The difficult financial climate has thrown up a new range of HR challenges.
Management is still about managing budgets and managing people, it is still about promoting good practise and challenging bad practise, it is still about managing change and getting people to do what needs to be done but budget cuts, service reductions and concern about service standards mean that there is a lot more potential for conflict.
Ironic then that so many organisations have cut back on the support they offer managers.
HR has always had a significant contribution to make to the smooth running of the organisation by ensuring a fair recruitment process, advising over changes in working practices, supporting absence management and trying to resolve grievances. Looking back these now see like gentler times.
A hash financial climate has forced managers to cut services, make staff redundant and get tough on absenteeism. Now there is concern that this has produced managers lacking in compassion with consequences not just for management style but how tenants/ residents are viewed.
The pressure to deliver changes, make efficiencies and hit performance targets has seen a rise in bullying and harassment claims. I have worked with a number of managers who have felt that against such allegations they are required to demonstrate their innocence with little support from their organisation.
Concern about the impact on services has prompted some employees to become whistle blowers and concern that disgruntled ex managers may expose the real / human cost of “transformation" has led some organisation to impose gagging orders.
Managers have not escaped the cuts to posts. Management restructuring has led to redundancies and experienced managers have found themselves “applying for their own job" or struggling in a job market where they get interviews but no job offers. Several managers have approached me over the last few months to help them polish up their CV or brush up their interview technique.
We have all had to get use to greater insecurity. Will I still have a job this time next year? Will it be the same job? Will I find myself outsourced to some private sector company with a totally different ethos? Will there be yet more changes at the top of the organisation with whatever that means for priorities, working practices and the "vision”? Will I have yet another new manager who has no background in my area of work and has neither the knowledge nor time to offer support?
If you find yourself asking these questions you will not be alone. The best advice I can give as a former senior manager responsible for many management reorganisations and re structuring is management skills are transferable but you have to be prepared to move outside your comfort zone. This means you might have to move from the public sector to the private sector or the not for profit sector, you might have to change your client group or accept responsibility for services you have no professional background in and that means adapting your management style accordingly. Those who adapt survive and even prosper.
Blair McPherson author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future and People management in a harsh financial climate both published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk