Public sector workers must be given more freedom to improve the services their organisations offer, according to a leading employee relations expert.
Nita Clarke, two months into her role as director at workplace consultation body the IPA, insisted it was not just the private sector that should focus on boosting staff autonomy. Making the most of workers’ creativity across all sectors was of vital importance for the UK to compete in the globalised economy, she said.
“The UK economy has been bedevilled by low productivity and short-termism for decades,” Clarke told Personnel Today. “Employers have to ask the question: ‘How do we organise our workforce? Are our systems designed to enable people to give their best?'”
Clarke, who advised Tony Blair on industrial relations during his time as prime minister, said state employers needed to come up with effective workforce strategies.
“I think the public sector needs to think about this very seriously,” she said. “If I have a criticism of our work at Number 10, it is that we were never quite sure whether public services staff were the agents of change or the obstruction to it.
“With the new emphasis on how to reform public services, staff have to be part of these reforms.”
A good example of this was the government’s pledge to deliver treatment for patients within 18 weeks of their referral. “It will be important for the NHS to empower people at ward level to come up with ways to deliver the 18-week pledge,” said Clarke.