HR strategy forumOn 24 Feb 2004 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Ask our experts. Personnel Today would like readers to send in theirstrategic HR dilemma. All questions will remain anonymous and will be forwardedto our strategy forum members, two of whom will provide step-by-step advice inthe magazine. Send your dilemmas to [email protected] dilemma Improving performance at a local authority I have just joined a large unitary authority as HR director. The authorityprovides all local government public services including refuse collection, roadmaintenance, education and the social services. Pressures on the council have been mounting. Last year, it was subjected toan audit commission assessment and was adjudged to be ‘fair’, but there isconcern the reassessment this year will be less favourable. This could lead to much tighter central government control, reducing thelocal flexibility the council feels it needs to best serve the interests of thelocal community. Managers are under pressure to deliver demonstrably betterservices on tight or reducing budgets. There is also a sense of short-termism asmanagers try and ‘fix’ difficulties. Our sickness absence levels are in the upper quartile for similarauthorities, and our turnover rates are little better. Our workforce is a doesnot reflect the ethnic composition of the local community and there have beendifficulties filling jobs in specific and critical areas. A recent surveysuggests staff morale has hit rock bottom. My role is to ensure the council at least retains the previous rating underthe assessment scheme and managers are looking to me to both resolve some ofthe current resourcing difficulties and to turn around staff morale. Whatshould my priorities be? Solution 1 By Dilys Winn head of resources at Gloucestershire County CouncilStrike a balance between ensuring you do not get sucked into the sameshort-termism gripping the rest of the organisation, and getting credibility byshowing understanding of the immediate problems. Use your judgement to pick theimportant things and be firm in consigning the rest to longer-term plans. Step 1 Start with the problems you know will be detrimentallyaffecting morale and therefore performance. The combination of high turnover,high absence rates and recruitment difficulties will put real pressure on staffand managers alike. Do you know why people are leaving, where they are goingand what measures you could take to make inroads into this? Look at currentarrangements for managing absence. Could tried and tested techniques used byauthorities to manage absence be useful here? Step 2 Try some short-term measures to patch the critical gaps in theworkforce. Since paying higher salaries across the board is unlikely to be anoption, put together a resourcing strategy. This should combine innovativerecruitment campaigns with a serious look at whether these services could bedone elsewhere or be outsourced. Step 3 Take ownership of the results of the staff survey. Find out asmuch as you can about the root causes of staff concerns by engaging staff andmanagers at all levels. Focus on two or three key issues. Develop acommunications strategy to keep staff posted about what is being changed inresponse to their concerns and make sure you get the commitment of theorganisation to run follow-up surveys to measure progress. Step 4 Make sure you know what is required to be in place for thevarious inspection regimes. At the very least, you are likely to need to beable to demonstrate that you have a published people management strategy inplace which is consulted upon, directly links with the council’s key aims andincludes proper measures to evaluate its effectiveness. Step 5 Finally, get beyond the immediate and avoid being drowned byshort-term problems. The difficulties you found when you arrived at theauthority occurred because of a lack of longer-term strategies. You will needto get your managers involved in some crystal ball gazing, questioning wheretheir services are going in the medium/long-term. Your longer-term strategymust reflect these changes, government agendas and potential legislativechanges setting out what resourcing arrangements are likely to be needed.Address how these will be met through skills development, succession planning,creating sustainable sources from which you can attract new skills, andcreating an environment where people flourish and therefore choose to stay. Solution 2By Paul Kearns, Director PWLThe golden rule of HR strategy is never try to fix long-term, structuralproblems by reacting tactically. ‘Quick fixes’ are self-defeating. Step 1 There may be the pressure of the re-assessment looming, but itwould be better to acknowledge that the issues you have identified can only beresolved strategically, not tactically. You will not resolve staff morale,ethnic composition, sickness or turnover quickly, so why not openly admit this?Step 2 Give management and the Audit Commission the reassurance thatyou know your job, but stress you will need time. What option is there,especially as you have only just joined? Step 3 Instil confidence by making your first priority theinstallation of effective systems. Better systems will improve performance inthe short run but will also have a long shelf-life. This is exactly the sort ofdevelopment the Audit Commission will be looking for. Even if they think yourpresent performance is poor, they are more likely to give you the benefit ofthe doubt for the future if they see effective systems being built. Thesimplest, most effective system to start with is the PDCA system (Plan, Do,Check, Act). Get agreement from the chief executive for this to be implementedimmediately. Every manager should be asked to try it out at least once toimprove one of the existing HR measures you have highlighted. Step 4 Staff morale might appear to be a priority, but it is just onesymptom of an under-performing organisation and it is not the job of HR to‘turn it around’ for line managers. Focus on the underlying causes of poorperformance and, over time, the staff morale issue will begin to resolveitself. Step 5 If you need a quick win to garner much-needed support, thenfollow the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ principle. Set about discovering theworst-performing part of the authority and give it some special attention. Itwill already be under a great deal of pressure, so any good ideas you haveshould produce results with little effort.How the forum worksThe HR Strategy Forum, which issupported by some of the industry’s most experienced people (see below), isPersonnel Today’s major new initiative to help readers become more strategic intheir day-to-day operations. Over the coming months, Personnel Today will give a unique,developmental opportunity to hone your strategic skills using a wide range ofHR scenarios submitted by senior HR professionals. Each week, our panel ofexperienced practitioners and consultants will provide solutions to a typicalstrategic HR dilemma. You can get involved by sending in your own problems,marked ‘strategic dilemmas’, to [email protected] Brown, Assistant director general, CIPDPaul Kearns, Director, PWLJim Matthewma,n Worldwide partner,Mercer Human Resource ConsultingAndrew Mayo, Director,MLILouise Allen, Director, LAPartnersPenny Davis, Head of HR operations,T-MobileMarie Gill, Head of organisationaldevelopment, AsdaNeil Roden, HR director, Royal Bankof ScotlandRalph Tribe, Vice-president of HR,Getty ImagesDilys Winn, HR director,Gloucestershire County CouncilMargaret Savage, Head of HR strategy,BT Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.