Strategic Change in Human Resources and Payroll Practice

Attractor Consulting works with public sector bodies and private sector suppliers to support improvement and change in HR and Payroll operations.

Where to Cut?

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited
Under the last government, the public sector experienced more than a decade of top-down, target-driven, centralised change.

With massive investments in public services, strides were made on improving infrastructure and service levels in health and education.

But, with money and targets arriving thick and fast, the capacity for change was overwhelmed and efficiency declined.

It was easy to predict a search for productivity was coming - but the financial crisis turned this into a massive shock - the equivalent of putting your car into reverse directly from fourth gear.

In the middle of 2010, the anticipation of cuts in UK public services is creating at atmosphere where any public servant whose role might be considered "not vital" will be thinking about career options. With the economy at a very early stage of a slow recovery, prospects don't look good.

But what is "vital"?

An opinion poll for the Local Government Association looked at where people thought spending should be cut and protected, showing where people preferred deicions to be made about spending in their local area -

  • 62% wanted local councillors to decide,
  • 18 % backed MPs
  • 2% said officials in quangos

Respondents wanted NHS managers, quangos and overseas aid to be cut while doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, police, schools, fire services and care for the elderly by social services should be protected. Those sentiments are unsurprising and calling for reductions in the cost of administration, bureaucracy and management is all too easy.

In the coming months we will see suggestions that any reduction in the number of police officers, nurses, doctors etc would be a disaster. While nobody wants to see front-line services being reduced, in fact, taking a view about what is "vital" is less straightforward than most tabloid papers might suggest.

Will Total Place Help Solve "The Problem"?

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited

Attractor was invited to join an HR Workforce Forum event at the start of July 2010, discussing the workforce and HR implications from the Total Place programme.

The forum event, hosted by Bevan Brittan, was attended by participants with in-depth experience of the Total Place programme and others working at the heart of public sector change management.

The forum heard details about the New Local Government Network (NLGN) Report "Greater than the sum of its parts".

Lessons for HR and messages being given to government about "the storm" ahead, were examined.

"The problem" of course can be defined in many ways - waste, funding restrictions, failure to deliver benefits, inefficiency, unfairness, "postcode lottery" - and its unlikely any programme can address all of these together. It's possible some of them are inextricably linked, the big, "fair" programme being wasteful and the small "efficient" project leading to uneven outcomes.

The Total Place pilot programme aimed to change public services so they improve the lives of local residents and deliver better value. It was hoped the pilots would deliver early savings to validate the work and develop learning about how more effective cross-agency working can function. The work involves three strands of activity -

  • ‘counting' - identifying how public money is spent to achieve objectives
  • ‘culture' -  looking at how existing cultures and ways of working help or hinder the delivery of outcomes
  • ‘customer needs' - gaining practical insight into their needs, wants, expectations, behaviours and experiences

The challenge for HR functions in supporting service redesign, innovation and change management while also working to streamline and slim down their own functions was explored in some detail at the forum event.

Personnel Today have also just an article about Total Place and what it means for HR. In Stepping up to the mark, Roger Britton, at Worcester County Council talks about -

"the need to prepared to think in terms of a single public service workforce which is operating across organisations, the boundaries between which have become invisible."

Tackling the "culture" within the existing empires poses a huge challenge which, if left unaddressed - allows silo mentalities to predominate and borders to remain defended. Mature and confident leadership, effective Organisation Development and Human Resources teams will be needed to drive these initiatives locally.

The Workforce Forum discussed the benefits and the legal and employment challenges of creating and staffing "New Economic Vehicles", joint ventures and social enterprises which can remove barriers and allow partner organisations to focus efforts on delivering services and efficiencies together.

The NLGN report concludes billions of pounds could be saved by delivering joined-up service provision but warns that a lack of coherence and over-centralisation could derail the programme and prevent benefits being realised.

NHS Re-Organisation - Hope Over Experience?

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited

At its conference in June 2010, the NHS Confederation published a report challenging the wisdom of constant NHS reorganisations. In "The Triumph of Hope Over Experience", the Confederation examines a history of rapid and turbulent creations, mergers and disestablishments over 20 years.

NHS Targets £850m Savings in Management Costs

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited

The revised NHS Operating Framework was published on 21st June 2010 and most comment is likely to focus on the removal or reduction in national performance targets.

Efficiency and Reform in Government

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited
As a further sign pressure in the UK for the public sector to deliver savings is increasing, the Cabinet Office's new Efficiency and Reform Group now has control of the the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and Buying Solutions.

Including the authors of earlier efficiency reports - Sir Peter Gershon, and Dr Martin Read, the Group aims to deliver a significant programme of change.

Maximising Value from HR

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited

In the past, UK organisation were stereotyped by their slashing of training budgets when finances were tight - and then suffering the skills shortages which followed.

Will Centralising Whitehall’s HR Services Create Efficiency?

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited
The UK's coalition government has made few changes to government departments - but the underlying "machinery of government" is under scrutiny.

According to reports in Personnel Today, the government is planning a cross-government HR framework - aiming to "eradicate duplication" and "simplify HR functions".

Shared Services - Reviewing The Evidence

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited
With the UK's election result imminent, public sector bodies must soon return to the efficiency agenda.

Shared services or outsourcing solutions seem likely to be deployed for back-office services across much of the public sector.

Rejecting Command and Control

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited
Tripp Babbitt's article "Killing Assumptions" explains how command and control thinking combines with management assumptions leading to new "fads" rather than successful innovation.

Simiarly, in his book "Freedom from Command and Control", John Seddon concludes that many management concepts are poorly substantiated by research and evidence.

Shared Services – A Recipe for Waste?

Posted by Vince Lammas, Principal Consultant, Attractor Consulting Limited
The advice from many experts suggests the government should accelerate shared service implementation across the public sector.

The proponents of shared services claim this will reduce costs through economies of scale and improve  services through standardisation and improved performance management.

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