Director of NHS Employers: 'It is time to highlight the similarities and shared approaches to the challenges and learn from each other'


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It feels like a good time to be working in HR doesn't it? In fact it feels like a great time to be working in HR... challenging, yes; character building, absolutely; but it is also a time of great influence and the opportunity to demonstrate added value.

The credit crunch, banking crisis, public sector squeeze, European financial concerns, youth unemployment, the fiscal cliff, etc have all thrown up questions about how organisations are run, their values, their culture as well as the bigger society issues of morality and corporate social responsibility. Everyone I speak to in HR has a view and opinion on these issues and is seeking to address some fundamental issues in their organisations through strategies, business plans, social media initiatives, big conversations, policies, procedures, etc ... and a long hard look in the mirror.

I could go on to say that it is perhaps easy to feel a bit smug if you are working in HR in the public sector. After years of unfavourable comparisons to the private sector, the public sector has at times felt bruised, unloved and perhaps inadequate when it comes to comparisons about pace, efficiency and productivity, performance management and a seeming inability to execute on large change management programmes like IT infrastructure replacements.

But after LIBOR, Barclays, G4S or Woolworths and the bad press they recieved, it is perhaps tempting to gloat isn't it?

The public sector has its own problems but it continues to deliver largely high-quality services, with often exceptional customer satisfaction scores and health, as well as high staff engagement scores. Costs are reduced, productivity is improved, industrial action is minimised and investments in training are often maintained.

However, I believe that rather than exacerbate the difference between private and public sector management, it is time to highlight the similarities and shared approaches to the challenges and learn from each other. For example, I think the NHS has some great stories to tell about delivering services 24/7 despite enormous change programmes. When did you see a hospital A&E department close for staff retraining or refurbishment?  I think the public sector can learn a great deal about return on investment from training and development initiatives from many parts of the private sector, or about introducing a culture of innovation and continuous improvement from organisations in the IT sector.

In HR one thing is constant, whether in the private or public sector. Effective HR is always about ensuring our organisations have the capacity and capability to meet the challenges our organisations face today, as well as a deep understanding of how we develop our people for future challenges and opportunities.

If we share stories and learn from each other that has got to be better for the people and organisations we lead, hasn't it?

I'd like to see some case studies and conferences highlighting shared agendas, common challenges and imaginative solutions, and celebrate them irrespective of the sector they originate in.

Dean Royles (pictured) is director of the NHS Employers organisation. Royles was also ranked number 1 in our Most Influential Practitioners list 2012.

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