Headlines: December 23rd, 2010

Government plans to transform public services against the backdrop of £81bn spending cuts over the next four years will fail unless policy makers recognise the importance of supporting a step-change in people and HR management capability, to deliver higher-quality and lower-cost front line services. This call comes from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Public Sector People Managers Association.

The report from the Institute and the Association argues that HR performance in the public sector should be boosted. It warns that 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 report claims 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.

The report highlights the crucial role for HR in vital areas of change. GP consortia, which are taking on a new service commissioning role, need to have the skills to lead and manage changes. Local government managers need to have the capability to work collaboratively with different parts of the public, private and voluntary sector to deliver more cost effective and customer focused services.

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. She added: “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.”