Royal Mail part-privatisation threat hinders HR goals

Government threats to part-privatise Royal Mail have created “ambiguity” for the postal service’s HR function, as future goals became increasingly “hazy”.

Earlier in the week, the government announced it still intended to pursue part-privatisation for Royal Mail, which could see up to 30% of the organisation sold off to private competitors.

Speaking to Personnel Today during the Human Resources Forum 2009 onboard the Oriana cruise liner, Simon Haben, head of leadership development at Royal Mail, said the uncertainty was making talent management and strategic decisions more difficult.

“There is a lot of stress and pressure at the moment which is inevitable,” he said. “[Part-privatisation] creates a degree of ambiguity. We actually don’t know exactly what Royal Mail will need in the next six months because of the current political dimensions. We have some idea of what we will need in five years’ time, but we are not sure. Our goals are quite hazy at the moment.”

Haben said despite not knowing which precise areas of the business to focus on, the essential skills needed remained unchanged, and his talent management programme would continue to ensure key skills – including people management and leadership – were delivered.

“For us, talent management is crucial because of the challenges we are going to face ahead,” he said. “It makes sense to develop your own people.”

Refusing to be drawn on any specific details regarding the privatisation plans, Haben added: “We are continuing to examine all possibilities about where the organisation can go. We are continuing to improve our staff engagement and are keeping them up to speed with what’s happening through direct communication.”

Last month, HR director Jon Millidge announced staff at Royal Mail would have their pay frozen as the national postal service attempts to make further efficiencies.

The vote on part-privatisation is expected to be held in the House of Commons next month.

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