Focused approach needed to address council shortages

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Skills Council would help solve crisis over retention and attract new bloodRecruitment and retention in the public sector has hit the headlines withthe release of the Audit Commission’s latest report (News, 3 September). It isthe perennial crisis story of public employers striving to attract the besttalent. But the real picture is more complex and begs the question: whichcrisis are we dealing with exactly? While the NHS and central government agencies can speak for themselves,local government has its own distinctive characteristics. It has selectiverecruitment and retention problems in the middle ranks of some professions andcertain geographical areas – most notably, the South East. Problems are becoming increasingly severe in some areas, and there is amajor need to confront the age profile of the workforce by recruiting youngerstaff. The Audit Commission suggests a number of proposals for local employers,central government and national bodies, designed to re-invigorate the publicsector ethos and make working for the public sector more rewarding. However, there are specific actions that need to be taken by localauthorities in response that will not be addressed by improved recruitmentstrategies and better working environments. The Employers Organisation intendsto work with the Audit Commission and others to develop policies that will workfor local government. In many professions that are more or less unique to local government –public safety work such as trading standards or building control, for instance– there are problems in bringing new, suitably qualified people into theworkforce. Better co-ordination is needed to develop personal developmentprogrammes and provide training opportunities. It would help if local government had a sector Skills Council to lead thedevelopment of professional qualifications in partnership with relevant prof-essional bodies. We will continue to lobby government to put such anorganisation in place. It also cannot be denied that a clear career path in critical localgovernment professions could be enhanced in some cases by an ability to providemore flexible rewards for the best staff. We are helping local government toconfront this sticky issue of pay. Pay system modernisation, based perhaps onnewly developed competency and appraisal systems, will be a central issue forcouncils during the next few years. Although the resources available are limited, better value for the pay billand suitable rewards for the best performers need to form part of the rewardpattern. Greater flexibilities have already been built into the national paystructure to encourage this, but more work needs to be done. An important focus for this achievement will be the proposed National JointCommission on Local Government Pay and related issues that form part of theAcas-suggested settlement of the recent pay dispute. The unions may strongly believe that recruitment problems in local governmentaffect the lowest paid jobs, but local employers know that this isn’t usuallythe case. Councils need to plan for where the problems really hit them. The Employers Organisation feels that improved recruitment and retentionpolicies must be developed as part of a much more strategic approach to HRmanagement in local government that places people at the heart of the missionto improve services. In our recent publication, Productivity, Performance &Improvement, for example, we have been exploring the relevance of highperformance HRM practices for local government, and developing an eight-pointplan for priority HR interventions. This includes improved recruitment andretention policies linked to proper management development, improved team-basedworking, and sickness absence management. We are glad that the Audit Commission agrees that HR management reallymatters in local government, but the hard work starts with the development of ameaningful set of policy recommendations that can eventually deliver this. By Rob Pinkham, the deputy executive director of the EmployersOrganisation for Local Government Focused approach needed to address council shortagesOn 17 Sep 2002 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more