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Public Sector Managers ‘Must Engage Staff’


Managers in national and local government need to focus more attention on employee development and motivation if they are to achieve high levels of performance, according to a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Fit for Business II: Transforming HR in the Public Sector is based on continuing research investigating the challenges public sector organisations face in transforming their HR function.

The report points out that the public sector has to manage a significant change agenda. At the same time it is required to deliver "more for less" by making substantial reductions in manpower.

One of the key questions for organisations participating in the research is how those responsible for the management and development of public sector workers can best contribute to improved public service delivery, while continuing to develop the HR function itself.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser, said: "High levels of performance and customer service rely on a motivated and committed workforce. But the government's HR reform agenda seems largely to ignore employee engagement.

"We know from our wider research into employee attitudes that people working in the public sector are less likely than those working in the private sector to have confidence in and trust their senior managers. Public sector workers are also less likely to believe their senior managers have a clear vision for the organisation. It is no surprise then to find that the Capability Reviews of government departments rate them so poorly on levels of employee engagement.

"HR practitioners will find it difficult to overcome the challenges they face in becoming more business focused and strategic unless they engage directly with business managers and help them manage their people better. HR teams also need to become more outward facing and customer focused, consulting with managers and employees about the changes needed to raise the performance of the organisation."

The report includes many examples of the practical steps being taken by HR managers in the public sector to respond to the challenges presented by the change agenda. It identifies some key areas for progress including the need for HR to:

  • focus more attention on employee commitment and development

  • work more closely with senior managers in identifying business priorities and what must be done to achieve them

  • help managers to get the best from their people and address performance issues

  • be prepared to make tough choices and take action to make an impact

  • network with fellow professionals and develop the skills required to deliver business value.
  • "HR professionals need to develop new ways of working which address strategic issues and have a real impact on service delivery. They need to move away from a policing role to a more facilitative and supporting role which recognises that responsibility for management rests with the line. This means they need to engage with managers in analysing business issues and not simply stay in their traditional comfort zone," added Emmott.


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