Hello PPMA members and Friends
Our President Barry Pirie, writes for us this week and he highlights the key areas where HR can continue to make a difference to the public sector.
“I can’t remember a period in my career where the pace of change faced by the public sector has been at the rate it is today.
At a time when many organisations are still in the process of getting in the right shape to deliver services for the future, we are also having to focus on how we can get in shape for the collaborative future heralded by the devolution agenda.
In spite of – and maybe even because of – this pressure, I don’t think there has been a time when HR has had so much opportunity to make a difference to the public sector – whether that is today, tomorrow or further into the future.
That’s because, for all the talk of technology and new services, the success of our public services is still down to people, something which is unarguably the domain of HR. As the transformation and devolution agendas gather pace and ultimately converge, it is the HR team that organisations will need as the drivers of successful change. Looking across that change agenda I see five key areas where HR will make a difference.
- Creating customer-centric public services that work: whether it is driven by the need to collaborate or the need to cut costs (or both), public bodies need to refocus, reshape and re-organise so they can deliver services that the citizen of today and the future will need. HR will be the architects of those organisations, modelling them in a way that reduces ‘friction’ and enables collaboration which will be part of our future.
- Building teams for the future: If we accept that constant challenge and change will be a hallmark of the way public sector works in the future, then we need to build the capability of managers and individuals that we can sustain that change. HR teams are the people who must define the skills and behaviours which need to be in place and the ones who must create that capability in our organisations.
- Culture change: One of the most fundamental challenges for the public sector is the cultural shift that needs to take place as we accept new ways of doing things. The future of public services means delivering from the front line, collaborating more – internally and externally – and the evaporation of the siloed, top down structures which dictate rather than empower employees. HR will need to identifying ways to support that culture change and put in place plans to remove pockets of resistance.
- Leadership for the future: As the nature of our organisations changes, so too must our leaders. There will be no place for heroic leaders driving command and control cultures. Leaders will be collaborative, enablers of change, the nature of leadership teams will change and the may have to work across a range of public bodies and manage a broader portfolio than before. We must be quick to identify and support new models of leadership which can work for our politicians and citizens.Productive workplaces: It’s not just building rationalisation and co-location of services which should drive change in our workplaces. We still have a long way to go in identifying new ways of working which give people the ability to perform at their best. We must embrace flexibility, harness technology and rewrite HR policy to create productive workplaces which are fit for our people.
One final area of focus which cuts across all of these areas is the role for HR in engaging employees with the changes that lie ahead. Engagement builds resilience to change, an understanding of the bigger picture which is driving change and tolerance for when things go wrong. If we don’t take our people with us as we move to the future, we will find that however much we are excited about our vision for the future, we don’t have anyone there to make it happen.”
Barry Pirie is Associate Director, People and Business at Wiltshire Council, and President of the PPMA