Hello members and  friends

PPMA is renowned for creating opportunities to connect people and this past year has been no exception.

Earlier this month a number of HR and OD Directors from across all parts of public sector came together, virtually to connect, share, reflect and learn from their collective experiences of supporting their organisations through what has for many the most challenging and demanding time of their career.

This lively and engaging session was jointly hosted by Jonathan Swain, Senior Partner at the McLean Partnership and Gordon McFarlane, Assistant Director: Corporate Services and Transformation at Leicestershire County Council and PPMA Vice President. What emerged was a rich and powerful reflection of many amazing stories spotlighting the positive impact HR has made over the past year, revealing rich learning that is worthy of celebration and acknowledgement.

HR and OD services touch the lives in some way of every employee, every day and our ability to influence for the better, organisational culture and behaviour, is unrivalled. The past nine months has been the most extraordinary experience for all of us all – we heard stories that conveyed this unprecedented time of huge contrasts and extremes. Without question though, much of what has carried us through this time is an overwhelming sense of humanitarian compassion that has been shared openly throughout this time of fear and uncertainty with HR colleagues at its heart, helping to shape and create positive solutions to the relentless challenges to emerge.

Colleagues shared that:

  • Boundaries around sectors, teams, responsibilities appeared less obvious and less of an obstacle:
  • Constraining influences of national bodies were eased resulting in more immediate decision making in response to an urgent need;
  • A consistent sense of strong inclusive team working at all levels across organisations with people looking out for each other;
  • Communication styles and methods changed for the better – shorter – more focused and intense – daily debriefs – huddles, resulting in more meaningful and relevant flow of information
  • The unleashing of the latent talent that resided within organisations enabling colleagues to rise to the huge challenges and responding timely at pace and scale; and
  • Local communities positively engaged with local services – volunteering increased – and people taking greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

Without exception it was recognised that this year that has been full of fear, anxiety, grief, frustration, has at the same time liberated many of the bureaucratic confines that held back the flexibility of the public service workforce.

This time of tragedy and exhaustion has unintentionally helped to bust many of the myths about workforce and resource planning instantly shifting the debate from flexible working to that of ‘flexibility of work’ resulting in rapid culture change and innovation that would otherwise have taken years to achieve. Inspiring examples were shared about how front-line services had been liberated through the introduction of new freedoms to resolve their own challenges and problem solving, cultivating a greater collective passion and purpose of work to emerge. Activities shared ranged from the introduction of (socially distanced) walking meetings; on-line employee social quizes; deskercise and mindfulness sessions; exploiting technology to engage and involve employees and local communities; and enhanced networking at a local and regional level.

There is now a golden opportunity for HR and OD is to ensure these new found innovations and freedoms are built into expected rituals and routines that will provide a positive legacy to emerge from what has been the worst of times and signal that as we move into a new phase of change in 2021.

The relentless pace of disruption has begun to take its toll – even super heroes have their breaking point. The need to focus on self-care and personal resilience will be greater than ever. Senior leaders and front line staff alike, who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic, often at great personal sacrifice will need to have appropriate time to recharge and reboot their energies in order to look to an emerging world that is full of hope, placing HR front and centre of the transformation agenda and the better times that surely lie ahead of us.