A Faer Point

By Jason Wheatley | 23 January 2024

As Isha blows herself out into the North Sea, it’s impossible not to reach for the ‘perfect storm’ metaphor when looking at the workforce issues facing local government leaders and HR practitioners in 2024. Of course the context is broader than just people and talent: Covid’s legacy continues, alongside financial and economic pressures, and the political uncertainty of an election year.

The CIPD recently published a downbeat report on Public Sector Morale, and one phrase leapt out: ‘The UK Government’s spending plans…assume productivity increases’, it says, ‘without specifying how these will be achieved.’ It makes a connection between this conundrum and sharply falling levels of employee goodwill – vital for what HR and OD professionals refer to as ‘discretionary effort’.

Another report (from the Institute for Government and CIPFA) says: ‘Teachers, nurses, doctors and social workers work in crumbling and cramped buildings, and many services are experiencing a full-blown workforce crisis. Without serious action to improve public service productivity…the Government risks getting stuck in a doom loop – with the perpetual state of crisis burning out staff and preventing services from taking the best long-term decisions.

So, adaptability and organisation resilience will be key. And though employees are change-tired, the need to transform is critical. We expect to see no reduction in the redesign of structures, teams, roles, processes, and ways of working, as well as culture change and organisation development.

It has never been more vital that the local government workforce embraces change, and the need to deliver services in different ways. But it’s a big ask for a workforce that is understandably tired and pessimistic. If we want employees to thrive and equip them with a clear sense of mission, we need to provide the tools, environment, development and support to do it.

HR and OD professionals in local government will certainly be earning their money this year.

Jason Wheatley is a partner at Faerfield

This article is sponsored content for The MJ

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