Employers group to focus on strategic HR and pay

The Employers’ Organisation for Local Government is planning to create an
audit team to promote the strategic side of HR in the sector and help it
address the chronic skills shortages across the country.

In an exclusive interview Charles Nolda, executive director at the EOLG,
told Personnel Today that HR must play a greater role in tackling
service-crippling issues including, recruitment and retention problems, an
ageing workforce, and high levels of staff sickness and absence.

"At the moment we have a lot of niche operations," he said.
"I am more interested in the bigger picture and helping HR move away from
an administrative role to the strategic."

To help the profession become more strategic, Nolda plans to create an
internal audit team, which will advise HR departments on how processes and
procedures could be improved.

He has no doubt that reforms to pay negotiations are long overdue in the
sector, following this year’s national strike in local government – the first
for 15 years.

Nolda, who is in-charge of negotiations for 400 local authorities, which
combined employ around 1 million staff, said: "We must look at it [the
current approach to pay negotiations] and ask ‘is it past its sell-by date?’.

"The system is under increasing strain. We look after the interests of
400 authorities some the size of Birmingham employing 50,000 while others
employ 100 and have no HR department. This makes it difficult for a
one-size-fits-all approach."

He believes national pay agreements should be "light touch
benchmarks" that can be adjusted by individual councils to suit their
needs.

"It will be difficult to persuade unions, but if we don’t the system
could collapse. At the local level there is better understanding of pay issues
which makes it easier for councils to make adjustments."

Nolda said the changes would help local government attract and retain staff
and key skills at all levels. "The problem the sector has is that pay is
competitive at the bottom end but not so competitive at professional level.

"A cleaner in the north is on a better rate of pay than their
counterpart in the private sector. But a lawyer employed in local government in
the south is not paid as much [as a lawyer in the private sector]."

Nolda cites the introduction this year of a National Graduate Development
Scheme (NGDS) as the type of project the organisation is keen to develop.

The EOLG received more than 2,400 applications for 50 places on the
programme and set up a website which allows other council’s to view
unsuccessful candidates so the sector does not miss out on potential talented
staff.

"The NGDS will increase the profile of sector and help us catch up with
the NHS and the civil service which have been doing these schemes for years."

Exclusive by Paul Nelson

www.lg-employers.gov.uk

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