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Investing in human resources is essential, says chief executive

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JERSEY’S government has failed to effectively train and support its staff in the past, according to its chief executive – who has now promised improvements.

Charlie Parker Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (26024539)

Charlie Parker said that overhauling – and investing in – human resources is now essential as the organisation moves on to the next, hopefully more stable, period of transformation.

In a year in which strikes, pay disputes and public sector discontent have dominated the agenda, Mr Parker said that there was always a ‘command and control element’ to stabilising an organisation.

However, he said ‘just telling people what to do’ does not create a sustainable organisation long-term, which is why staff – whose morale he said is ‘lower than we want it to be’ – now needed support.

And, addressing the question of who is in charge within the government, Mr Parker said: ‘Politicians make decisions and officers carry them out. We should not blur those lines.’

Speaking at a packed Chamber of Commerce lunch event yesterday, Mr Parker admitted his OneGov transformation plan had been pushed through ‘fast’ and ‘hard’. However, he said that was best because ‘The faster we push through the changes, the quicker they’ll be over, and the uncertainty that has worried our workforce can come to an end’.

Investment in people was now key to the next phase of that plan, he added.

‘We need proper investment in our people,’ he said. ‘Our corporate training budget currently equates to an average of just £10 per employee per year.

‘And while some employees will get training costing £1,000 or more, many will get none at all – for years at a time.’

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That investment, he said, was in progress and would include training, the development of local talent and offering family-friendly flexibility.

‘If the government is to meet the challenge to become an employer of choice for Islanders, we need to adapt our bureaucratic employment practices to the new ways of working that people want from a modern employer,’ he said.

One example of the work the government is doing on the issue, he said, was the 1,200 leaders and managers in the public service currently being trained ‘to empower and equip them to take greater delegated responsibility’.

Mr Parker also defended the government’s use of consultants and interim staff, saying they go hand in hand with investment to modernise systems and processes and have been brought in to ‘provide additional capacity and capability’ at a critical time.

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The chief executive also used his appearance at the event to say that:

  • 13% of government staff are over 60 (1,00 people) and there is no plan for replacing them
  • Jersey needs an Islandwide ‘workforce plan’ which assesses the needs of employers for the future and provides solutions for how they will be met – population and education policy included
  • Outsourcing government operations will not work in Jersey, instead operational improvements must be made by government

Before closing his speech, Mr Parker turned his attention to the media, the JEP specifically.

He said that monitoring of media coverage showed that ‘the JEP gives negative stories much more prominence than positive stories – both in the size of the article and how high up it is in the paper. And those negative stories often only include a brief quote from the government right at the end “for balance”.’

He added: ‘“So what?” I hear you say. That’s the role of the press. Nonetheless, this default negativity about the government does have an impact on staff’s willingness to take risks, and raise their heads above the parapet. It makes delivering changes harder for those less experienced in delivering change, when we’re constantly criticised by those in the media whose working assumption is that we’re up to no good.

‘Yet when the media take time to do some in-depth sessions, both with me and other colleagues – whether by interviews on the TV or radio – they often get a better and more accurate picture of the changes we’re trying to deliver, the reasons why and the long-term benefits. My sense is that if the print media spend time really understanding the modernisation of our public services, rather than seeing it as a cheap source of easy copy, then they will get better information, more stories and therefore provide a better service to Islanders.’

Following the event, Mr Parker declined to give an interview to the JEP.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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