HR Summit 2010News

January 2011

Guardian HR Summit

Angela took part in the debate, which focused on the role and outlook for HR in the public sector. With great challenges and change ahead there will be a great overhaul of the way services are delivered in the coming years.

Key points of the debate included:

In looking at the current economic situation many organisations will consider the primary challenge to be a need to focus on reducing spend, reorganising functions and making people redundant without the threat of litigation.

Angela argued that this misses the point entirely. What is happening in our country affects each one of our employees individually. Robert Peel who established the Metropolitan Police said " The police are the public and the public are the police " he was quite right and this approach in my view extends to all public servants. These are not people to be considered merely as overheads and costs that need to be reduced. These are citizens who are affected by a huge range of challenges at the moment.

Like all citizens the police are seeing the impact of

  • Reducing employment
  • Reduced terms and conditions
  • A longer working life
  • Increased costs of housing, petrol food and utilities
  • Tuition increases in universities
  • The highest graduate employment in a very long time
  • The possibility that their children will not have the opportunities that they had

Angela went on to state that the police are demonised in the press as bloated, gold plated pension hungry lazy bureaucrats. These people are also the users of our services be they education, health, elder services housing on so on. In the 20 plus years I have spent in the public sector I have never seen people facing so many complex challenges that they share with their colleagues in the majority of the private sector.

She suggested that before we launch into solutions to reduce costs, remove people and reorganise services, we all need to remember that our people are fully entitled to feel angry, anxious and wary of the future. The organisations that fail to grasp what many of our staff will see as a fundamental breach of the psychological contract they signed up to will not only loose any discretionary effort that they have received from their staff but will soon also see the pride once seen in their organisations slowly drain away.

Angela went on to say that the new reality we face requires an understanding that to bring about the changes that are needed will require our staff to understand fully why, how and when changes will affect them. It will require honesty and transparency even when we do not have the answers.

Angela concluded that she believes as she always has that those who teach, who care for the sick, who protect us and our families and all of the other staff who work in the sector really care about doing a good job and servicing their communities. She has not changed her mind. We need to now support our staff in continuing to do a good job. This means bringing a little reality into the situation and a little backbone into leadership. There may be some options that will produce more for less in the provision of public services however the reality that we all recognise is that often we will be providing less for less and we need to be courageous enough to stop providing services when the quality drops to such an extent that they are not feasible any longer.

Said Angela,  “It’s really not a time for us to feel sorry for ourselves in HR though, we are usually the last ones turning out the light, and our jobs although often stressful in that we have to give bad news and manage redundancies are not as stressful as those on the receiving end of the bad news, so for us we need to maintain resilience and optimism and hopefully a sense of humour as we continue the privileged job we have of delivering services to citizens”.

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