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October 2019
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Interim Managers – leading public sector change

The public sector is under intense pressure to cut spending, increase services and improve efficiencies. In his budget the chancellor Alastair Darling demanded £600m of savings next year and £5.5bn worth of savings over the current spending review period.

Many government bodies are recruiting experienced Interim Managers to help lead change management programmes and improve efficiency. According to a MORI poll from the Institute Management Association published in August, 51% of all Interim Management assignments in the last quarter were in the public sector. What’s more, Buying Solutions, the National
Procurement Partner for UK Public Services anticipates the use of Interims will increase with £2.5bn being spent on non permanent staff, including interim managers over the next four years.

Historically, the public sector has favoured management consultants for the delivery of their strategies and solutions. But with tight budgets, using a well known professional services companies is no longer an affordable luxury. Also many organisations have realised that interim
managers are typically more experienced, more hands-on and charge half the price of management consultants.

Interim Managers bring to the table the commercial know and often many years’ experience of working in both the private and public sectors delivering strategic change management programmes. They are independent and objective, have no interest in getting involved in internal politics and their focus is firmly on delivering results and then moving on to their next assignment. Increasingly, they are being used for specialist project management and to lead coordinated programmes of work, such as Flu Pandemic programmes and adult social care programmes. They are also being called upon to deliver expert procurement and commercial guidance in crucial areas such as shared services and category management.

In many areas, change management programmes led by interim managers are already underway. Essex county council, for example, recently hired Samson Jebutu, an experienced HR interim to help the Directorate meet the requirements of a forth coming Joint Area Review (JAR) inspection and to implement a new recruitment and retention strategy for its Schools, Children and Family Directorate. Like many UK social services departments it faced a shortage of skilled social workers as well as other hard-to-fill roles, such as educational psychologists and youth

Part of his work process involved working with managers across the Directorate to uncover their key recruitment and retention challenges, scrutinising employment data to understand exactly why problems were occurring in these areas and to make informed recommendations about how the Directorate should solve its recruitment and retention issues.

This shortfall in Essex is now being addressed through this international recruitment campaign and he has put in place a new retention strategy that is improving employee engagement and retention at all levels.

Another example of an interim manager leading change is at South West Fire Control, a local authority controlled company involved in the government’s FiReControl project. The project will see the current 46 fire control services in England amalgamated into nine new regional
control centres (RCC). South West Fire Control will be one of the first three RCCs to go live and interim HR expert Leonard Sheen has been helping it meet its deadline for the transfer of operations and people to a new centre in Taunton in Somerset.

When it goes live, the South West RCC at Taunton will mobilise to incidents requiring fire and rescue service in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Avon and Wiltshire. This regionalised service will replace the seven existing control rooms in these areas.

The main challenge for the company undertaking this process was the successful transfer of services, people and functions from the local control rooms to the centre Taunton. It needed to ensure the transfer of existing staff complied with The Transfer of Undertakings Regulations
(TUPE) designed to protect employees’ rights when a business or undertaking is transferred to a new employer.

It recruited HR and TUPE expert Leonard Sheen to lead the transfer and implement change management processes in a legally compliant, efficient and successful way. Leonard worked with the team at the RCC to establish a pre-selection process for existing control room staff, ensured the right processes were in place to deal sensitively with those employees
who would not be transferring to the RCC.

He also developed new employment policies, terms and conditions, remuneration and benefits packages. Key to implementing these processes successfully was getting buy-in and agreement from the trade unions.

Leonard worked with the RCC team in the consultation process for of the transfer of operations involving employee and achieve the representative bodies’ agreement to introduce new demand-led working rotas for employees when the new centre opens. Resources will be more streamlined, with people working demand-led shift patterns to ensure the service is run in the most cost efficient way possible, while still delivering a high quality service to the region’s fire and rescue services.

These are just some examples Interim Managers leading and managing change in the public sector. However, with the government’s transformation agenda in full swing, we will see many more interim managers working in public sector organisations across the UK, driving
efficiencies and ringing in the changes.

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