Industry body issues advice to new Government

With the government’s first Queen’s Speech now delivered and the coalition able to get down to business, new ministers have today been sent a guide to the leadership challenges they face in their first 100 days.

The guide, from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), highlights the challenges involved in motivating a workforce facing severe job cuts, pay restraint and substantial changes to pension benefits, but also expected to deliver substantial changes and improvements in front line service delivery.

Drawing on CIPD research and the experience of the Institute’s 135,000 members, the guide highlights:

  • The low level of trust and confidence commanded by senior managers in the public sector, why this matters, and the steps that new ministers can take to facilitate an improvement in trust
  • The need to work with permanent secretaries and senior managers to ensure that long-term performance is at least as high on the agenda as short-term cost cutting
  • The benefits to be gained from involving front-line staff and managers in the hunt for savings, and in efforts to deliver the Coalition’s ambitious public sector reform objectives
  • The need to lead by example in adopting a positive and productive tone with senior civil servants, and working as a team to deliver change – so that this approach becomes part of the culture throughout the department

 Stephanie Bird, Director of Policy at the CIPD, says: “The ‘first 100 days’ has become a universal yardstick in political life.  It has also been well established in business that the first 100 days as a new leader are crucial in determining whether you succeed or fail.  But the overlap between these two truths has never before been properly explored.

“Tony Blair famously talked about the ‘scars on his back’ from attempting to deliver wide ranging public sector reforms.  And he was operating in a time of plenty – a luxury not available today.  As not just a new Government, but a new type of government, coalition ministers face a truly gargantuan challenge in bringing their civil servants and front-line workers with them on their journey to achieve ambitious changes in delivery and culture. By taking their responsibilities as leaders of a nervous and battle weary workforce seriously, and working with senior civil servants to set a tone and style of leadership that carries rather than cows that workforce, the seemingly impossible could be achieved.

Bird went on to say: “It is possible to motivate people to deliver change in times of adversity.  But it requires great leadership and exceptional management.  These have not always been evident in the public sector.  The new crop of ministers needs to quickly find ways of ensuring the exceptional becomes the norm across their departments.  And they need to recognise that leading by example is the first and most important management challenge in their first 100 days of delivery of the new Government’s agenda.”

 The CIPD guide also notes that the management challenges facing the public sector are also evident across Britain’s private sector, contributing significantly to the UK’s poor performance in the international productivity stakes.  Stephanie Bird adds:

“The Government’s immediate priority must be to get the public sector’s own management house in order.  But there is also a role for government in providing leadership to help the private sector share best practice and raise its management game.  While the public sector can learn lessons from parts of the private sector, poor management is still costing the UK dearly in productivity terms.  Conversely, reversing this trend can deliver greater prosperity for the UK, along with greater resilience to future economic shocks.  The CIPD stands ready to work with Government to address our national management weaknesses.  There is plenty of good practice.  The challenge is to get the rest up to the standards of the best.”

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