Happy New Year to all our members and friends!

The first post of 2015 has been written by our guest blogger Fiona Thompson, Head of People Management at Lincolnshire County Council and PPMA East Midlands Regional Chair, who looks at the organisational challenges ahead for the public sector.

‘As the New Year comes in, it is always a time for reflection on the previous year, looking forward and planning for the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead – especially working in a sector which is experiencing such unprecedented change, budget reductions and greater public scrutiny.

The recent news headlines of the Conservative manifesto pledge about capping public sector redundancy payments if the Conservatives win the general election in May, may be of no surprise to some, and indeed is potentially one of a number of measures which could be considered in light of the reductions in public sector spending. Whatever your viewpoint, there is no doubt that there will always be greater scrutiny of senior pay in the public sector, including redundancy packages and so on.  The media coverage is seen as some to be damning of public sector approaches, and negatively affecting the reputation of public sector employers.

The challenge for HR & OD practitioners in the public sector continues to be about facilitating effective organisational frameworks to support transparency and defensible decision making, which stands up to external scrutiny, and preserve the reputation of the public sector organisations as employers.

A clear organisation wide workforce vision and strategy, effective organisation design, workforce planning, talent planning and talent management strategies are clearly critical, especially in times of reducing budgets and job cuts. However, importantly the co-ordination role of HR, with the ability to understand the changes and the impacts across the whole organisation, avoiding redundancies wherever possible by considering voluntary alternatives, supporting and scrutinising decision making, ensuring, from a whole organisation perspective,  no unintended consequences throughout redundancy and redeployment programmes remains a high priority.

The challenge for the public sector is significant – delivering sustainable efficiencies in the context of relatively short term budget cuts across large, multi-functional organisations, whilst continuing to deliver priority services.  At such times, it is a normal reaction for individual departments Service Areas to become more inward looking in their efforts for survival. But a key role for HR and OD is to our influence with our Chief Executives to adopt a “whole organisation” approach.

As cited regularly in the press, in some organisations there are employees who are made redundant to reflect the need to reduce headcount, who are then re-hired in a different, often short term capacity, sometimes after a year gap, depending on the organisation’s policies.  This will happen in many organisations, even with the best planning processes and corporate approaches.

The role of HR & OD, working together with Senior Managers, need to continue to focus  on creating the right strategic framework and policies and the corporate culture and adherence to employment plans and policies, a framework that is applied and owned across the whole organisation. This not only makes best business sense, but enables logical decisions to be made, which can be robustly defended, whether freedom of information requests or press coverage.’

We’d love to hear your views on this topic, so why not leave us a comment by clicking on the ‘comments’ link below the headline of this post.

Fiona Thompson

Head of People Management at Lincolnshire County Council and PPMA East Midlands Regional Chair.