Resilience in action

By Neil Lupin | 01 April 2020

I almost wish I hadn’t read my recent R&R articles before writing this. Nothing could have prepared us for what we now face, but back in January I wrote here about resilience – personal, workforce and organisational.

Seemingly overnight our world has changed and the word ‘unprecedented’ is one I already want to stop using.

I suggested at the time that we might want to challenge our assumptions about how resilient we are and what makes each of us more or less resilient from one day to the next. I also said that 2020 would be uncertain to say the least, but we could never have predicted what is now before us.

Resilience is almost impossible to measure and sometimes you find it in the most surprising places. Now, the resilience we are seeing across public services nationally is beyond humbling. It is frankly awe-inspiring.

It was Margaret Thatcher who once said there is no such thing as society. How wrong does that statement feel right now? We are seeing our society pull together perhaps in the most inspiring way since World War Two.

I suspect we will ultimately look back at 2020 as the year in which our country, if not our world, changed.

While it may be hard to imagine at present, I’m sure I am not alone in hoping and expecting that there will be some good to emerge.

The way our key workers have responded is incredible to watch. The NHS is making the headlines and for good reason, but my thoughts are with all key workers – social workers and carers, education professionals, and all those working at the front line to do everything possible to protect communities and beat this.

Often, the amazing work done by local government and its employees goes unsung. The NHS has been flooded with volunteers, which is brilliant, and I wonder whether something similar will happen in local government.

Resilience, determination, grit, empathy and so many other wonderful traits are plain to see at all levels in local government. Everyone is playing their part, pitching in and helping in any way they can.

I have personally seen chief executives, elected members, staff and interim managers doing anything and everything they can to make a difference – working all hours, collaboratively and selflessly – sharing and borrowing staff, diverting talent to areas with the most critical demand, pooling resource, co-creating ideas and putting aside egos. In the main this is happening remotely through technology which in itself requires a whole new level of resilience.

I believe it is essential that the supply chain also plays its part and I include Green Park in this statement.

The Crown Commercial Service has already stepped in with procurement guidance on keeping the sector moving and it is incumbent on the supply chain to step up too.

Fortunately, technology means we can remain working remotely on a near business-as-usual footing when it comes to being ready to support our colleagues and friends across the sector.

We have seen a huge increase in demand for interims, advisers, consultants and senior people to backfill the roles of those taken ill or moved to essential services.

We have a responsibility to be ready to serve. Now is the time to make sure our colleagues can access the talent they need without a fuss, and I am immensely proud of how my own colleagues have selflessly risen to that challenge. We are asking a lot of them, but this whole situation means we have to be careful to protect peoples’ emotional health and wellbeing.

While this will probably be our ‘new normal’ for another four to six months, there will be an end to this crisis.

As I wrote on these pages back in October, the sector is nothing if not resilient and we are already seeing our colleagues planning for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Permanent recruitment hasn’t stopped, and if anything, what we are seeing is much more of the planning and preparation that we have long advocated. So, we are talking to councils now about how they will recruit in the months and quarters ahead, not just in the days and weeks ahead.

Preparation is key, and it is a certainty that there will be a surge in permanent executive search at some point later this year. Prioritisation and planning have never been more important.

As we all adapt to a new way of working, our individual and collective resolve and capacity for resilience is being sorely tested. The harrowing experiences of those working on the front line are becoming a daily occurrence. Just keeping going is in itself a triumph but it is important to be mindful of the impact this situation is having on health and wellbeing.

Many communities now have support groups running via WhatsApp, etc. The spirit and vigour with which neighbours are supporting each other when often they have never met is inspirational, and the numbers self-isolating are shocking.

We all have a role to play in protecting one another, saving lives and keeping things going. But as someone said to me recently: ‘The light at end of the tunnel has not been turned off’.

Neil Lupin is managing partner at Green Park Interim & Executive Search.

Tel: 07967 826026, email: neil.lupin@green-park.co.uk

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