Hello PPMA member and friends

This week Gordon McFarlane, Assistant Director, Corporate Services & Transformation, at Leicestershire CC talks about how we should embrace the new workforce challenge opportunities that are developing within local government.

“It is very easy to focus solely on the austerity agenda and the ongoing associated savings – something that local government has been living with for a number of years. However, as a result, the workforce challenges that we face are becoming increasingly complex. Five years in to this rollercoaster journey, what has really changed in terms of our people priorities?

In Leicestershire, we are assessing the new and enhanced skills which leaders, managers and staff need, ranging from commercial acumen, commissioning competencies, skills that derive from a greater emphasis on partnership working, and also the changed emphasis to service delivery and customer engagement as a result of progressing our ‘digital council’ agenda.

We are starting from a strong base. Some 91% said the council is a good employer in our latest survey – which showed an overall increase in positive engagement. While 85% said we supported flexible working practices, and just as many said that ideas and initiative was valued by managers.

While more than two thirds said that change was well communicated, just under half said it was well managed – and even though this is an increase from the last survey it shows that there’s more to do.

There is no doubt that as well as increasing the skill base in some areas, and developing new skill sets in others, we need to think about culture and behaviours at the same time. We are also starting to redefine what we mean by the ‘Leicestershire manager’ thinking about what we need in the future in terms of attitude and aptitude. Organisation development work is being seen as increasingly important – we need to ensure that we truly transform, and that we embed changes, taking our workforce with us at all stages.

In practical terms we are addressing the challenges in a number of ways. A good example of this is a public sector commissioning academy being run in partnership with the Cabinet Office across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. The programme (involving 17 employers) is designed to help to build a critical mass of expertise across the public sector. There is a focus on design, increasing commissioning capability and confidence, and skills needed to shape, develop and manage markets. There is a real emphasis on having a practical impact, and participants will be focusing on creating clear action plans.

In relation to the wider workforce, we are looking at ways of increasing productivity and efficiency, and of helping staff to work more flexibly and creatively. However, to do this, we recognise that we have to create the right conditions, and this includes where necessary addressing issues with basic processes – ‘fixing the fundamentals’.

It is clear that with our own savings targets, we in HR have to ensure that everything we do adds value and that in partnership with services, we focus on the real priorities – and this will inevitably include negotiating to stop doing some of the things that we’ve always done. However, working effectively and cohesively with other support services is also increasingly important – the offer needs to be seamless.

To address these demanding challenges, Member support for workforce priorities is vital, and we are very fortunate in Leicestershire that the people agenda is seen as a high priority.

In conclusion, we realise that we have to make a step change, and whilst the amount of effort needed to do this should not be underestimated, there is an exciting opportunity to really make a difference.”

Gordon McFarlane is Assistant Director (Corporate Services & Transformation) at Leicestershire CC