Civil Service to launch HR business partner development programme

The Civil Service is to launch a new HR business partner development programme to help functions deal with looming Whitehall budget cuts, Personnel Today has learned.

Earlier in the year the government revealed plans to slash public sector budgets by £15bn by 2013-14, while the Conservatives have pledged to cut Whitehall budgets by 10%.

It is understood that hundreds of jobs could be cut across back office roles, including HR, to protect front-line services.

Jacquie Heany, deputy director of the civil service’s HR professionalism team, told Personnel Today Whitehall functions were set to launch a new development programme for all 1,459 civil service business partners, to help create a consistent approach to the change agenda and the meeting of business needs.

She added the changes would present “the leadership challenge of a generation”, but Whitehall HR functions had the capability to deal with the task and had been preparing for this for the past 18 months.

“We have some business partners that are fantastic, we have some that are good at some things but not others – it’s like any workforce,” she said. “So what we are trying to do is make sure that, when we know what the [change] agenda is, we have a consistent programme to make sure that the business function is ready, willing and able to cope with it.

“As we go forward, and there are so many challenges, I think business partners will really be at the forefront of those challenges.”

The new programme will be launched in January across the Civil Service.

Business minister Ian Lucas added private and public sector HR professionals had a “very demanding agenda” ahead of them. He told Personnel Today: “HR people need to look for and identify good leaders, they need to find and identify good practice within their sector and work together, communicate with other HR directors in different organisations about what works, and work collectively to improve.”

Meanwhile, Heany reiterated that civil service HR teams – currently consisting of 8,823 people – would inevitably shrink as budget cuts took effect. She refused to be drawn on the size of the scale-back expected.

She said: “The numbers in HR will go down, there’s no question of that, just as the numbers in the Civil Service will go down.”

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