Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Expert opinion

The difficult financial climate has thrown up a new range of human resources challenges. Management is still about managing budgets and people, promoting good practice while challenging the bad, managing change and getting people to do what needs to be done. But budget cuts, service reductions and concern about service standards mean there is a lot more potential for conflict than there used to be.

HR has always had a significant contribution to make to the smooth running of an organisation by ensuring a fair recruitment process, advising over changes in working practices, supporting absence management and trying to resolve grievances. Looking back these now seem like gentler times.

A harsh financial climate has forced managers to cut services, make staff redundant and get tough on absenteeism. Now there is concern that all of this has produced managers lacking in compassion, which has consequences, not just for management style, but how tenants and residents are viewed.

The pressure to deliver changes, make efficiencies and hit performance targets has led to bullying and harassment claims. I have worked with a number of managers who have felt that, against such allegations, they are required to demonstrate their innocence with little support from their organisation.

Concern about the provision of services has prompted some employees to become whistle-blowers and concern that disgruntled ex-managers may expose the real and human cost of business ‘transformation’ has led some public sector organisation to impose gagging orders.

Managers have not escaped the cuts to posts. Management restructuring has led to redundancies and experienced managers have found themselves applying for their own job or struggling in a job market where they get interviews, but no job offers.

Will I still have a job this time next year? Will it be the same job? Will I find myself outsourced to some private sector company with a totally different ethos? Will there be more changes at the top of the organisation with whatever that means for priorities and working practices? Will I have yet another new manager who has no background or knowledge in my area of work?

If you find yourself asking these questions, you are not alone. The best advice I can give is that management skills are transferable, but you will have to be prepared to move outside your comfort zone. Those who adapt survive, and even prosper.

Blair McPherson is a former director of community services at Lancashire Council. He also writes management books

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