Our blog post this week is by Martin Reddington who is an expert advisor on HR Transformation. He’s working with us, in partnership LGA and Edinburgh Napier University to explore the state of the “Deal” or Employee Value Proposition in local government.

‘The public sector is faced with increasing calls to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness during turbulent times.  At a time of austerity and job insecurity, employees are increasingly being given the message to ‘work hard and just be glad they have a job’, while experiencing an erosion of their pay, pensions and other inducements. Against this background, the need to forge new employment ‘deals’ or employment value propositions (EVPs) that better support mutual gains for all the parties concerned has never been more important.

Perhaps not surprisingly, research supported by the LGA and the PPMA in 2012 in four local authorities (Cumbria CC, Kent CC, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and Wychavon DC) showed that employees in those organisations perceived the deal to be unfairly imbalanced or skewed in favour of their employers. Some of the main factors associated with this were:

1)    The constant pressure of being required to do more-with-less and the consequential impacts on job pressure and customer service quality
2)    The upward re-calibration of discretionary effort to the extent that it was seen increasingly as mandatory
3)    Significant structural upheaval and associated concerns about job security
4)    Authoritarian leadership driven by a budget deficit agenda
5)    Erosion of pay and pensions

The research showed that the tensions created by the imbalance had greatest impact on the level of organisational engagement employees had with their employers – the extent to which they felt a sense of loyalty and advocacy towards their councils and were prepared to challenge opinions of others if they believed it would improve organisational effectiveness.  In all cases, organisational engagement was reported to be significantly lower than job engagement – the degree to which employees make  physical, emotional and cognitive investments in their jobs.

The resilience of job engagement, maintained in many instances by professional pride and an ethos to serve the public, is not inexhaustible. The rhetoric of ‘work hard and just be glad you have a job’ is hardly the strategic narrative that will inspire line managers and their teams to achieve more creative and productive solutions to challenges in the workplace.

So now is the time to re-think and forge new employment deals or EVPs. This is not about an obsession with hitting a particular engagement ‘score’ or some clever piece of management jargon to provide a welcome divergence from the epicenter of the economic crisis.  It’s all about releasing the potential of the workforce to deliver sustainable high performance.

The LGA is encouraging all local authorities to apply for an incentivised scheme that will provide a base line of the current EVP and actionable outcomes to improve things – for more information contact Luann Donald at [email protected]

Martin Reddington

Independent Consultant and Expert Advisor on HR Transformation to the PPMA