Hello PPMA members and friends.
Recently I had the pleasure, on behalf of PPMA, of hosting a discussion with a delegation of civil servants from China. It did not take long for us all to realise that we had many issues in common. In particular, we had a shared experience of the need to manage the impact on professionals of the speed at which expectations of them and their roles are changing.
New technology, together with the information age, rising customer expectations, and the drive for self direction in public services, collide to create a tension with traditional professional values, cultures and ways of working. For example, the development of personalisation and choice in adult social care means that Social Workers are being asked to re-think their roles in quite a profound way.
Alongside this, the growth of the use of call centres across the public sector has taken many areas which were previously the preserve of professionals across a range of disciplines and specialisms and made them much more accessible. Roles are being redesigned to ensure that professional knowledge and skills are focussed on higher level more complex issues, with new and different roles being created to support more straightforward activities.
Information about anything under the sun is now freely available on the internet and that has changed our attitudes and expectations about the role of professionals. It even changes our children’s expectations of us as parents. This was brought home to me recently when my teenage son came to me to enquire how he might get chewing gum out of his hair. Suppressing a natural desire to enquire how he found himself in this predicament, I offered my wise advice, but it was speedily rejected in favour of finding the solution (hair mousse by the way!) via Google.
HR specialists are not immune from challenges to our professional knowledge and expertise. The growth of manager and employee self service puts information and direct access to processes in the hands of our “customers”. Employees expect more of their managers these days and this underpins a sharpening emphasis on the accountability of line managers for good people management.
All this means that, just like other groups of professionals in the public sector, HR is having to re-think where we add value. We are seeing a focus on creating the right conditions for good people management in our organisations. This is about having the right frameworks of HR policies and processes in place. It is about establishing timely and appropriate development support for managers, about having clear organisational values and about setting expectations from the top of the organisation about good people management practice.
It also means though that we in HR have to let go of some things that we might previously have regarded as “ours”. In the past HR has been as guilty as other professionals at holding onto specialist knowledge-information is power after all! We need to share our knowledge freely and recognise that in many areas, managers really are quite capable of getting on with things without the need to have their hands held by HR. Yes, we should have sound people management processes, but they should be easy to understand and follow without the need for someone from HR to be present at every step.
We will be much more effective at supporting our organisations to manage the impact of changing expectations of professionals if we have put our own house in order first.
Until next week,