Let’s Talk Workforce Transformation

There are many definitions and uses for the word ‘Transformation’.  The one that is most relevant for us perhaps is transformation as “a change or alteration, especially a radical one”.  When you do a google search you will find a large amount of search results; and multiple references to public services.  Typically most of what you see on a first search clearly recognises that transformation has multiple drivers.  For UK public services the main ones have been:

  • Cost savings: austerity has driven significant activity right the way across public services.  Whilst local government has been especially affected since 2010, the NHS, Defence, Blue Light and University sectors have and are experiencing increasing financial pressure.
  • Customer engagement: we have all heard that ‘customer experience/journey’ is critical and there is a wealth of activity looking at process reviews, service redesign and so on.  Government has increasingly recognised that how we engage with our citizens/service users is critical.  This is as much a philosophical/political debate about the relationship between state and citizens as customer experience.
  • Digital: the use of various technologies are regularly held up as a means to both transform the experience public service users have and also save money.

The ‘radical’ component of change isn’t always at the forefront of the language we use during transformation programmes.  Usually we think about transformation as being a time limited initiative, whether we are talking about change within an organisation or a change that involves other organisations.

We have increasingly recognised that change doesn’t just impact our own organisations.  ‘Whole system thinking’ describes transformation that needs to happen across different public service organisations or a range of provider or voluntary groups – the Health and Social Care Partnership in Greater Manchester is perhaps the best example.

What is clear from even a cursory definition and overview is that Transformation is complex, often has multiple drivers and has the potential for many different outcomes.

Why is this important for HR professionals?

Public services transformation has impacted HR & OD in two key ways:

  • There has been substantial pressure for HR & OD functions to transform the services we provide to our own organisations.  Typically, we have had to look at digitisation, self-service, rationalising policy, becoming more focused on evidence and considering commercial offerings to generate revenue
  • Transformation activity puts a lot of pressure on existing HR & OD functions.  At the same time that HR & OD has had to transform its own services it has needed to be at the heart of supporting broader organisation wide transformation.

We know from experience and plenty of reporting that transformation initiatives in public services have failed as much as they have succeeded.   However those that succeed and impacted people’s lives for the better will be our focus in this theme.  We will be looking at why these transformations succeeded and working with our community to develop shared understanding and practice.  Ensuring that people are at the heart of transformation is of course key and will keep us occupied in this theme.

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How does this theme fit in with the other PPMA themes?

Inevitably there is some overlap with other Let’s Talk: themes – Future Workforce and Developing our Organisations in particular.  That isn’t a surprise – or indeed a bad thing.  We all recognise that looking at one aspect of HR and OD will inevitably have an impact on other workforce issues.  The key for us in this theme is to concentrate on ensuring that our professional understanding is consistent and that we fully understand our role in it and what we have to offer.

We recommend that you also check in with our other themes too. There is a lot of content that we have put together so that you can make the best use of your membership of PPMA.