The Public Sector People Managers’ Association (PPMA) launched its Rising Stars programme last year to identify future HR leaders. The aim is to nurture talent, help future leaders develop a strong professional network and raise their profile among potential employers. The PPMA is focussed on developing resilience, engagement, partnership working, innovation and gravitas. The programme includes a masterclass in communication and creating personal impact. A total of 17 stars participated in the first year.
Leatham Green, Assistant Director of Personnel and Training at East Sussex County Council and one of the leaders of Rising Stars, says the programme gives participants the skills to cope with “the sheer pace of change” which HR managers now have to drive in their organisations. Advising chief executives, directors and senior politicians on the best way to deliver the changes they are pushing through, in the face of sharp funding cuts and greater public expectations of efficient and integrated services, is central. “As an HR professional you have to be resilient to challenge people at a more senior level,” Green says.
Engagement and communication skills are critical for HR managers having to translate hard-nosed business decisions into new ways working for staff, and often into job losses. Green stresses you cannot implement change successfully by simply “being dictatorial and telling”. The new HR stars may well find themselves helping managers, who have never had to cope with such major changes, talk with staff early and openly about what
faces them: “You need to engage with the manager and sell them the benefits of doing that and taking that leap of faith.”
The response of East Sussex to the funding and performance pressures typifies the way public sector managers are increasingly expected to build partnerships and networks between organisations. The council shares a Head of Communications with Medway Council and its procurement service with Surrey County Council. “It is not necessarily about doing everything ourselves, but about finding the best people and working with them. I have seen a lot more of local government partnering up together to deliver excellence,” says Green.
This reduces the need for public sector bodies to fight for the services of the best staff. “We are bringing best practice from both organisations… sharing that knowledge rather than going out to compete for an expensive resource. Great people are difficult to recruit, so if someone has got one of them and we can share, that’s what we’ll see more of.”