Headlines: February 24th, 2005

The harsh glare of political publicity makes the delivery of change in the public sector even more of a challenge, according to the head of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.CIPD President Lord Richard Wilson said the management of change was a key part of leadership in the public, private and voluntary sectors but leaders in the public services faced the unique challenge of trying to deliver change against the background of political priorities that were not always the same as management priorities.

He said research conducted by CIPD showed that in two out of every five cases where there were redundancies, the job cuts were at least balanced out by jobs being created elsewhere in the organisation.

“This is exactly what the Gershon proposals for the public sector entail, with shifts from so-called backroom jobs to front-line services,” he added.

By contrast leaders in the private sector rarely had to manage redundancies in the face of deliberately engineered media coverage of the chief executive proudly announcing the scale of the redundancies to the world.

Lord Wilson, who was addressing an Institute event comparing the roles of managers in the public and private sectors, said that the management of change and selection of jobs to be cut did not actually happen at the centre of Whitehall but in hundreds of dispersed departments, agencies and local bodies.

“Between 1979 and 1997 the civil service reduced in size from 746,000 to around 465,000,a reduction in size of nearly 40 per cent. But these dramatic changes took place over a long period and were not announced as such. They were managed progressively by the departments in question with relatively little media coverage to unsettle the workforce,” he told delegates.

He said the key to bringing about change was to win the hearts and minds of public servants, and human resources professionals were key to this process. Their role was not just to manage redundancies but to ensure that those who remained or arrived afresh were motivated and clear about what they were there to achieve.