Hello PPMA friends

This week’s post is written by our friends at Penna and it’s a really great read! In the 2019 Annual Penna Chief Executive Survey, there are some important insights into how HR & OD is perceived and what Chief Executives need. Some of these key findings are outlined below.

A seat at the table – why HR deserves its place in the Senior Leadership Team

Through our research, dedicated HR practice and exceptional networks Penna has unfortunately seen HR’s strategic position slip down the public-sector structure chart and away from the top table. Where once the HR lead was guaranteed a place in the SLT, this is no longer a default position.

Why is this, and what can be done to bolster and improve the strategic importance of HR in the public sector?

Get Face Time

No, not the iPhone app. We mean getting in front of your most senior stakeholders, particularly your CEO. After all, how can you start a meaningful dialogue without an opportunity for conversation? As Penna’s Lead Consultant in HR, Jason Wheatley, says;

‘If you are the HR lead, regardless of where your position sits, you need strategic time with your Chief Executive and the SLT. This is something you should insist on, as their strategic advisor. Get time, get answers, and find solutions.’

We know this is what CEOs want to see from their strategic HR and ODs. In our recent survey with the MJ, a number of CEOs commented on an unaddressed need for HR to find ‘creative ways to enable, support and challenge’ senior managers, improve their outlook ‘across the range of organisational priorities’ and be ‘more enabling to service directorates’, advising on and actioning their strategic workforce planning objectives.

So, it’s important to take time to understand your stakeholder’s strategic drivers. These may differ between Directorships. Some Corporate Directors may not have truly identified where their HR requirements should be. Your role as strategic advisor means helping shape these, as an equal. Make the alliances. Build the bridges. Start the conversations. Then, prove your effectiveness by delivering on what you’ve heard. Show them how HR can really mobilise and empower the workforce – we need to do more with less, and the public sectors biggest asset is its people.

HR as a science

We’ve all read the headlines and are living the professional realities of the cuts in the public purse.

Particularly in local government, where cost-saving and public scrutiny on spending is more heightened than ever, evidence-led HR and OD is key to demonstrating your worth and earning that director level influence. Part of proving value is having the measured, analytics-driven approach to back up your recommendations.

Get back to the data-driven basics. Quantify the fundamentals. For instance, if a key efficiencies target is reducing the number of sick-days, track your progress to provide KPIs. Not only will this quantify your own efforts, it quickly and simply shows you’re achieving your goals. Even better is if you can provide data on efficiency and productivity improvements from motivating employees; or how talent management, reward and retention strategies are improving cost and time to hire.

Fiyin Fayeye, Senior Consultant, Higher Education & HR, Executive Interim at Penna, knows the value of a scientific approach to HR well; ‘Why is it important to evidence the effectiveness of your HR projects? Particularly in the public sector, there’s more emphasis on accountability than ever before. So how to prove what you’re doing is effective? Data speaks for itself, and is increasingly becoming the most bankable professional currency. Take a before, during and after data snapshot of your work based on pre-agreed KPIs and present this to your stakeholders.

HR professionals in my network who have taken this approach have had real success. A client harnessed the power of data in an organisational design reorganisation, and used it as one of the main basis for their transformation agenda. Base your HR recommendations on empirical evidence and you’ll find they are more readily taken up.’

Similarly, have you reviewed your HR toolkit? How can you act as a transformational voice in your organisation if you aren’t keeping up-to-date with new technologies and best practice? Key questions to ask include:

  • Are enough elements of your HR process automated?
  • Are you using the most cutting-edge candidate tracking systems? Are you moving fast enough toward a digital approach and addressing the multi age working environment of the future?
  • Do you have a strong, digital access platform for current and future employees to access information quickly and simply? This has the added advantage of saving you valuable time, lessening the day-to-day enquiries.
  • Are your business partners proactive or just reactive – be the change from within HR.

Talk digital, but keep talking

Despite this emphasis on digital HR, it’s important not to lose sight of the human connection. Arguably, all HR professionals, but particularly the HRD, should be as visible and accessible across the organisation as the CEO.

This data-driven and analytical approach doesn’t mean HR leads will, or should, lose sight of the softer, people-based side of their work. Again, digital methodologies are an additional tool to measure organisational priorities from executive and front-line staff.

A great way to map and evidence HR priorities, and accordingly plan strategy, is a thorough and impartially conducted staff satisfaction survey. This should ask for comments on everything from how employees view their leadership team, to changes they need to see, to things they are happy with. Our own HR Manager at Penna, Fred Gwatkin, puts out a thorough pulse survey every year. He gives this take on their importance;

“With a survey you are only as good as your last. Well, actually the last actions you took on your set of results. I’d say don’t ask the questions if you’re not prepared to explore the feedback and look for creative solutions. They’re about trust and opinion. Surveys need to be in a natural style and tone – the kind of conversation you’d be having with trusted colleague where you feel you can be honest, be heard and taken seriously. When it comes to the science and ‘Big Data’ we need the stats to rationalise the content, but not everything can be squeezed in on a scale of 1-10. Embrace the diversity of thoughts and approach by enabling the team to express themselves by providing ‘free text’ areas. This way you’ll get more than a rating and may even get a practical solution. Lastly, when reviewing at the summary, ask yourself: what is it not saying? Then compare this to your overall aim, engage the team and set to work on making a difference.”

Even senior leaders can work in siloes. As a HR professional, you can help bring down those walls. What better way to connect with your senior stakeholders than to paint an evidenced picture of organisation-wide satisfaction. Better still, offer a plan of action to go with it. Help your CEO and SLT to see the possibilities from other organisations and sectors in terms of leading and motivating the workforce – tune into the culture of the organisation and be ready to change it for the better.

 Do development

As an HR professional, how often have you extorted the values of good training and development? More than likely, too many times to count.

Now think about the time you’ve dug out for your own learning and development. It’s probably not as much as you would recommend to your stakeholders and their teams. Yet, it’s so important in our profession to get that headspace; whether through peer-to-peer networking, seeking mentorship and coaching or HR specific training.

Julie Towers, Penna’s Managing Director, lives and breathes this approach in our own HR consultancy;

‘We know that sharing ideas and issues is the best way to progress professionally and as a sector. That’s why we encourage our HR network to connect at Penna events, and join us on leadership sessions specifically aimed at public sector HR leaders – we’ll be doing even more of these in 2020 as we recognise that time out is become harder to justify, but a great networking event with rich learning to return to the organisation is priceless. If you want to join our HR network, please just get in touch’

Leadership teams expect their HRs to know their stuff and be at the cutting-edge of public sector HR practice. Taking time to develop professionally will propel you into the strategic space you need to influence your SLT.

If you want to know more about this great work, then of course you can contact Penna. And just in case you have forgotten, you can access all of our Platinum and Gold Sponsors websites from our sponsors and partners pages.  Just click on the logo and it will take you directly to the sponsor homepage.