Headlines: September 25th, 2007

A survey of attitudes of public sector employees shows that managers in national and local government need to focus more on securing commitment and to put greater effort into staff development to improve employee engagement. The report also challenges HR professionals to take a more proactive role in supporting managers.

Research into employee attitudes underlying the report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found 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. The report notes that these findings are in line with the Capability Reviews of government departments which reveal poor levels of employee engagement.

The public sector has to manage a significant change agenda and at the same time it needs to deliver “more for less” by making substantial reductions in manpower. Employee motivation and development are vital to achieve the better performance demanded. 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.”

HR practitioners in the public sector are finding it difficult to overcome the challenges they face in becoming more business focused and strategic. They need to 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.

The report includes many examples of the practical steps being taken by HR managers to respond to the challenges presented by the change agenda. It also identifies some key areas for progress including the need for HR to help managers to get the best from their people and address performance issues and being prepared to make tough choices and take action to make an impact.

HR professionals are urged 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.