Can Government learn anything from Branson’s Employer Brand?

In the recent article “Branson’s employer brand Jessica Collingwood

Group People Director at Virgin explained why the organisation was an employer of choice. It’s down to the company ethos which is take care of your staff and they will take care of your customers this is embedded in the company culture. It delivers profits and higher shareholder value and everyone is relevantly happy company is described as a “funky” and “young” place to work.

Along with this effective ethos being human when dealing with staff, stakeholders, suppliers and customers is key.  As is allowing staff some flexibility and independence to work outside the script and understanding that one size does not fit all.  Whether that’s with staff or customer groups another factor is a relatively stable management team over a long period. Virgin does have problems like any other company and the average age of it’s workforce is higher than the funky young label might make you believe.  Collingwood describes it as a young at heart company.

So how does this relate to branding and employee engagement in local government? Many surveys from government and professional bodies have highlighted that very few councils are good at getting across the benefits of working for them.  It’s not rocket science so why is it so? First most HR&OD departments have been dealing with legislative implementations, various reviews leading to higher numbers of appeals and grievances.  This at a time when the workload is increasing and the staffing and budgets decreasing. In short they are wanting to get around to it, understand its importance to the business but there is just to much other really really important stuff to do.

Second and more importantly the minute you start to talk about the benefits of working for local government the unions and some disgruntled staff will immediately point out what has and is going to be taken off them. Which is a disincentive that does need addressing so let’s do that now.

In the last three years large numbers of local government staff have seen the following:

Reductions in pay due to restructures or job evaluation

No pay rise for a third year running

Increases in pension contributions, and having to work longer before getting a lot less than they thought they would on retirement

Loss of holiday entitlement  – up to 5 days by 2014

Loss of other benefits such as free parking

Reduction in training and development

No clear career path or promotional prospects

What is going to happen in the future?

The chancellor has signalled 1% max pay rises in the next two years

Significant budget reductions after 2015 meaning further job losses, pay cuts and loss of more benefits

Local pay which many believe is a means of reducing pay further

One other thing I must mention as I am sure someone else will if I don’t is that redundancy pay is not usually as generous in local government as it is in the private sector.

So why would anyone want to work for local government?

 

The pay is comparable or above local rates for some types of work

The pension although being reduced is still better than many private companies offer

Even though holiday entitlement is being reduced it is still better than many private sector companies

There are some good jobs and great careers in local government

The work life balance and flexibility is generally better than the private sector

There is a sense of doing something that matters for society and the community

There is often a good team spirit

Some of the problems local government face are similar to the private sector but others mean that it is not possible to stay as stable for such a long period like Virgin.

Private companies generally have a number of products they sell and a board responsible for funding strategy and direction.  Local government has a plethora of funding streams which are often conditional, the number of products and services they are responsible for is also wider than those of private companies. There are also many more political considerations and obstacles for local government Chief executives and their management teams.

These things do make it a challenging and often frustrating environment to work in.  Lack of funding means creative and innovate methods have to be found to deliver services.  It would be helpful to local and central government employees if our political masters would refrain from making it sound as though all the country’s ill’s are public servants fault. Like most other working people local government employees are trying to cope with the recession the best they can.  When was the last time you heard Richard Branson or Bill Gates denigrate their employees?

We keep hearing of a crisis of leadership and that management in this country is failing. Maybe it’s time our political classes learned how to motivate and enthuse instead of playing the blame game. Positive dialogue will increase the brand image of local government  and make it an employer of choice.

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Statistics are they useful, meaningless or are they there to be manipulated for your own ends?

Not a week goes by without another government department , union, institute or consultancy releasing a plethora of statistics about almost anything you care to think about.  The economy, manufacturing, the service sector and employment; the number of jobless is one area where a government minister will tell us it’s great news the total number of jobless has fallen.  Sounds great doesn’t it we can all take a sigh of relief can’t we?

On the surface that is fantastic but then we get the statistics from the Office for National Statistics which confirms what the minister said. You are dumbstruck at this point aren’t you a government minister actually told us the truth. Yes he did but a version of the truth that suited at the time for that televised soundbite. The real truth is a mixed bag that paints a slightly different picture.  Let’s look at the figures in more detail;

On the Plus side

  • The number of jobseekers dropped by 13,700 to 1.59 m in April
  • The number of people with jobs rose by 105,000 to 29.23m
  • The number of self employed rose by 89,000 to 4.1m
  • Exports rose to a 36 year high

The Government is also putting incentives forward for firms to take on apprentices and the long term unemployed.

On the minus side

  • The number in part time jobs who want a full time job rose by 73,000 to 1.4m.  The highest total since records began in 1992
  • The number unemployed for more than a year rose by 27,000 to 887,000
  • Youth unemployment is very high and a concern
  • The number of self employed rose by 89,000 to 4.1m

 The IMF is telling the chancellor that Britain is not out of the woods and interest rates need to be cut along with the severity of austerity measures There are still significant job cuts to come in 2102/13 in the public sector Another cohort of School, College and University graduates will join the job market in July. The Euro zone crisis will more than likely have a further negative impact on Britain

The picture doesn’t look quite as rosy after reading those statistics as the initial soundbite would make you believe. The figures for the next quarter should prove to be interesting and I wonder what they will show if the above exercise is repeated?  We have all ignored statistics that don’t fit our view so how do you use statistics?