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UK: HR Central to Boosting Public-Sector Performance, Says Report
Source: peoplemanagement.co.uk
Source Date: Monday, December 20, 2010
Country: Europe
Created: Dec 20, 2010

Government plans to transform public services against the backdrop of £81 billion spending cuts will fail unless policy makers recognise the importance of supporting a step-change in people and HR management capability, according to a joint report from the CIPD and the Public Sector People Managers’ Association (PPMA).

The report, Boosting HR performance in the public sector, warns the government's public service reform plans are at risk of failing to deliver lasting improvements because too little emphasis is placed on the people and HR management issues that lead, support and embed changes in behaviour and new ways of working on the front line.

The paper argues that the success of the government's ‘big society’ will hinge on whether front-line managers are equipped with the leadership skills to engage and empower staff. It demonstrates, through a range of case studies, the critical role HR plays in supporting lasting public service improvement, which, if replicated more widely, would successfully help the sector meet the challenges it faces.

For example, the report highlights the crucial role for HR in boosting the skills of GP consortia, which are taking on a new service commissioning role, and Jobcentre Plus advisors, who are tasked with helping benefit claimants back to work.

Stephanie Bird, CIPD director of HR capability, said: "Public service transformation is critically dependent on developing new skills, changing engrained behaviours and managing the uncertainty and conflict that can arise as a result. Unless HR is involved at the heart of this process to ensure the key people management issues are addressed, public service reform plans will remain frustrated.

"Unfortunately, HR in the public sector has been seen by successive governments as a cost to be managed, or a way of making redundancies. It is no coincidence that attempts by previous administrations to create a step-change in the quality of public service delivery have failed. This government cannot afford to make the same mistakes.”

Dean Shoesmith, PPMA president, added that he believes that HR is at a crossroads. "The public service reform agenda provides both an opportunity and a challenge,” he said. “HR can build and establish its reputation as a key strategic function if it is at the heart of managing change, helping to facilitate service delivery redesign and building the necessary leadership and management skills for sustained public service transformation. However, if HR is preoccupied by its traditional activities, such as hand-holding line managers, then it will be left behind and its reputation as a transactional function will be reinforced.”
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