Peer into the Future Alumni 3


25 Jan 2017

Peer into the Future Alumni 3 hosted at the Penna offices in Fleet Place saw several guest speakers giving a personal account of their experiences working in local government, and views on where the sector is going and its future opportunities and challenges.

Rob Tinlin, Chief Executive at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council kicked off proceedings talking about the role of HR in bringing about organisational change. After inheriting a Council not fit for purpose and lacking a vision for the future, he stressed the importance of HR in turning this around to establish the high performing Council that exists today.

The trust between him and his HRD was key in successfully transforming the organisation. He spoke about the need for HR to provide strong leadership and be brave in coming forward with constructive challenge about a future way forward, which he feels had a “steadying” influence on him and made sure the change journey was right.

Following on from Rob our second guest speaker, Gill Steward, Chief Executive at the London Borough of Bexley painted the picture of a well performing London Borough not without its challenges, which are highlighted below:

Changing demographics and ensuring the Council’s administration is representative of who it serves.

Tensions and cohesion issues in the community.

The need for Bexley to meet its growth potential working in partnership.

Operating in a more efficient and commercial way

She sees HR at the forefront of solving these issues through organisational development and culture change that allows for behavioural and competency shifts amongst staff. Shokat Lal feels this approach has been particularly important at Rotherham given the challenges faced by the Council in the past and going forward. All of our guest speakers stressed the importance of engaging staff during change, and providing evidence of how things are progressing to “instil an OD mind-set”.

Richard Billingham, HRD at Bristol City Council particularly stressed Rob’s earlier view on the need for HR to be bold and feels HR should give an organisation wide view on where it should be going, and how to get there as opposed to just providing HR advice. The importance of having a long-term vision and knowing what the Council will look like was closely shared by Shokat Lal, Assistant Chief Executive at the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

Richard highlighted what he felt are the main opportunities and challenges facing local government:

The need to find ways to collaborate and work in partnership as a “single place” and not through the perspective of separate entities/organisations.

Diversity lacking in the organisation particularly at the more senior levels.

Technology that allows for co-locating and sharing of practice and information across agencies.

The need for a strong approach to be taken to workforce planning that looks well into the future; for example, building a pipeline of talent to move into roles that might once have been sourced externally often against stiff competition from the private sector such as engineers.

Defining future target operating models given the financial challenges facing the sector.

Gaining an understanding of what local government will look like in 5 years’ time.

Technology that allows for the better delivery of services and the need to develop the digital skills of the workforce. On this note, Penna’s very own Tristan Moakes, Head of Digital talked about the ‘digital disruption of HR’ highlighting the opportunity afforded by gamification as an assessment tool to reduce irrelevant applications and for attraction purposes, the power of pragmatic advertising to only target relevant audiences and artificial intelligence in undertaking administration tasks carried out by recruiters.

To conclude there was a general view that the role of the HR Director is changing, and will continue to do so into the future. More than ever professionals in this area are expected to provide advice and a view on areas that have not been their typical remit in the past.

The day was a great success and, for those that could make it, we hope it facilitated some thoughtful debate and that you are able to take away some practical learning that can directly benefit your organisations. Don’t miss out on the next Alumni event on Thursday 13th July 2017.Other important dates:

ALUMNI 5 – Wednesday 6th December 2017

ALUMNI 6 – Thursday 10th May

For further information on the event and the programme please email