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Performance development change in the Public Sector


Per­for­mance devel­op­ment change in the pub­lic sector

Per­for­mance devel­op­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor is par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing because of the gen­er­al size, scale and com­plex­i­ty of those organ­i­sa­tions. They tend to be more mul­ti-lay­ered than the pri­vate sec­tor, and mak­ing per­for­mance man­age­ment suc­cess­ful requires a focus on effec­tive­ness rather than profitability.

We recent­ly host­ed a webi­nar which focussed on the chal­lenges pub­lic sec­tor organ­i­sa­tions face with per­for­mance, and we were lucky to have (among oth­ers) Leatham Green on the pan­el. Many of our cus­tomers and read­ers know Leatham: he runs the Pub­lic Ser­vices Peo­ple Man­agers Asso­ci­a­tion and has years of expe­ri­ence in senior peo­ple roles, includ­ing a long stint at East Sus­sex Coun­ty Council. 

As ever, Leatham got straight to the heart of the mat­ter. Here are three key tips we took from his talk. For more details, check out the link to the full webi­nar at the end. 

Good per­for­mance devel­op­ment is com­mon sense

He con­trast­ed his life in HR with his pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try, par­tic­u­lar­ly the sort of​‘acci­den­tal­ly good’ per­for­mance man­age­ment that makes great com­mon sense:

  • Reg­u­lar review of what’s worked and what hasn’t

  • Clear feed­back and candour

It’s not about process and method­ol­o­gy so much as see­ing the human need that good PM plays to and the soft­ware that per­for­mance man­age­ment teams use. That’s par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant right now, as pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor organ­i­sa­tions are look­ing at rethink­ing their per­for­mance man­age­ment.

Old habits can die hard

Be sen­si­tive to the process of change. It’s nev­er help­ful to tell peo­ple they’re wrong in pur­su­ing the old ways of appraisal, forms and process. Leatham argues that phras­ing your desire for change in a pos­i­tive way — explain­ing that the old way of doing things may have been right at the time, but that now we have new tools that will deliv­er bet­ter out­comes — is an impor­tant way of bring­ing peo­ple along with you. 

As always, engage­ment is the key. When real-time engage­ment affects every­thing from employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty to the reten­tion of staff, it’s clear that per­for­mance devel­op­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor is more crit­i­cal than ever.

Clar­i­ty is key

Being real­is­tic about the scope of what you do is vital for high per­for­mance and more thor­ough per­for­mance devel­op­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor. The high­­est-per­­for­m­ing indi­vid­u­als and teams have a real­ly clear focus on the key pri­or­i­ties that they need to deliv­er on to move things forward. 

When it comes to OKRs, prac­ti­cal­i­ty is cru­cial. For a broad­er per­spec­tive, we go over the essen­tial changes and cur­rent sta­tus quo of per­for­mance devel­op­ment in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors in our 2021 prac­ti­cal guide for HR teams. In 2021, per­for­mance man­age­ment is as much about using the right soft­ware as it is about the peo­ple in the team being focused on the same clear goals.

The Webi­nar: Per­for­mance devel­op­ment change in the pub­lic sector

Sup­port­ed by the great HR Grapevine team, we’ve brought some great minds togeth­er. In this unique webi­nar, we focus on the chal­lenges of per­for­mance man­age­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor. We dis­cuss how a cul­tur­al trans­for­ma­tion project was man­aged in a Lon­don bor­ough and how momen­tum can be man­aged from the first steps to con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance devel­op­ment in the pub­lic sector.

There’s plen­ty more detail in the talk, plus some incred­i­bly lucid think­ing from Izzie Hur­rell of Basis, who led the imple­men­ta­tion of Clear Review per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware at Waltham For­est Coun­cil. And, of course, it’s all facil­i­tat­ed by our own Dan Anticich. 

You can lis­ten to the webi­nar. We also have a library of oth­er great webi­na­rs with thought lead­ers from across the HR sector.

Final Thoughts

Pub­lic sec­tor man­age­ment teams are prov­ing that remark­able results can be achieved with small­er, more focused projects. Despite hav­ing more lim­it­ed bud­gets than the pri­vate sec­tor, pub­lic sec­tor oper­a­tional and pro­gram­mat­ic changes are more achiev­able than ever with the prop­er focus on per­for­mance devel­op­ment. Of course, that also means know­ing how to mea­sure per­for­mance man­age­ment in the pub­lic sector.

While long-term per­for­mance sus­tain­abil­i­ty remains the chal­lenge, the key is the strength of the per­for­mance man­age­ment process­es being used. While the pri­vate sec­tor is steered by prof­its, mar­ket share and sales fig­ures, the pub­lic sec­tor will always be lim­it­ed by bud­get and polit­i­cal priorities. 

Long-term per­for­mance devel­op­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor is not able to oper­ate in a vac­u­um. Inter­nal and exter­nal pol­i­cy­mak­ers have to focus on sys­tem matu­ri­ty, man­age­ment capac­i­ty and stake­hold­er involve­ment. Goal clar­i­ty is more crit­i­cal than ever, and employ­ee involve­ment is often overlooked. 

Whether you are an HR Direc­tor, man­ag­er, or employ­ee, the last few years have def­i­nite­ly thrown more than a few curve­balls. It’s forced many organ­i­sa­tions to accel­er­ate in terms of dig­i­tal tools, flex­i­ble and hybrid work and their entire busi­ness mod­els. The plus side of the dis­rup­tion is that there was also a seis­mic shift in the think­ing around peo­ple and per­for­mance man­age­ment. When it comes to per­for­mance devel­op­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor, that could be the key to the next big transformation.

Check out the webi­nar right here for more high-val­ue insights into the unique chal­lenges fac­ing per­for­mance devel­op­ment and man­age­ment in the pub­lic sector.