Letting go of your best people to support local economic growth

As it stands Local Authorities, by being the sole provider of a service in most cases and by their very size and systems, have installed dependency and ‘learned helplessness’ into the people they serve. In many cases, this high dependency has meant that Councils are looked at to address many of the communities’ needs, putting more pressure on the funds available. As a result, they attract litigation when the service provided does not address the needs identified.  

In times of luxury, the impact of the above was never felt and therefore never drawn into question. The double-dip recession, as well as the population’s demographic, has highlighted a need for a drastic change. The question is however why and how to move Councils to a more sustainable future.


In order to stimulate local economic growth, Local Authorities have to let go of their best people, the people who have the knowledge and confidence to innovate and set up local businesses, social enterprises, charities or go self-employed/freelance. This would not only create more choice to address the needs of the local communities (moving away from one-size-fits-all solutions), but also better quality services – not through competition, but through closer community collaboration and co-creation.

HOW? And why is it important?

Redundancies are not the best option going forward. The impact could have a long-term negative effect on the local economy.

Hard-nosed selection processes used as part of the redundancy process often mean people leave with ‘a bad taste in their mouth’. Councils have to remember that the people that leave their organisation are the ‘providers of tomorrow’s services’ for the benefit of local citizens. The last things Councils want to invite is negative relationships with the people they will rely upon going forward. Nor do actions like redundancies support a positive ‘brand’ identity for the Council.

So how do Council’s identify and let their best people leave? Redundancy is not the only option. The best outcome for the community is to ensure positive relationships are upheld where possible. This requires a drastic behavioural change.

In order to ensure the best possible resilience levels for all involved is to talk openly about the changes ahead from the earliest opportunity, even when certain aspects may still be uncertain. Also important is to take more of a talent management and strength/career-coaching approach to your one-to-one’s with your staff team. Questions like ‘What are your ambitions for the future?’ and ‘Do you want to re-skill to support the Council of the future?’ are invaluable.

This approach does not necessarily have to come with a pot of money. A career-coaching approach may help identify cost-effective learning solutions such as shadowing or mentoring and help install more self-directed and self-funded learning where deemed necessary.

IF NOT ...?

What if Councils do not let go of their best people? This would leave the economy and communities impoverished of skills, knowledge and experience which are vital ingredients to building a better future.

There may be a further challenge to overcome if Councils decide to hold onto some of their specialists/experts. Holding onto specialists/experts can lead to distrust of external providers who have less knowledge and experience than the in-house specialist/expert. As a result, it is likely that the specialist/expert instigates in-house growth of workforce to deliver the service themselves. This would soon see the Council - not the economy - grow to its former size.


Councils need to start seeing themselves as the local ‘Think Tank’ and facilitators of continuous positive change, choice and quality. As such, the skills which may benefit Councils who are moving to a Commissioning role need to hold onto Strategic Generalists, Knowledge Analysts and Futurists who enjoy the challenge of uncertainty and local (and global) impact analysis. Specialists and experts in their field can be brought in - on a freelance basis - as and when a community need needs a larger contractual solution with a service provider.

Further blog - Who to Hire? http://thebuildnetwork.com/leadership/management/hire-generalists/

In my next blog I will explore the Commissioning Role for Councils using the 70/20/10 model.

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