The energy to transform local government HR

The
Society of Personnel Officers in Government Services elects its new president
this week, and he unashamedly enthusiastic about transforming perceptions of
the local government and the public sector in general. Wendy Ledger reports

Alan
Warner already leads a very busy life, but its about to get a lot busier. As
corporate director (people and property), with Hertfordshire County Council, a
father of two, a die-hard Chelsea fan and an outdoor enthusiast, Warner is
convincing when he says he still has more than enough energy for his new role
as president of the Society of Personnel Officers in Government Services
(Socpo). He will take over from Mary Mallet at this year’s Socpo conference in
Brighton on 10 March), an event that Warner sees as an ideal platform for him
to set the stage for his period as president.

“I
want people to feel energised at this year’s conference,” he says. “We need new
ideas and fresh energy in order to tackle the challenges we face within our
sector.”

Warner
has spent his entire career working in the public sector and for the majority
of that time he has been an HR specialist. He has worked for the Royal Borough
of Kensington, as well as the London Borough of Brent before moving to
Hertfordshire County Council.

A
member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Warner
has a committed history with Socpo having been chair of the eastern region for
the past six years and more recently vice-president of the society.

Warner
joined the organisation in 1987 when he took a senior post with Hertfordshire
and described his membership as a learning experience.

“When
I took the new post with Herts I was keen to network with others in similar
roles to widen my own perspective,” he says. And Socpo provided that forum.

Socpo
started life in 1976 after a few like-minded personnel officers dreamt up the
idea in a pub in Derby. Initially the society was little more than an
opportunity for personnel chiefs to get together, share ideas, a few moans and
groans, and, not surprisingly, the odd drink or two.

Gradually,
however, changes in local government, in the society itself and in the human
resources (HR) profession generally, the organisation changed from an informal
network to a professional society campaigning on people management issues,
leading the way in local government and in the wider public sector. Membership
is now open to the civil service as well as local government authorities and
their associated services.

Warner
could shape up as a hands-on president and his enthusiasm for Socpo and the
challenges ahead are clear and encouraging. There is no doubt that the
public-sector faces many challenges and Warner is convinced that his members
should be at the forefront of the changes ahead.

“I
am bringing a great deal of enthusiasm for the subject”, says Warner. “As well
as focused ideas and clear views of what Socpo should be doing, I intend to
make sure the issues that are important to society are placed on agendas in all
the right places. I will be meeting with people of influence from a variety of
organisations such as the TUC, Stonewall and other equality groups to directly
push Socpo’s position on diversity, leadership, modernisation and change. I’ll
also ensure that Socpo works with government working parties and that our views
are out there.”

“We
are looking at a sector facing lots of pressure” he says. “The introduction of
CPA [comprehensive performance assessments] is placing local authorities under
direct scrutiny.

"The
public sector is labour intensive, which means HR and workforce development
strategies are increasingly important. Local authorities will have to modernise
the employment experience and raise their games when it comes to leadership and
staff development. In the end it is the people that will ensure that local
authorities achieve an excellent rating.”

Warner
is also keen to ensure the old adage of ‘private sector good, public sector
bad’ is laid to rest.

“It
is not the case that one is bad the other good, it is a matter of difference
and there are areas in which the public sector has led the way. We have
certainly led the field in matters of diversity and equality and right now
there has never been a better time for those working within HR in the public
sector to take the lead in organisational development, organisational change,
developing people and seizing the modernisation agenda.

"We
need to ensure that we are adapting to the needs of the modern society and stay
aware of the rapidly developing changes.”

Warner
is concerned that HR issues in general have slipped down the agenda across the
board in recent times, but with his enthusiasm and commitment to the future of
HR within the public sector, Warner will be doing everything he can during his
presidency to ensure that decline is reversed.

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