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

Dean Royles , 09 Jan 2013

deanroyles

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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Good (and bad) practice is everywhere

Sarah Harvey 10 Jan 2013

I couldn't agree more Dean. I've long felt the public sector has been an easy target for criticism and that the private sector has had an overinflated view of itself, wrongly believing it is where the best business and HR practice lies. I've experienced both sectors and have seen good and bad practices in each but I have to say some of the best HR and OD practice I have experienced has been in local government. It's not perfect, as you have said in your blog, but the public sector has much to be proud of, particularly in the area of values-lead leadership. The strong values driven ethos matched with the agility and commercial focus of the private sector would create a force of good to be reckoned with!

People are people!

Paul Deemer 10 Jan 2013

Absolutely agree Dean. Depeche Mode said it in their song People Are People (although I don't think they were thinking about the work context specifically!). But people are people regardless of which sector they work in. And so they are fallible, vulnerable, difficult and dedicated in equal degrees regardless of whether they work as a doctor or a debt collector. For this reason the HR issues that they present - in relation to attendance, performance and behaviour - are pretty much the same across the piece. The only difference is context - and that is (as you say) where we can learn most from each other - especially as the two sectors continue to work more and more closely together.

People are people!

Paul Deemer 10 Jan 2013

Absolutely agree Dean. Depeche Mode said it in their song People Are People (although I don't think they were thinking about the work context specifically!). But people are people regardless of which sector they work in. And so they are fallible, vulnerable, difficult and dedicated in equal degrees regardless of whether they work as a doctor or a debt collector. For this reason the HR issues that they present - in relation to attendance, performance and behaviour - are pretty much the same across the piece. The only difference is context - and that is (as you say) where we can learn most from each other - especially as the two sectors continue to work more and more closely together.

Embrace Uncertainty Together

Mo Jogi 14 Jan 2013

Timely article Dean that highlights the potential for both sectors to work together. How you may ask? Let me make a suggestion. For sectors to work together they need a major common challenge and what could this be you may ask? The challenge for both sectors is how they can thrive (instead of just survive) in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Over the Christmas break I have been reading the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb he is the best selling author of the Black Swan and foremost thinkers on how to thrive in an uncertain world. He is advising the Prime Minister -in his book ‘Anti fragile’ he talks about how many things in life can benefit from disorder and what Taleb has identified and calls ‘Anti fragile’ are things that not only gain from chaos and uncertainty but need it in order to flourish and survive. Therefore one way HR & both sectors can work together is to collaborate and take the bull by the horns and not just to survive the uncertainty but have the last word.

In this issue: October 2014
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One giant leap: Business, government and education must step up to avoid a skills crisis

 

Icing on the cake: Gregg's talent recipe

 

Behind the story: Rebuilding trust at News UK

 

Beyond appraisals: Fixing performance management

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