Thursday, 5 November 2015

CIPD Conference Blog #7 of many

After a quick browse around the Exhibition I'm back in a conference session, this time on delivering large scale public sector transformation through effective HR, by Low Peck Kem from the Singapore Public Service. 

This session is of interest to me given my current work in delivering large scale transformation in housing through effective HR. Nowadays I'm not too certain whether we class housing as public, private or voluntary sector, given recent ONS decisions, but we have a lot of people working in housing who used to be public sector and would think of themselves in that way, and a lot of processes and policies that have evolved from a public sector background, so this talk promises to be very relevant. 

Low Peck began by setting the scene for what it's like to live and work in Singapore, a city state with few natural resources but home to an economic miracle, punching very much above its weight. She talked about how the Singapore government worked with unions and businesses to build resilience and withstand the impact of the economic recession, and helped both to train workers and cover loss of productivity. This was an interesting dimension and one I can't imagine happening in the UK either at a governmental or organisational level. 

This helped by establishing a shared understanding of the problems they faced, and a shared vision of where they wanted to be. 

And with the biggest natural resource being their own population, which is declining, Singapore understands the need to invest in its people in lots of ways. Not just in training and development, but in encouraging them to increase the birth rate!

Now that's taking long term planning and state intervention to a whole new level. 

Low Peck talked about performance management transformation. She challenged whether the performance management processes in operation were delivering greater benefits for the individual and the organisation than the time and effort it took to administer such processes.

They weren't. So she stopped doing them and has created new processes. 

She had a number of other examples of similar challenges and drew heavily on her background of working in private sector technology companies such as HP and Agilent. Her focus was to move away from delivering efficiencies, to delivering effectiveness. 

There's a different focus from lots of the change initiatives I've seen, which have been efficiency focused. Not that these aren't good, but they have negative connotations sometimes and can only go so far before the law of diminishing returns begins to apply. So the focus on effectiveness seems more positive for all stakeholders. 

Low Peck continued by stressing the importance of building trust with your employees if you want them to contribute to transformational change and deliver effectiveness. It's probably true that change programmes focused on efficiencies won't have the same degree of employee trust. 

Towards the end of the presentation Low Peck covered what she felt the role of HR was in delivering transformational change. Her main points were:

- ensuring strong leadership
- building engagement amongst officers
- being professional and effective in their own HR services
- develop a future ready public service through partnership working, unleashing potential of workers

She ensured that the HR Directors don't report to her, they report to other operational directors. Her role is to professionalise HR only, and in doing so she relies on five pillars of success:

1. Building one trusted HR community. 
2. Uplifting the capabilities of HR people. 
3. Inspiring careers by building career develpment programmes in the public sector. 
4. Strengthen credibility by making HR fit and effective
5. Collaboration and cross learning by benchmarking and being best in class. 

She finished with a complicated slide on HR strategy that I simply can't type fast enough to translate and haven't got a camera good enough to focus on the small print!

I struggled with this session if I'm honest. Low Peck has clearly achieved a lot, more than I might ever aspire to, but there was a lot of content in here that detracted from the story and the key messages we needed to take away. I'd struggle to distil it into anything I could recount to others after the session, and wonder whether this was the best vehicle for Low Peck explaining her insights and main points. A magazine article in People Management could achieve a lot more. 


Till next time.


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