Hello PPMA members and friends

In our blog post this week, Karen Grave, PPMA VP shares her thoughts on the possible impacts of the recent terrible events on the HR and OD communities in public services. It’s a very thought provoking read.

“I was lucky enough to attend the MJ Achievement Awards for 2017 last night in London. It was an opportunity to be inspired by and celebrate the amazing work that is being done across Local Government. Many organisations had a good night – not least City of Wolverhampton colleagues. Their entries deservedly swept the board and I suspect this will be a night they remember for a very long time.

Whilst we celebrated, you could not help reflect on the dreadful events happening not that far away in West London. Public service can sometimes feel like such a small world – whilst Local Government colleagues gathered in London, others in RBKC were dedicating their time to providing assistance to people affected by the fire. Our blue light colleagues from our amazing emergency services were also on the ground doing work that we can only hope they never have to do again.

I generally drive into these things and when I do drive to the West End, I always come off at Shepherds Bush and drive up through Holland Park. I’ve probably driven past Grenfell a thousand times; and when I lived in North Kensington decades ago (when I was much much younger!), I lived and worked pretty damned close. I’d half wondered if I’d notice it on the way in. Well, my God, you cannot escape it – it truly is an open wound on the skyline. It’s all too easy to get sucked into other people’s grief, anger etc and I feel very very strongly that the victims who we must respect above all else are those people directly involved. But you cannot help being personally affected in some way by what you see.

Sometimes there are times when you think ‘what now’. Grenfell and the terrorist incidents over the last few months have had me thinking at the same time about the enormous resilience and fragility of life. Like all of you I suspect, I cannot begin to imagine the horror of those people involved in that fire or the shock and terror of people involved in the recent terrorism incidents. There are already many different debates about the causes of these events, some of those debates are helpful, some perhaps less so. But they will continue and it’s right they do in a democracy.

I’ve been trying to find a focus for my reactions to these events and think about whether they have any impact on us as a professional HR & OD community. I think they do:

• Developing resilience in our workforce is a blindingly obvious point to make. But it feels like this has to be a focus at a number of levels – organisation wide and individual. Listening to the experience of some fire fighters driving home last night about the workplace stress they endure makes me ever more determined to ensure that we are promoting the very best practice in health and well-being initiatives for our colleagues. However, we need to make sure that we are taking learning from the widest possible sources. I listened on the drive in to London yesterday to some counsellors and medics who had the most amazing insight into managing the immediate reaction to stressful events. This made me ask myself how often I consider getting their input in workplace interventions. I suspect that there is learning from here that we can apply in situations that are clearly not as devastating at Grenfell, so I am going to do more reading up around this. I would love to hear from any of you already doing this.

• The other aspect of this is how resilient our organisations are. Part of this is about operating models, part of it is about resource levels, part of it is about planning for the unimaginable. The relationship between all organisations involved in providing housing to Grenfell residents is obviously the main focus today. Whilst I don’t want to draw assumptions where I am not qualified to do so, my thoughts today are about how important it is when we are looking at different ways of delivering services to make sure we have thought through governance, accountability, organisations structures, roles and accountability measures, escalation processes etc. AND the extent to which we involve our key service users, i.e., us. We are all citizens of our communities and it would be great to hear from you about how you have engaged with your communities to develop services.

There are plenty of other impacts as well, but these are the ones I have been thinking about most. At another time, we will talk about leadership I am sure.

I drove home very late last night and used the same route as I drove in. I found the first view of the building so very shocking when I drove into London. I didn’t think it could be worse in the dark. But it is – it is much much worse. I half suspected I wouldn’t be able to see it. But, you can. You see it in all of its dark, frighteningly quiet, foreboding tragedy.

Sometimes in great darkness, you see profound light. It is the same here. I am absolutely inspired and humbled by the stories of people who are travelling from all over to volunteer their time to provide help on the ground, those donating goods, those providing support and a community that is profoundly diverse just basically getting stuff done on the ground. I cannot imagine the terror of people’s last moments or the grief of those left behind. I am very aware that we will never know the names of some of the victims of this most recent tragedy. That’s a final and undeserved indignity.

I may well be naïve but my own view is that we are better as a society for having effective public services. This is not an easy time to be in the sector but I think difficult times can produce amazing outcomes – I am sure we will see more of these amazing outcomes over the next days, weeks, months and years.”