Talent management - Workforce news, April 2015

This latest edition of the Workforce News looks at the important role that talent management can play in helping local authorities to transform their services and increase productivity. 

Luann Donald speaks to talent experts Professor David Clutterbuck and Nigel Carruthers of the LGA about how local government is leading the way on innovative talent management approaches to respond to recruitment challenges and skills gaps and to increase workforce engagement and productivity. And we hear from Hertfordshire County Council about how some of these new talent management practices are helping to transform the council.  

To contact the Workforce Team about any comments and ideas email: workforce@local.gov.uk

Podcast transcript

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 00:14 – 01:05)
Hi and welcome to our latest Workforce News podcast. Today we're going to look again at productivity, but from a slightly different angle this time, from the angle of talent management. Councils are facing increased cuts and increased demands for their services and one of the way of meeting this challenge is to look at our talent and make the most of that talent. So today we've got David Clutterbuck and Nigel Carruthers who are going to talk to us about what do we mean by talent and how do we tap into it? And as always we've got Phil Bundy talking to us about how we shouldn't let the employment law side of things get in the way of how we engage this talent. But first of all we're going to speak to David Clutterbuck and look at his research into talent in our sector. David we're here talking about talent management and the question I have is well what do we mean by that?

David Clutterbuck
(Time: 01:06 – 02:19)
It's a very good question because nobody really knows. When we talk about talent we might mean people who have a specific talent, like being able to kick a football but not much else between the ears which we see. Or we could be talking about everybody in an organisation or we could be talking about the top 1%, or we could just be talking about people who have the potential to go one level higher in the organisation or are perceived to do that, or multiple other things. We don't actually know what we mean by talent and what we find in organisations is people use all of those things interchangeably. So if we're going to manage talent, we have to have some idea what we mean by it, so we talk about three A's . The first one is aspiration, people want to grow and become greater in themselves, they want to better than they are now. We talk about the ability, so the ability to learn in particular. And we talk about the applied energy, if people are not motivated to do things, they're not going to do it. So those three things are about the only things we can identify for people to do have what's needed to be classed as talent in the way that's useful for organisations.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 02:20 – 02:23)
So you said it's useful for organisations, useful for what? Why do we need to pay attention to this at all?

David Clutterbuck
(Time: 02:24 – 03:00)
Well most organisations have got a problem that they don't have enough of - I'm going to use the word pipeline although it's a word I hate, for people who are going up through those organisations. So if they want to have leaders of the future, who really understand the organisation and are able to take the organisation where it needs to go. Then they need to develop both experience and to have the ability to do that. Now finding the people who've both got those three A's and the experience that goes with it, that's a tough one and all organisations are struggling with that one.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 03:01 – 03:05)
So  you've been doing some research on this, how's local government looking in this?

David Clutterbuck
(Time: 03:06 – 04:10)
Well local government surprisingly some might say, is right at the forefront of thinking about this and actually doing things about it and it's partly because faced with the need to actually get more out of people, to enable people to perform better. They've looked at the paraphernalia that's been there before, and they've said well does this actually help us to identify the people that we want to invest in, does it actually help make people more flexible in the roles that they can perform. Does it make them more dynamic, does it release the energy within the people within the organisation. So what they've been doing basically is looking for way they can do those things. So some of the councils have come up with ways of making it easier for people to take on different roles, more flexible roles, change roles. They've made it easier for people to take more control of their own careers and their own self development, while supporting them and so forth and this is at the leading edge of what organisations around the world are trying to do. And so actually in the public sector, in local government sector within the UK, we've actually at the forefront.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 04:11 – 04:23)
So David, some council's are doing really, really well, but I image that there are other councils that are catching up on this. If you could offer a recommendation about what they should do, what would that recommendation be?

David Clutterbuck
(Time: 04:24 – 05:57)
I think the main thing is to change the way that you think about talent. And so most of the processes we've got in organisations typically are linear thinking processes, so they assume that things happen in a linear way, they're very simple and simplistic solutions. And actually we're living in a complex, adaptive world and the way that the employee relates to the organisation is actually complex adaptive system, if you like it's on the edge of chaos, they're constantly evolving and the organisation is constantly evolving. And so taking a complex adaptive system approach to it, which sounds awfully difficult, but actually isn't that difficult, means that you step back and you say ok, how can we stop controlling things and focus on enabling people to take opportunities. So there's lots of different ways where you can actually start thinking differently about how you identify talent, or how you let a talent identify itself to be more accurate. And how you actually then nurture those people and help them to grow. All the things that we've got like nine box grids and leadership competency frameworks so forth, they aren't that helpful as they are used. But what we've found is that if you can change the way that you use them, you don't have to throw them away, if they are helpful in having those kinds of conversations, those four key conversations, then you can use them, it just means a significant shift in the way that we think. And so all we're talking about here is talking with people, understanding people's aspirations so you can release the energy.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 05:58 – 06:06)
We're now going to talk to Hertfordshire County Council about some of the fantastic work they've been doing on some of the issues around talent that David has been talking to us about.

Samantha Holliday, Head of Learning and OD at Hertfordshire County Council
(Time: 06:12 – 10:43)
Why is talent management important at Hertfordshire County Council?
Talent management's important here at Hertfordshire County Council for three key reasons. We know that the external market's picking up and we've lost a number of our talented individuals to other organisations. What's particularly a challenge for us here in Hertfordshire is our proximity to London and competing with the salaries that can be offered by organisations based there. The second is around the fact that we've got fewer senior management positions compared to five or ten years ago, so it's really thinking creatively about the opportunities that we can create for people and that they look different to the opportunities that were around five or ten years ago. But it's also being clear about what skills we want from our future leaders and we've worked hard to articulate those and we will need some very different skills that focuses around system leadership, the ability to network with other people outside your organisations and actually influence the agenda across  the system rather than just within one particular organisation. And then finally around our hard to fill roles so we know that we've got a number of roles that are notoriously hard to fill, particularly in our care community, so actually we've worked hard to think about how we build capacity and capability within those roles, thinking about how we can nurture the people that are already there to bring them on to fill future and potential gaps that we might have later on.

What is Hertfordshire County Council doing to attract talent?
The first would be around developing our careers pages to try and myth bust some of the perceptions about working in local government. The second being about developing our employer brand so we're really clear about what it is that we expect from people when they work here and also what we've got to offer people. And thirdly around our employment proposition linked to the last point around really being clear about what the benefits are for someone joining Hertfordshire and we're really going to focus on marketing those a lot more in the future. We've also focussed a great of energy around designing really purposeful jobs, so with backdrop of say the Care Act and the integration of Health and Social Care it's meant our landscape's really  different so we have to reflect that in our job design.

How is Hertfordshire County Council retaining it's talented people?
So from a retention perspective, we're really had to think about what opportunities we can create within the council, particularly around projects and giving people stretch projects, we've also thought about what it means in terms of our future leadership capability and competency and we've thought very hard about what our future leadership programmes will look like and we very much have the ambition that we want to deliver this in partnership with other organisations in Hertfordshire, so we grow a Hertfordshire leader and also we've developed our own competency framework which looks at modernising what we expect of our colleagues in leadership positions. We know and recognise that our flexible working practices are things that keep people at Hertfordshire, so we're just embarking on a huge cultural change programme called 'enabling the worker' which looks about how we can be digital by default and actually really agile in our approach to working and we measure all of this every year in a staff survey which looks at our engagement index and we're very proud that we've increased our engagement index year on year.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 10:44 – 11:12)
That was a great insight from the work the council's doing and we're now going to speak to Phil Bundy about some of the issues around how we reward that talent. So Phil we've heard David talking about talent, what it is and how to get it and obviously we need to reward that talent he talked about, applying that energy and motivating staff. You can do that in many different ways but pay is one of the obvious ones to do it and I think councils have been a bit nervous about changing pay systems and rewarding talent in that way, isn't that right?

Philip Bundy, Senior Employment Law Adviser, LGA
(Time: 11:14 – 11:41)
Sure and one of the reasons for that is that we automatically think oh no there are equal pay, equality issues, but I think the key message on this and I think that many councils are already well aware of is as long as you've got transparent, fair, justifiable pay systems, there's no problem with having a pay system that rewards people differently. The key though is having evidence to show that there is a link between what you're doing and that evidence is up to date - a link between what your doing and actually the pay that people are getting.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 11:42 – 11:47)
So the key message is we can do it but are there any particular issues that councils need to look out for?

Philip Bundy, Senior Employment Law Adviser, LGA
(Time: 11:48 – 12:22)
Well I suppose one thing you need to think about is quite often when you're doing things like this you may be looking at paying different groups of workers, on different sorts of pay and benefits systems and you need to keep an eye out where you've got groups of workers that are doing equal work, where perhaps a group of those workers is mainly made up of women, then there could be equal pay challenges on that basis. But the point there is that as long as you can basically say at the end of the day what we're doing is rewarding pay, providing pay for this purpose and you're seeing the outcomes from that, then you should be able to head off any challenges fairly easily.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 12:23 – 12:44)
Thank you Phil that was really useful as always. We're now going to speak to Nigel Carruthers whose part of the workforce team here at LGA and he's been leading the workforce team's activities on supporting councils in their work on talent management. So Nigel we've heard what talent is, why we need it, why it's so important to pay attention to it, so what are we doing at LGA to support councils with this.

Nigel Carruthers, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 12:45 – 12:44)
We do lots of things here at the LGA to support councils. I mean the first thing we did was identify this was a challenge. Councils talked to us about it and said that one of the difficulties they were having is retaining the right people. Identifying those right people, making sure they've got the right skills, at the right time and in the right place and how do they do that. For me what we're talking about is identifying those people that are performing well and also identifying those kind of people we need for the future and putting those to things together in a sense. What does high performance look like in the future and are the people who are performing well now, the people we need to retain, the standards that we need to maintain and improve upon. How do we actually drive everyone up towards that high level of performance and therefore how do we retain them and move forward. So what we've been looking at is a number of different interventions to get us towards that space. I think we're looking at four key offers going forward for the LGA. We have our decision making accountability and organisational design support offer and I think most councils who we've engaged with who've done that are finding that really, really helpful to give then some real clarity around the kind levels of responsibility they want in the new organisation structures and we're very good at being able to look at what councils have got as an existing structure and where they're trying to get to in terms of their new visioning piece and actually help them  create an organisation that does that. The second part of that  jigsaw as it were is looking at the whole motivational piece, that whole productivity piece around where have we got high performance in our workplace and we can help to identify that through the EVP product which looks at a whole range of data and identifies where high performance is, why it is high performance and actually how we can start to look at the particular offers that you make as an employer to your employee and how you can enhance those and primarily what were talking about there is what motivates people at work. So again we can help look at that, what is high performance in the workplace. We can then look at another offer specifically around looking at people's competency within the organisational structure i.e when you look at the values of an organisation, the direction you want to go in, we can help you to start to develop those competencies that you want to see in that workforce for the future. So again it supports what we've already talked about in terms of EVP and supports our organisational design process. I suppose that when you look at talent management, and we've heard of course David talk earlier, that whole piece around the research that we did and the lessons that we found out and the good practice that we found, we have that within the talent report, so that report will be available, in fact it's on our website now and you can get access to it and you can download it and you can look at the kind of recommendations that David has given us as a sector and  the challenges he's given us as a sector and I guess it's watch this space in terms of how we go out and support councils around talent management.

Luann Donald, Senior Workforce Adviser, LGA
(Time: 12:23 – 12:44)
Thank you to Nigel. obviously a lot of work going on there and I wish we had more time because there's so much more we could tell you about the work we're doing to support councils on this topic of talent management and productivity and all of that, but you can find all of the information on our website and if you have any questions or information about the topic, you can email us on the usual address which is, workforce@local.gov.uk.





Previous editions

November 2014