. Unfortunately, sometimes it's simply a question of money: in the most disgraceful instances the position is just sold to the highest bidder. And this is a recent development — it didn't exist before. But since the Russian government is a democracy, not a medieval tyranny, we must break out of this vicious circle, and work to involve the best, the most highly trained professionals, and motivate them, and we have to do it with the cooperation of the entire civil society. We have to do more than simply proclaim the existence of a civil society; we have to act jointly with public associations, the expert community and professional associations.
You know as well as I do that we are in the midst of a personnel shortage in government administration and the private sector. At least for business it's a little easier, since they can use high wages to motivate their employees. The state — and not just ours by the way – does not have this corruption-free option. Wages in public service at every level lag behind those in the private sector, which means we need other incentives. And the problem here is not only that our bureaucracy is ineffective but that we need radical changes in our entire approach and our way of thinking, the result of which will be a change in the professionals themselves that end up being hired.
The low level of personnel rotation is one of the main obstacles to development. The lack of professional and personal growth affects the quality of the work to which they are assigned. Hence the incompetence, the tremendous damage that we do ourselves in this regard, and the high risk – I would even say the enormous risk – of corruption.
Not long ago, a few days ago while I was on a business trip, I talked about computer literacy, or rather about the computer illiteracy that unfortunately characterises our officials. And I would like to talk about it once again. The principle should be very simple: if a person does not want to learn, he should resign. We must not skimp on the support necessary to mobilise the best staff. Therefore, as I am well aware, all this will require considerable financial and technical investment. But in any case, I think you will agree with me that such investments always pay off, because it's an investment in people.
Meanwhile, the influx of personnel who are willing to engage with advanced technologies and modern management techniques is very small. The movement of bright officials from the regions to the centre and, vice-versa, from the centre to the regions is an extremely rare phenomenon. And we badly need this sort of exchange. For understandable reasons, those in the regions tend to be simply ignored. In fact, regular exchange of personnel between regions simply does not exist. Only very rarely do I sign the appropriate government or administrative directive to facilitate someone's moving from one region to another.
Of course working conditions in the administrative structures are far from ideal. This is especially true at the municipal level, which is perceived as the least prestigious, and where staff shortages are therefore the most acute. But we need to carry out these reforms at the municipal level as well.
According to the data available to me we currently have 320 thousand municipal employees. In effect we need about half that many. Many staffing imbalances have evolved over years and of course correcting them takes time.
What is even sadder is that we still do not have a unified system of personnel monitoring and information on vacancies. The present personnel service, the one that operates in our state structures, is simply archaic, and is manifestly incapable of facing up to today's challenges. In fact, this service is very similar to the relevant personnel departments of the Soviet period, except that it functions much less effectively because they no longer have the means that they once had and they are not capable of creating new incentives.
I do not think that all the techniques used in business can be used in the public service; nevertheless, the search for competitive expertise is still the one of the tasks of public service, including personnel service.
Another reason for the shortage of qualified management personnel is the slowness of the education system. Despite the issuing of numerous orders, it still has not refocused on the labour market, especially in the regions. And those who employ staff, including those in federal agencies, have not been involved in either training or in subsequent retraining of personnel.
Everything that I have just said leads to the conclusion that we need to create a national pool of skilled management personnel. To do this, firstly, we need to find the best professionals, then put them all into a single database, and of course this would need to be at all three levels: municipal, regional and federal. And I think it would be very important to put the most promising professionals in a so-called presidential quota. We discussed this topic quite a while ago, and I even worked on it when I was head of the Presidential Executive Office. It is time to do so, and I will evaluate myself the personal and professional credentials of these people.
Of course, we must determine the proper criteria in order to be able to assess an employee's progress, so that the necessary incentives can be used and so that employers will know that these people's presence in the quota is not just a superficial designation but a sign of real quality, proof that they are capable of working, not only in the public service, but also in other places.
We will need to develop a special methodology. Naturally, we must make sure that these are real professionals, not just people we happen to like, not someone who has taken up their position because of cronyism or, even worse, some corrupt scheme.
The challenge facing the state is to establish common approaches for the formation of a pool and a competitive selection procedure. We will need regulated standards. These would enable us to choose the brightest students and young professionals, state and municipal employees, and – I would specifically like to draw your attention to this — the private sector specialists, who are recommended for inclusion in the pool of management personnel. These pools should be in communication with each other, not what we have now: on the one hand, the public sector trying to protect its (purely notional) purity, on the other hand business, and between them a brick wall. Everything must be done according to the law, but we absolutely do not want to build any walls here. By the way the development of most modern nations has proceeded along similar lines.
Incidentally, this also applies to a pool for the eventual replacement of heads of regions. We don't have any spares on the bench; every time we have to rack our brains to try to find suitable replacement staff for the higher posts in the various regions of the Federation. We obviously need to work on this with our colleagues from the regions. This is a fundamental challenge for the plenipotentiary presidential representatives and the Presidential Executive Office.
But it is clear that the inclusion of employees in a pool of management personnel is only half the battle. We need to go on working with the participants of this programme, teaching them and offering specific tasks. And I would like to specifically point out that one's inclusion on any list, even in the presidential quota, should not lead to an automatic movement up the promotion ladder. The pool that we must create together must not be another version of the Soviet nomenklatura, where the candidate, once arrived, is then safely escorted through to retirement. The time, the economy, the society – everything has changed. We need a public, open database of the best professionals in the country, and everyone needs to be able to use it. Another issue is that the very proposals we make to these officials have to be carefully analysed and decisions taken accordingly.
Of course every professional remains a free person who must rely primarily on himself or herself and then on the state, and can decide on their own fate.
I think that for the beginning of this conversation that is more than enough. I would like to hear a presentation from Pyotr Mikhailovich Latyshev [Plenipotentiary Presidential Envoy to the Ural Federal District]. Let us listen to him, briefly exchange our impressions and then get to work on this topic.