Welcome to my Blog

It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Public service reform and the workforce

I was speaking at the Holyrood conference today - Roadmap for Change: Making Christie a Reality. A very good turnout for one of the better conferences on this issue.

My comments focused on workforce aspects of reform. Given the staff intensive nature of public services you might think that the workforce would be a key feature of government strategies. Sadly this has been far from the case over the years, with the workforce being an afterthought in a related HR strategy.

The Christie Commission report and the Scottish Government response is different. They make the workforce central to reform. The workforce is one of the four 'pillars' of Scottish Government reform plans.

Of course we shouldn't get too starry eyed about  this. There couldn't be a more difficult time to engage the workforce. A pay freeze, 21,000 job losses, undermining terms and conditions and of course the current attack on pensions. Public service workers didn't cause the crisis but they are paying the price.

Those staff who are left are being spread more thinly trying to deliver services. So it is important that there is some focus on their needs. Christie recommendations included:
  • Strengthening the public service ethos
  • Workforce development
  • Involvement in designing and improving their jobs
  • Improving the level of autonomy and empowerment
There are two contrasting approaches to workforce involvement in public service reform in Scotland today. A consultant led, top down, one size fits all approach - what I would describe as "one I prepared earlier". The other is a bottom up design of services involving staff and service users. The Systems Thinking approach championed by John Seddon is a good example of this. The former is exemplified by back office factory shared service solutions. Ironically the very approach championed by the sponsor of today's conference - Deloittes. Although interestingly it didn't appear in their presentation!

The bottom up approach can be implemented locally, but other issues need a national approach. These include:
  • A common competency framework
  • Interdisciplinary training
  • Partnership industrial relations
  • Job security
  • National frameworks on procurement, organisational change, pay and pensions.
Change is always difficult but involving the workforce and their trade unions at an early stage is essential to effective change management. There are good examples of this in Scotland, but as in other aspects of reform - others have a long way to travel.

No comments:

Post a Comment