A local government HR department has been singled out for particular praise
for its role in transforming a failing council in the north of England.

The Government’s Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) programme cited
Doncaster Council’s HR strategy as key to it improving to gain a ‘fair’ rating.

It has been identified as one of the fastest improving councils in the
country, after a history of poor services and corruption.

From 1997 to 2001, the council hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Councillors were jailed after an expenses fraud scandal, while other staff were
accused of junketing at the taxpayers’ expense, and a planning official was
sent to prison after accepting benefits from a local businessman.

Mandy Coalter, head of HR at the council, which employs 14,500 staff, said
the people management strategy was fundamental to the turnaround, and services
have improved dramatically.

The HR strategy was built directly into the council’s overall strategy, and
CPA inspectors found that all the staff they spoke to could identify the
borough’s transformational goals. These included increasing employment in the
borough and tackling deprivation.

There has been a drive towards better training and improving the employer
brand to make the council more attractive to potential employees and more
efficient in delivering services.

"The strategy breaks down into very specific targets and everything we
do in HR is aimed at delivering them," Coalter added. "We’ve
modernised Doncaster by focusing on improving skills."

HR introduced regular staff meetings and managerial briefings every six
weeks. It also insisted the chief executive was present at every induction in a
bid to get the whole workforce moving towards common goals.

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