Posted tagged ‘restructure’

Job Evaluation

June 22, 2011

Jokes about Reindeers are not as funny in June

It’s a guest post day on WLLG. Today’s poster tackles an area of local government that few dare to tread but is becoming increasingly important; the job evaluation process. If you have a post you’d like to add to the blog please drop us a line at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com but not before you’ve read this excellent post:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that equal pay is a good thing. But pay cuts in the name of equal pay aren’t readily accepted.

Enter the quandary of Job Evaluation.

The 2004 Local Government pay agreement obliged all councils to carry out JE. Roles are assessed and graded on factors including knowledge, mental skills, physical/mental/emotional demands and working conditions.

Some roles stay on existing spinal column points; some increase and some – inevitably –go down. Same is fine, up welcome, but a reduction in scale points, particularly for the low-paid and those at the top of their scale, can cause serious upset.

The mantra of JE is that roles are evaluated, not people. This is a hard fact for those potentially facing a drop in pay, with related effects on salary progression and pensions. While pay protection is usually offered, ranging from months to years, an adverse JE outcome can be a serious blow to individuals’ finances and wellbeing.

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Local Government zombies

June 13, 2011

At least he's dressed appropriately

I promise you that I wrote this piece before I got sight of this wonderful BBC Story. Nonetheless, don’t let that stop you enjoying both the BBC story about a bizarre FOI request and the below, slightly more serious, discussion of ‘undead’ staff.

It is one of the peculiar cruelties of the public sector that once staff have been notified of their imminent departure from their jobs they are then asked to stay on and continue working for three months until their notice has expired.

These people become the local government zombies; they are ‘dead’ and yet they are still here, walking around; ‘undead’.

The HR people in my authority would defend this state of affairs and claim that they are helpgin the zombies. The three months of notice give the staff affected a chance to get their life in order and to find alternative employment. What’s more we have a duty to these staff to offer them a new job through the council’s redeployment scheme. All good arguments that have a certain logic about them.

However, scratch beneath the surface and life for the local government zombie is not much fun at all and here’s why:

1)    In order to receive your redundancy pay you are encouraged to apply for ‘appropriate’ roles through the redeployment pool. This can mean an endless cycle of job applications and supposedly ‘shortened’ job application forms. Obviously, if you get a job through this process it is great but I know people who’s confidence has been shot by applying for endless jobs that they are unqualified for and then not getting any of them. (more…)

Transformation through restructure

May 17, 2011

How many staff will fall?

May is here and many local authorities will have just gone through the first of what is sure to be a number of major restructures to take place over the next three or four years.

At the end of it almost 140,000 local government jobs that once existed no longer exist and a large number of local government employees find themselves redundant and forcibly retired.

However, there are many ways to skin a cat and this set of restructures has demonstrated significantly different approaches from different councils.

In fear of generalising (but doing it anyway) broadly speaking there were two approaches:

1)      The ‘protect our staff’ model

In this model every effort is made by the local authority to find their staff a job. Although the new service structures and job descriptions will be significantly different to what was being done by the current staff lower thresholds will be set to ensure staff are able to transition into the new structure.

Under this model there is no attempt to ensure the removal of ‘deadwood’, by which we mean staff that are not performing up to the level they should be. Nor is there any effort to bring new blood into the organisation through the creation of new posts. The primary aim is to limit, at all costs, the number of redundancies.

In one example I heard about the primary determinant of whether or not a member of staff would receive a job in the new structure was their salary. So, if you were ‘overpaid’ in the old structure that would continue and if you were ‘underpaid’ then tough. This disadvantages those on short term secondments or who are acting up into managerial roles (who tend to be newer in the organisation and keener to get on) and advantaged those who’d got high salaries by dint of spending a long time in the organisation.

This model reassures staff in the organisation during the transition and keeps as many people as possible in post. It assumes that the authority has consistently worked to develop talent and performance managed those staff who are not performing up to standard and that development programmes are in place for all staff going forward.

2)      The ‘we’ll design a structure and then try to get the best staff we can model’

In this model the council designs a structure that they feel will meet the authority’s needs going forward. All staff are told they are at risk of redundancy and have to apply for the jobs in the new structure. If the staff are good enough for the new roles they are appointed but if not the council is comfortable about going out to external recruitment.

In this model ‘deadwood’ is definitely gone and ‘slightly ok wood’ have to prove their worth in interviews.

I know of one council where a team of 15 was reduced to 10 and yet only 7 of them got a job with three posts being advertised externally.

The disadvantages of this model are that it is expensive; making a lot of people redundant is very costly, as is recruitment. It is also very destabilising for the local authority; staff feel under threat for most of the consultation period and subsequently you need to bed in a whole load of new employees.

It is also largely a one off trick; if the local authority has to do it too often then it is evidence of them failing in many other ways.

I don’t know which model is best but here’s my guess:

In one or two year’s time the authorities in model 2 will be far better off than those in model 1. Carrying staff who aren’t quite up to it might seem like a sensible option in the midst of a horrible series of redundancies but long term having exactly the right staff in post can only be of benefit to the authority and local people.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

When flexibility is not a good thing

May 4, 2011

Can you be too flexible?

Thomas Jefferson once said “In matters of principle, stand firm; in matters of style and taste, swim with the current.”  This is something I’ve recently begun to grapple with and something which I’ve noted many others around me also working on in recent weeks.  This is especially true as the financial pressures mount, and older, more experienced staff leave to be replaced by young, less experienced but sharp and keen staff who’s careers are more before than behind them.

Regular readers of this blog will know that some of our writing team (or ‘crew’ as we have also recently been described) have begun to explore this wild waters of middle management.  Stepping up into such a world puts you in strange places.  No longer are you a minion, making the thoughts and ideas of your managers a reality no matter how random, neither are you in a position whereby your whims are other’s commands.

The beauty of local government of course is that being in this position has little if anything to do with how much you earn.  We all know examples of those paid exorbitant stipends with little authority or work scope, whilst others on a pittance seem to be the spider at the heart of the web, with influence far outweighing their hierarchical position and the ability to really shape their part of local government. (more…)

In praise of accountants

January 27, 2011

The bean counters have computers now!

In one of my previous local government incarnations we were going through a restructure and the powers that be had made it clear that, as so often, they would do everything in their powers to ‘protect the frontline’. One of my colleagues, only half in jest I believe, suggested that he was going to print some T-shirts for my team with the slogan: ‘back office staff are people too.’

I’m reminded of this frequently in recent times as politicians, managers, tweeters, bloggers and commentators all talk of implementing cuts that won’t affect the ‘frontline’. The hidden message in this language is that the back-office staff don’t really matter and cutting them won’t really make any difference.

Local Government workers, and hopefully blog readers, don’t need me to tell you that this is baloney. For example, there is not a member of staff who is not 100% reliant on the work of their IT department.

Despite this I recently found myself saying something similar about our finance department. I think my words consisted of something like: ‘there are quite a lot of them down there; what do they do exactly?’ I guess in times of cuts everyone looks for a scapegoat.

I was wrong of course. Good local government accountants are indispensible.

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Guilty feelings

January 18, 2011

Feeling guilty about guilty feelings

Today I properly start my new job.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, as I started it yesterday, but this is the first day when I’ll actually be sitting at my new desk.  Effectively I’ll be doing the same thing as I was before, but in a different service and inexplicably at a higher grade.

And do you know what emotion is coursing through my veins?  Surely I should be happy to be employed when so many others aren’t; relieved that I can continue to support my family; excited about the new challenges ahead perhaps, or even chuffed that I’m valued by others.

Nope.  I feel guilt.

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If a job’s worth doing, do it properly

January 6, 2011

Let's see some proper ideas for a change

I noticed this article recently, which discusses the fact that most Chief Execs won’t take a pay cut as demanded by DCLG.  I can imagine Eric Pickles’ rage and fury that an edict he has issued has been summarily ignored by those in the field.

To be honest, and I’m not going to make friends here, I can see the Chief Execs points.  The cutting of their salary by 5% is hardly going to make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, and is nothing more than a token gesture of solidarity.  In fact it’s not even a very good gesture – if I saw my own chief exec taking a 5% cut I’d still be aware that their remaining 95% was ample to support their lifestyles.

This is typical of the small-mindedness and headline grabbing attention that is getting local government nowhere.  People aren’t worried about whether their chief execs get paid £142,500 or £150,000, they are worried about whether or not four out of five of their team will be made redundant within a few months.

This spending review, and the restructures that go with it, are a chance for us to really look at what services local government should actually really be providing, and to what standards.  We should be looking at the things people need rather than the things people want, or even the things we want to deliver because either they sound good or because we have always provided them in the past.  If a service is needed – and I mean really needed, not just desired – then we should be keeping it and delivering it to at least acceptable if not good standards.  If not, then let’s look at other ways of providing it or simply letting it go.

Instead, from my own experience we are doing none of this.  We are looking at the people in our teams, picking those that we like or those projects which have received a positive response from the media or our bosses and also looking at power bases.  Senior managers are not doing anything which will jeopardise their own status or job security (as demonstrated by Camden in my opinion), and in fact are doing all they can to be the last ones standing.

If we keep focussing on easy targets, like how much a single member of staff is getting paid, we are missing whatever chance we had of making something positive out of this awful financial situation.  Let’s stop looking at a single twig and look at the whole forest.


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