HR has much to learn from the public sector

The government needs to listen closely to solicitor general Harriet Harman, who is calling for public sector people strategies to be placed high up on its agenda if it wins the next general election.

Harman revealed exclusively to Personnel Today that she is to challenge senior leaders in the public sector to take another look at HR strategies, and to make better use of HR departments.

The contribution by human capital to the public services hasn’t yet been explored and, certainly, it is about time it was. No doubt, public services are sitting on a lot of talent they simply don’t know about – people who, given the right encouragement and support, could rise up through the ranks to make a huge contribution to their organisation’s success, not least because they’d spent years working the ‘shopfloor’.

While it’s in listening mode, the government should lend an ear to the Society of Personnel Officers in Government Services (Socpo). It has a new president – Jan Parkinson – who wants Socpo to become much more vocal on public policy matters, with louder input into debates, such as pensions and leadership. Socpo could, if it builds the right muscle, become an important influencer in future government policy and thinking.

The public sector may lag behind the private one in terms salary, but in many cases, it holds the key to best practice, as our public sector special reveals this week. Witness, for example, Greater Manchester Police’s initiatives to change its culture and empower staff at local levels. Or turn to how public sector HR leaders are tackling diversity issues. No doubt those of us in the private sector could learn a lot from how the NHS is getting staff involved in formulating workplace policies. Certainly, we could borrow a heap of good ideas about recruitment and retention.

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