Hello PPMA members and friends.

On Sunday night I sat down to watch the Sports Personality of the Year Show. Whilst I was somewhat disappointed to see that Chris Powell was not among the nominees, it was fantastic to relive the highlights of what has been an amazing year of British sporting achievement. Even my bottom lip wobbled at the replay of the moments of triumph in the Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome, Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows et al. My own favourite sporting moment of 2012 was the 100 metres final for blind or partially sighted women athletes, which they run with a guide and the joy of the winner, once she realised she had won and then, when she danced her way up the podium to accept the gold medal encapsulated the spirit of the Olympic movement.

My theme for my year as President is of course, the Olympic motto, “Higher, Faster, Stronger”, emphasising the fact that success comes from being prepared, from working hard and delivering when it matters. In her blog from last week, Sarah Messenger, from the LGA, emphasised that there must be a radical shift in the way Councils design and deliver services, if local government is to meet the challenge of sustaining services despite reducing resources. And not only will local government be affected, but all aspect of public service. Changes in operating models, must be accompanied by a fresh approach to the way we manage, develop and reward our people. The PPMA has initiated an important project on workforce planning, working alongside SOLACE and Penna and a very successful event was held earlier this mind, with another of our partners on the project, PWC, entitled the “HR Mindset”, exploring the impact of change on HR.

In choosing “Higher, Faster, Stronger” as my theme, I wanted to emphasise that it is not just about finding new solutions, it is about getting the basics right and delivering excellent HR practice in a much more difficult environment. I was reminded of this again this week by the publication of a report from the CIPD entitled, “Managing For Sustainable Employee Engagement: Developing a Behavioural Framework”. The report highlighted how managers who were calm under pressure, invested time getting to know staff as individuals and who discussed workers’ career development were likely to benefit from higher levels of engagement and lower levels of absence. The research underpinning the report found that managers who consult people, rather than tell them what to do, take responsibility when things go wrong and ask after their workers’ well-being, were the most successful.

Now unless I am missing something, there is nothing dramatically new here. These are the attributes we have been trying to instil in our managers since I started working in HR. Who remembers “Managing By Wandering About”? What is different of course is the focus on engagement and the need to sustain productivity through these tough times. We need the basics done well by our managers and by HR.

In my own Council we finalising a new programme for Leadership and Management Development, to start in the New Year. This programme designed for Team Leaders through to Directors is intended to be focused on the future and will have greater emphasis on working in partnership, commissioning and clienting. But it equally focuses on managers having an awareness of their own impact, on how to have difficult conversations and how to build positive, innovative workplaces. These are not new areas of development, but we will be placing much more emphasis on assessing managers and holding them to account through appraisal.

When I mentioned to friends and family on Sunday that I had a PPMA blog to write, there were a number of suggestions along the lines of presenting the HR perspective on the Christmas story – what were those shepherds doing sitting around when the Angel of the Lord came down. Where was the performance management? You get the drift, but I thought I would settle for a brief Christmas quiz:

  • Which Prime Minister adopted the slogan “back to basics”?
  • Which management guru adopted the phrase “MBWA”?
  • What is the Latin for “Higher, Faster, Stronger”?
  • Who was the winner of the Women’s 100m T11 final at the Paralympic Games in London?
  • What was the winning time?

I would like to conclude by wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a tremendous New Year.

Have fun and see you in 2013.

Martin