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Cabinet Reshuffle And Governance – A Talent Management Perspective   
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A cabinet reshuffle simply describes an event when a head of government manages talent by rotating or changing the composition of his executive team. 

The President’s power to hire and fire is almost akin to the American employment relations legal doctrine of “employment-at-will”. Where both parties can separate from the working relationship at any time with or without notice. Ministers serve at the pleasure and discretion of the President and the constitution of Ghana entrenches that principle.  

In Ghana’s political space, a cabinet reshuffle is very common and normally occurs within the course of the 4 years mandate of the President. There are many outcomes of a cabinet reshuffle including retention of existing ministerial positions, promotions, demotions and transitions out of the team. For obvious reasons reshuffles done after one year, during midterm and towards the end of term of the tenure of a President provides insights into the various talent, power and influence dynamics within the President’s core team and the wider governing political party.  

On 7th January 2018, President Nana Akuffo Addo completed one year in office and going by the previous precedents of his predecessors, the country is expecting the President to announce his first cabinet reshuffle. It is normally a period of anxiety, stress, high expectations and lobbying as individuals in the executive team and their key allies speculate on what will inform the president’s decision making and the potential winners and losers when it occurs. For the purposes of this article, we will proactively examine the impending cabinet reshuffle of President Nana Akuffo-Addo from a Human Resources Management (HR) perspective using the concept of talent management. We will argue that while many people have the right to view the impending cabinet reshuffle from a Game Theory approach (ie winners and losers), it is equally insightful to examine it from a talent management perspective.

Review of Literature on Recent Trends of Cabinet Reshuffles

This paper did a limited literature review of how recent cabinet reshuffles have been reviewed in India, Japan and UK. In the recent cabinet reshuffle done in India by Prime Minister Modi, one writer Shiv Visvanathan described it as not about individual performance, but rather elections and party consolidation. Another writer Divya Dwivedi described it as a skillful combination of political accountability, image building and calculated risk-taking.

In the recent reshuffle by Prime Minister Abe of Japan, Dr Rajaram Panda described it as massive since most of the cabinet ministers were replaced, but he submitted that it was to inject a new dynamism and restore public trust in the government. The Guardian newspaper in the UK, in reviewing the recent ministerial reshuffling by Prime Minister May concluded that there had been promotions, demotions and exits. Even though these perspectives seem to align with the Game Theory, we will submit that one can also review ministerial reshuffles from a talent management perspective. We will discuss key concepts of talent management namely job rotation, job Enrichment, and separation and offer them as a mirror to review the impending “first round” ministerial reshuffle of President Akuffo-Addo.
Talent Management in Governance

In every executive team, one of the key accountabilities of the CEO is to set a clear theory of change of what transformation and success will look like and then provide leadership to operationalize its execution by identifying the right flow of talent and performance, at the right place and at the right time with the right resources. The President as head of the executive wing of government is no exception to this mission-critical leadership expectation.

The President has a mandate within a clear timeframe to deliver the vision and intent which are translated into policies, programs, initiatives etc. The President requires the right talent to deliver the right performance to achieve the theory of change and transformation. Delivering the right performance also requires building the right relationships across all sectors of the political-economic landscape to achieve success.

HR theory, research and practice provide many strategic approaches to ensure the availability, accessibility, utilization and separation of the right talent to deliver the expectations of the President. Job rotation, job enrichment, and separations are examples of strategies for managing talent and cabinet reshuffles can be viewed from that perspective.

Job rotation is a strategic approach to talent management where in a systematically planned manner,  employees are moved between jobs which normally belong to the same job evaluation level ie accountability, technical know-how and problem-solving. The objective is to expose the employees to different experiences and a wider variety of knowledge, skills and abilities. Normally it has two main outcomes namely to support the learning and development of the employee to enhance performance and job satisfaction and secondly to offer them a stretch to demonstrate strengthen their potential and capabilities. For example, a reshuffle from the Ministry of Education to Ministry of Health is an example of job rotation and vice versa.

The level of complexity is similar from a job evaluation perspective in terms of the dimensions of role, responsibilities, problem solving, communication and working relationships, knowledge, skills and behaviors required to achieve role performance expectations, physical environment and demands of the job. Job rotation must be seen as a positive outcome since it provides additional breadth of experience and challenges to the individual.

Job enrichment is also another strategic talent management approach where a high performing employee’s job is redesigned and enhanced with a comparatively higher level of complexity to support upward growth. The intent is to provide space to demonstrate potential to assume more challenging roles and also sustain the motivation and talent of that employee. The concept is based on a 1968 Harvard Business Review article by psychologist Frederick Herzberg.  Job enrichment is generally seen as a promotion since the additional role expectations are higher than the current level of the job from a job evaluation perspective. 

Job enrichment is normally targeted at “rising stars” who have shown the capability to assume higher and more complex responsibilities. Job enrichment must be seen as a positive outcome since it provides new breadth and depth of experience and challenges to the individual.  For example, the President can add more upward responsibilities to the portfolio of a current minister as part of growing the talent of a high performer. In both examples of job rotation and job enrichment, there are inherent risks since previous performance is not a guarantee of success in the new role as the dynamics and the complexities of the actors and stakeholders of the new Ministry may be relatively different. There are examples where an individual who performed very well in Ministry A, experienced a dip in performance when they were moved to Ministry B.

Separation is also a strategic talent management approach where talent is transitioned out of the executive team. There are various types of separations. For example separation decision triggered by the supervisor or line manager due to poor performance,  insubordination, misconduct or lack or significant reduction, of trust and confidence. It can also be triggered by a restructuring or downsizing exercise due to a revision of strategic priorities leading to the de-establishment of a role etc.  The employee can also trigger separation by resigning voluntarily due to many reasons ie ill health, taking on new career opportunities as a result of the time spent in the executive team and the leadership experience and competencies that have been acquired.  

Separations can also be co-triggered when both parties mutually agree to end the relationship amicably. Separations caused by a cabinet reshuffle also offers an opportunity for the President to bring in a fresh diversity of talent, knowledge, skills and abilities to deliver his vision and strategic priorities. Separations also offers an opportunity for the President to promote junior ministers into the executive team. Separations can have both positive and negative consequences depending on the manner in which it is administered and communicated.

At the beginning of President Akufo-Addo’s tenure, he introduced a novelty of introducing his ministerial appointees to the general public on television whiles praising them for the experiences they were bringing to their portfolios. It is my expectation that members of his executive who will be separated and transitioned out of his government completely, will be given a dignified exit unless they are being separated for proven corrupt practices or misconduct that violates the laws of Ghana even in that case there must be due process.

The loss of a job is a key event in one’s career depending on the circumstances. There are aspects of losing a job which many people take for granted. For example, separations can have psycho-logical effects on the affected individuals. Some may take it in good faith and move on, others may be traumatized and feel stigmatized or discriminated against. It will be important for such individuals who feel emotionally shattered to seek appropriate counselling to help recover from the adversity that comes with the loss of a very important and visible public role. However, it is can be argued that anyone accepting a ministerial role in government must have been fully aware that ministerial political appointments, comes with no guarantee of job security and one can expect to be separated at any time.


The right to hire and fire by an executive president is provided under the constitution of Ghana and the president as an employer exercises that leadership accountability to ensure the execution of his theory of change which is defined through his vision, strategic priorities, policies, programs and initiatives. A cabinet reshuffle by a president is an action to reinforce performance management and refresh or replenish his talent pool. While many people can analyze such reshuffles from a political game theory perspective, which is also perfectly legitimate, this article has argued that we can also examine a cabinet reshuffle from an HR perspective using talent management concepts of job rotation, job enrichment and separation.

It is our hope that discussions and analysis of the impending reshuffle when it is announced, will be informed by this perspective and not simplistically reduced to “winners” and “losers”. As President Akuffo-Addo prepares to announce the “first round” of his ministerial reshuffle we will continue to analyze what the implications are in the context of his Government’s strategic priorities to transform Ghana.

Source: Casely Ato Coleman, Human Resources & Organizational Development Practitioner ([email protected])

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