HR managers need to focus on talent management and promoting the public sector as an attractive place to work, writes Sue Evans, President of the PPMA
As the public sector takes on a new shape against the backdrop of perma-austerity and a post-Brexit Britain, people managers have a critical role to play in building organisations with the culture and capability to handle this extensive transformation. It is our skills that are fundamental in not only delivering but also driving successful change, supporting people on the front line and at the top of our organisations along the way.
However, faced with fewer resources to deliver the change agenda, HR leaders and their teams must change too. In fact, what is required is a wholesale behavioural change among managers and their teams, a new approach that adequately reflects the emergence of a new sector with different priorities, needs and objectives.
The skills required to deal with these changes vary but have more in common with their equivalent roles in the private sector than ever before. It is imperative that we build our capabilities in the digital arena, for example, in order to simplify processes and make cost savings by sharing data across departments and organisations.
Collaboration and entrepreneurship are crucial values in a sector that has spent the last few years transforming and centralising to become commercially-minded enough to cope with ever-decreasing budgets. We must continue to support skills development in those areas, both top-down and bottom-up so that they become second-nature to the public sector people managers of tomorrow.
Talent management in the public sector
Reductions in funding as a result of last year’s Spending Review have inevitably impacted the extent to which potential employees see the public sector as an attractive place to work. If we are to have the high-quality public servants we need for the future, it’s crucial that we review our pay and employee benefits propositions to allow us to compete with an increasingly buoyant private sector and to do the job of bringing in key talent.
Attracting younger people into apprenticeships must remain a priority for the public sector – in spite of the challenges presented by punishing budget reductions and the impending apprenticeship levy. And activities such as the PPMA’s Apprentice of the Year and Rising Star awards are specifically designed to support these efforts.
We need to promote the fact that a public sector is a place where people can put their skills and knowledge to work, take responsibility and solve big problems which have an impact on the quality of life of everyone in our communities. We must show that we are fair, adaptable employers who can offer the kind of autonomy and flexibility which people increasingly value as they balance their career with home and family life. We know this is important to our existing workforce, who are likely to have caring/childcare responsibilities, but also to our new generation of employees who work to live rather than live to work. This generation is as interested in corporate social responsibility and a work/life balance as a financial reward.
A clear and relatable proposition
Our proposition, therefore, has to be clear and relatable for both today’s and tomorrow’s civil servant. As a sector, we are more commercially-minded and business-focused than ever before. We are at the forefront of HR in terms of our approach to knowledge and skills sharing, mentoring and work shadowing programmes. We are continuously and consciously having open, constructive career development conversations across all teams and departments.
We must now continue to be creative and proactive in demonstrating what we do differently to support our organisations in a sector whose demands and needs are not only fundamentally different from what went before but will keep on evolving and changing. This is the only way in which we can continue to develop the role of HR in the public sector and ensure it remains dynamic, effective and fit for purpose in the 21st Century.
Head of HR and OD