Communication the key to changes at Home Office

Communication, understanding and staff input are the keys to managing
difficult change, says the Home Office’s head of HR.

John Marsh, group HR and change director for the Home Office, has the tough
task of managing personnel through a massive restructuring of one of the
country’s most high-profile organisations.

Complicating matters is the controversial change of headquarters early next
year and calls for the department to shift its workforce out of London.

But his most difficult job is overseeing a reduction in the Home Office’s
workforce by more than a third – about 2,700 jobs are to be shed over three

"We’ve got to get the communication right on this one. We have to be
very open and honest about the scale of reductions," Marsh said.

Seeking staff input into where changes could be made was also important,
although it was unrealistic to think there would not be some disaffection.

"Uncertainty will bring that. We try to explain that we’re going to
make every effort to deal with staff in a voluntary rather than compulsory way,
and that, potentially, [the remaining] jobs are going to be more

The cutback is an important part of the Home Office’s five-year delivery
plan to the Government. A draft, to be published in July, will also set new
service targets in areas such as crime reduction and immigration clearance.

"The critical part for HR is how do you reform the department to
deliver these more demanding targets? That again is where we’ve really been
putting a lot of work in," he said.

Another complex task is the upcoming shift into the Home Office’s new £310m
Westminster headquarters. The move has been criticised as poorly planned
because staff numbers exceed the new building’s capacity.

The possibility of moving up to 2,500 workers out of London had been looked
at, Marsh said.

"The reality though is that there will be a cost associated in terms of
infrastructure [and] staff. Part of the discussion is going to be around
whether it is affordable to move out."

For a full interview with Marsh and to hear his views on how politics
affect public sector HR, see next week’s Personnel Today

By Paul Yandall

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