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.