Hello PPMA Members and friends

I’m back from a wonderful few PPMA working days in Scotland. One of the privileges of the Presidency is that you are invited to sister organisation conferences. So last Wednesday night took me to Euston station and a first Caledonian Sleeper experience. The SPDS conference is held at the Old Golf Course at St Andrews, so as a fan of the game – and being much more Scottish/Irish than English – I was looking forward to the trip anyway. But the icing on the cake – and the ice in the Whisky (it’s an insult to put water in whisky north of the border 😉), was the amazing agenda.

Its theme was Channel your Inner Warrior. These days I’m mostly too tired to even find my inner warrior, but nevertheless I went with an open mind. And I am so glad that I did.

SPDS is a fantastic community of professionals across the breadth of Local Government in Scotland. There are 30 councils in total and they are often quite different demographically and geographically. I met some wonderful people, including outgoing and incoming Presidents – Sharon Beattie (Head of HR, Customer and Communications at East Renfrewshire) and Sharon McKenzie (Head of HR at Fife Council) respectively. I also met the inimitable Kristine Johnson, Chief Officer HR at Stirling Council and the new Vice President SPDS. It was also great to see Glenda Gray again from Aberdeenshire Council who came to our Annual Conference in April.

Personally, I’m thrilled to see much more reference to positive psychology in our HR & OD agenda these days. Positive psychology and ideas around the Inner Warrior, have been in the self-help literature for a while, but have often been poo-pooed as important components of workforce interventions. I had a misdiagnosed hypothyroid condition for 16 years, in spite of having had all the clinical symptoms for longer than that – and to try and come to terms with feeling so ill, I went on a long adventure into neuropsychobiology, energy healing, quantum physics, reiki, meditation, Hopi ear candles etc – the works.

Not all of this is evidence-based mind you, but that is changing significantly – and to our benefit as practitioners. Much of the evidence comes from neuroscience and there have been a lot of amazing medical doctors who have pushed the boundaries with their brain research. Spirituality and positive psychology isn’t for hippies of the 60’s – it’s for the HR & OD warriors of the now and the future.

Sharon McKenzie and her team gave us an agenda that covered happiness, overcoming adversity, looking at our warriors of the future etc. Interspersed with that we also had a brilliant Legal update from Graham and Frances from Clyde and Co. It’s been a very long time since I’ve laughed deliberately at a legal presentation, but these wonderful professionals did the trick.

Trudy Birtwell, Head of Organisation and Learning at SOLACE and I spoke about the Younger Warriors of the Future and our collective work on 21st Century Public Servant relates to this. As ever, we had a technical glitch with our presentation which reinforced the point that we need more youngster in public services to help us on the older end of the age continuum!!! We talked about the work we are doing on our Talent Management programmes and the apprenticeships that SOLACE run as examples of the work we are doing to encourage young people into our fantastic sector.

There are some great examples of work being done in Scotland that we plan to share in blogs over the coming weeks. I want us to be able to learn and share as widely as we are able to.

On the way back home, I had a couple of hours in the glorious city that is Edinburgh. I came home with Lorne Sausage, Stornoway black pudding and Haggis. If you have never had a proper Scottish breakfast, you’ve basically not lived, but could I find the best part – fruit pudding. No I could not – not even in Jenners! That search will be the subject of another trip to Scotland I’m sure.

In the meantime, keep well. We’re working on appointing people to roles in our new structure and will have that ready for end November. We plan to be back to our regular weekly blog schedule then.

PPMA President