Hello PPMA members and friends
I was taking part in a debate yesterday on the Guardian’s Local Government Network about the employment deal for staff in local government. Joining me on the panel was Dr Martin Reddington from Edinburgh Napier University, who had taken part in a workshop at the PPMA Seminar on the research that the PPMA had sponsored, alongside the LGA, on the current state off the Employee Value Proposition or “deal” in local government. Nigel Fairburn, the South East and Southern Regional chair was also involved, as Kent County Council were one of the Councils who participated in the research alongside Barking and Dagenham, Cumbria County Council and Wychaevon District Council.
I found the on-line debate a bit depressing. There were contributions from a Unison representative and others, who pointed out how pay had been frozen and in some cases reduced, terms and conditions diminished, in some cases without agreement and changes had been made to pension schemes. The difficulties that this is causing to local government employees cannot be argued against and as I have said before, at a national level we remain stuck in something of a rut on pay, which we must find a way out of. Those who attended the PPMA’s Annual Seminar in Birmingham last week (and who were up early enough on the morning after the annual dinner and PPMA awards) will have heard me say that the debate around the employment deal in public services is one of the key issues that I wish to focus on during the course of the year. We have to find a way forward on pay which is perceived to be fair in the circumstances we face, but we must focus also on the broader aspects of the employment deal where we have perhaps more scope to show imagination and boldness.
My theme for the year is the Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, swifter, higher, stronger. This reflects the fact that as our organisations seek to deliver further savings in the years to come, there is need for HR to build on its success to date, but step up its performance to another level. This will be particularly true in the area of the employment deal, where real courage and imagination will be needed to shape a deal which is affordable, but facilitates sustained improvements in productivity. One area that we did touch on in yesterday’s discussion was the extent of our continued investment in our staff. Targeted investment in skills is one way of ensuring people can achieve more with less. Investment in management and leadership will help deliver the leadership skills that will foster innovation and facilitate the kind of management style that addresses the tensions which our research shows are, alongside issues about pay etc are undermining the existing deal.
It did not help my depressed state when I came across and article entitled “public servants seeking new skills have been abandoned”. The article in the Guardian (Society pages – 1st May) reported on research by Badenoch and Clark of 1000 public sector workers which indicated that whilst a significant proportion were required to learn new skills, 40% had been left to their own devices and expected to learn by accessing the Internet. Now this is a limited piece of research and perhaps there is confusion about the place of E-learning in a blended approach to learning and development, but it easy for organisations to see trimming of learning and development budgets as a way to save money. This is extremely short-sighted. Interventions may have to be more targeted, but they both have the potential to enhance productivity, but can demonstrate that support for staff that needs to be at the heart of the new employment deal.
We promised in the debate at the seminar on EVP and take forward the outcomes of the research undertaken, to clarify the lessons learnt and, together with the LGA, outline we can support organisations to have an honest debate about the nature of the future employment deal and the part that continued investment in staff can play within it.