Building a workforce strategy that actually works

Picture this: 

You work in local government and your Chief Exec and Leader have made a vlog about the new corporate strategy and vision for your borough. There is a glossy booklet, web pages and social media is doing its thing spreading the word about the future for your area. 

"Welcome to Wooly Borough Council: the place to work, rest and play.  Our corporate vision: brighter futures, connectiveness, environments and happy streets.  We aim to do better, be more and digitize everything. Over the next three years, we are going to build business resilience, supply sustainable solutions, net zero services and support vulnerable communities."  

This is awesome. It’s why you got into public services. What a visionary vision! Finally!  

Then you stop and ask, “that sounds great, but, what exactly do you mean?”.

You look around. Colleagues have never seemed more stressed. Workloads never larger. Morale is low.

You think, “how on earth are we actually meant to get this done?”.

Here’s where an effective workforce strategy comes in

Behind any ambitious strategy, there needs to be an effective workforce strategy. To really help deliver change, this strategy needs two key elements - purpose and clarity.

You need to really nail down ‘what exactly are we trying to achieve as an organisation?’, ‘why is this important?’ and ‘how are we all going to do this?’.

So if you’re struggling right now to deliver change, take a moment and ask yourself these two questions…

Do you have purpose without clarity? 

If so, no one can do anything about it!

Signs that you have purpose without clarity are:

  • Change feels like it’s getting stuck
  • ‘Resistance’ to change
  • Different teams going about things differently (with some doing better than others)
  • Time consuming processes
  • Complicated systems that staff find difficult to use (read: so may not be using)

Do you have clarity without purpose?

Then the brutal truth is that no one really cares about it!

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • High sickness and turnover
  • Low morale amongst staff
  •  Difficulties with recruitment
  • Problematic team cultures

Learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic

Since March 2020, we’ve been conducting industry research into how local government managed change during the pandemic. We’ve interviewed directors and chief executives and held panel discussions online, drawing out key learnings we can all take forward. This has brought to light brilliant real-life examples that showcase the power of purpose and clarity in successful change.

For example, pre-COVID many organisations had spoken for some time about wanting an ‘agile’ workforce. It was common to talk about “being responsive to the varied needs of our diverse communities”, “making effective use of technology” and “being open to flexible working arrangements”.

But what exactly did this mean? No one knew – so it didn’t happen. Instead, pretty much everyone worked the 9-5 grind from an office.

The pandemic turned this into a far more concrete vision – “to look after everyone’s health, we all need to be able to work from home by next Monday”.

Suddenly, there was purpose and clarity. Staff could think on an individual level about what this really meant for them. Larger teams were united behind clear goals – for example, IT departments had clarity to calculate how many laptops would be needed.

If you want to discover more lessons from lockdown, download our White Paper on manging change during the COVID-19 crisis here.

Want to find out more?

We’re building a change community through our online workshops – for free. This means that you can join our Change Chat on Friday 26th May 2023 at 12pm and listen to our panel talk (with purpose and clarity!) about how to build a truly effective workplace strategy.

Here's what you can expect…

  •  A 60-minute focused virtual conversation, held over Zoom
  • A collaborative approach to knowledge sharing
  • An opportunity to hear the experiences of individuals from a variety of sectors, including local government, non-profits and the private sector

Sign up here. We look forward to seeing you there!

11th May 2023

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Our Managing Director, Lucy Trueman, introduces our latest white paper, 'Lessons From Lockdown: Managing Change During the COVID-19 Crisis'

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