What are the challenges of the role?
The first is Brexit, which I hadn’t anticipated. We need to look at our workforce and see how we might be affected. Freedom of movement [across the European Union (EU) countries] meant we never had to do that before.
There are people saying “great, we can get rid of all the laws imposed on us by the EU”, but a lot of the employment law we’ve taken is good for our workforce; for example, equalities legislation. We can’t have a nation turning on itself, we must work at valuing diversity, and acknowledge that we need migration to deliver some of our most important services, such as the NHS.
We also need to value senior talent and what it takes to lead public services or they’ll be picked off by the private sector, which pays more. We’re almost the victims of our own success, we’ve bred some really talented people. But the advantage we have, especially in local government, is a direct connection to the people in our communities. We don’t just make a difference, our work has an impact. I know that if people in my organisation are well managed and supported, their ability to deliver on the frontline is multiplied.
I see HR’s role as a back-office role, my team and I are the ‘force multipliers’: we multiply the functionality of the frontline. I always emphasise to my teams that what they’re doing here makes a difference and has an impact. That’s what’s keep people in public service.
A third challenge is perma-austerity – but I feel that’s something we’ve had to learn to live with.