Comment

04.09.17

Refocusing professional development

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2017

Graeme McDonald, managing director of Solace, discusses the importance of taking time out to focus on learning, especially in the ever-changing landscape of the sector.

Squeezing on to my packed commuter train on the way into Westminster recently, I reflected on the five-year anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I was fortunate enough to attend a handful of events, and even share in the delight of a few British athletes winning gold, but it was the sense of openness, optimism and dynamism that really stayed with me. Londoners talking on the Underground, the rainbow of culture and nationalities, with volunteers providing both directions and a sense of place. It now feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the past five years.

Politically 2017 has been a momentous year, probably the most unpredictable since… well, 2016? While change has always been an important part of the career of a public servant, the pace of change is increasingly relentless and unpredictable.

Speaking to colleagues from across the sector in recent weeks, they describe unrelenting waves of seemingly unconnected events crashing their agendas. From the surprise, and ultimately unsettled, general election, through to cyber-attacks, the twists and turns in social care, education and local government finance policy, to the tragedies of terrorist atrocities and the Grenfell fire. Placed within the uncertain context of Brexit, these are extraordinary times.

Whilst the events of recent months do feel unprecedented, the pace of change has been accelerating for some time. For example, waves of technological change that once took a lifetime now stretch little more than a decade. In a single career, we were once required to adapt to perhaps one significant change. But now we are expected to adapt constantly to many.

 

Investing time in learning

The pace of change impacting all our local places is accelerating. It may manifest itself in very different ways in different places, but that impact is still felt. Inevitably then, and if we are to stay relevant, the pace of change across local public services must also be unrelenting.

This brings some important challenges to us in local government. Both individually and collectively we are asked to continuously improve both our own capacity and our capacity to understand our context. With such a fast-paced agenda it can be hard to keep up, and difficult to master one thing before being pressed to move onto the next. The inability to take sufficient time to learn risks creating a treadmill of incompetence.

This is why Solace is refocusing its energy on professional development throughout an individual’s career. The pace of change makes taking time out to jump off the treadmill and focus on learning difficult, but all the more important. In a recent survey of our members, 75% said that local government wasn’t investing enough money into developing current and future leaders and managers. While 78% of our members wanted us to have a clear, continuous professional development policy to give them specific guidance to support their learning.

Solace now not only opens its arms to members at all stages of their career, we also have a suite of learning programmes which is equally broad in its coverage. Working with respected partners including the DCLG, University of Birmingham, the RSA, Newton Europe, Collaborate CIC and the LGA, we have a range of learning offers to suit people at all stages of their career. Indeed, in July we launched our latest report on our Ignite Programme, written by Henry Kippin (Collaborate CIC) and Matthew Taylor (the RSA). The report summarises much of the learning from our programme for experienced CEOs and provides an important mechanism to ensure we can create excellent learning experiences for specific cohorts, but are also able to share the learning with our members and the wider public service family.

However, in such turbulent circumstances, it is tempting for individuals and organisations to look in on themselves and to focus on internal issues as a way of sheltering from the external pressure. Investing time in learning when the agenda is burdensome and fast-paced is tough, but without it we are just making the future more challenging for ourselves and future generations of public services.

Comments

Allison Bacher   09/10/2017 at 14:01

I absolutely agree. Organisations need to be more agile than ever before. The key to this business agility lies in building high performance teams that have the right skills, culture, direction and motivation to succeed. To quickly and cost-effectively build a high performance organisation, we must first understand our capability; who we have working for us, what skills they have, how they’re developing, and how they can complement each other to deliver our goals. And we need to be able to link this to how well we’re delivering products and ultimately, corporate objectives. Most organisations don’t have a real-time map of skills and capabilities to make sure people are skilled and developing, as you need them. It’s great to see Solace supporting this crucial challenge.

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

London council ‘negligent and in denial’ over tower blocks at risk of collapse

22/06/2018London council ‘negligent and in denial’ over tower blocks at risk of collapse

Two tower blocks in North London are at risk of collapse, with the area’s council announcing it wants to begin re-housing residents “... more >
Christchurch allowed into High Court over Dorset council merger battle

22/06/2018Christchurch allowed into High Court over Dorset council merger battle

An ongoing battle between Christchurch Borough Council and a planned council merger has been given the go-ahead to proceed to the High Court. ... more >
Government does not ‘currently have understanding’ of skills businesses need going through Brexit

22/06/2018Government does not ‘currently have understanding’ of skills businesses need going through Brexit

Government departments “do not have sufficient understanding” of what skills UK businesses need, or how Brexit will impact the supply... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

The work of the vanguards can help overcome the challenges of integrated care

29/05/2018The work of the vanguards can help overcome the challenges of integrated care

Following the announcement of the second wave of integrated care systems (ICSs), NHS Providers, the NHS Confederation, NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) and the LGA reflect on how lessons learnt by members from across the four organisations – that have designed and worked together as part of the vanguards – will support the j... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

interviews

Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >
GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

03/04/2018GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

SPONSORED INTERVIEW PSE’s Josh Mines chats to Martin de Martini, CIO of Y Soft, about what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)... more >
Keeping London safe

05/03/2018Keeping London safe

Theo Blackwell, London’s first-ever chief digital officer (CDO), speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the role he plays in ensuring the... more >
BIM: Digitising the public sector

19/02/2018BIM: Digitising the public sector

PSE’s Josh Mines talks to Stephen Crompton, CTO at GroupBC, and Stuart Bell, the company’s sales and marketing director, about how Bu... more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

public sector focus

G-Cloud 10: small changes, big opportunities

12/06/2018G-Cloud 10: small changes, big opportunities

ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE Rafael Cortes, Foehn... more >
Targets and tribulations

04/06/2018Targets and tribulations

David Willett, corporate director at The Open... more >