The UK public sector workplace is disempowered and can’t cope with change 0

Manchester_town_hallA new report claims that the typical public sector workplace in the UK is dysfunctional on a number of levels. That is not the conclusion of some right wing think tank, but instead comes from Civica’s Invigorating the Public Sector Revolution report, commissioned in partnership with Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE). Based on a survey of 276 senior and middle management staff, a mere 7 percent of respondents said that the public sector offered an empowering working culture and just 25 percent believe their management teams have the skills and attitudes to lead the organisation over the next ten years. Of particular concern was the ability of organisations to cope with change. Just under half (47 percent) of those surveyed believe their leadership team lacks the management skills needed for ‘a period of massive and accelerating change’.

The report concludes that there should be a nationally funded training programme to equip senior public sector leaders with the skills they needed to manage change and create a more flexible and empowering working environment.

Other findings of the report include:

  • Over a third (36 percent) of respondents want public sector leaders to invest in the creation of more flexible and agile working environments.
  • Around a quarter (27 percent) said they believe that their leaders need to embrace modern working practices to aid change.
  • A similar proportion (30 percent) said a lack of clear leadership and direction was holding the sector back from implementing change effectively. Two-thirds (66 percent) put this down to leadership only caring about how they are perceived and not about employees.
  • A third (36 percent) of middle managers claim their organisation doesn’t offer any type of formal career development at all.

Wayne Story, deputy CEO of Civica, said that as the pace of change accelerates not everyone has the necessary skills to manage and build on the shifts taking place. “Public sector leaders need to be able to empower and inspire the wider workforce and take responsibility for building a culture that encourages employees to innovate and try new ways of working without fear of failure. While excellent public sector training and development exists to support individual challenges, we propose introducing a nationally-funded programme to arm leaders with the skills they require to meet future demands and effectively manage the significant change and increasing expectation using tools and technology to encourage collaboration and innovation.”

Kim Ryley, chair of Solace in Business, warned that the biggest barriers in the sector are not technology- or resource-based, they are people’s attitudes. “Public sector organisations need a style of leadership that creates a sense of purpose where they can sell hope to the people, and visibly walk the walk. The biggest barriers are not technology or resource based, they are people’s attitudes. Public sector organisations need a style of leadership that creates a sense of purpose where they can sell hope to the people, and visibly walk the walk.”