Future Ways of Working for The Public Sector

Throughout 2021, the HSM Advisory team has been working alongside public sector organisations to help them reimagine the way they work. One of these initiatives, in partnership with Essex County Council, was a research report showcasing the ways 16 councils have worked to adapt their ways of working to deliver local services more effectively.

For most councils, developing new ways of working meant taking a fresh look at existing strategies and deploying them in a more purposeful way. This included reimagining how employees wanted to work now, and in the future; identifying opportunities to expand agile and smart ways of working and documenting successes and failures so they could be learned from when creating future plans.

Here are some key areas the councils we’re speaking to have focused on:

Redesigning jobs. The Covid-19 pandemic made us all rethink how and where work happens. Some of the councils we spoke to built on this by adopting job designs that acknowledge the breadth of working patterns and roles within their workforce. For example, categorising roles into place-based, community-based, and anywhere, has allowed some councils to achieve a more purposeful application of flexibility and ensure that employees are only tied to a fixed location when it is the most productive option. Pam Parkes Executive Director of People and Transformation at Essex County Council shared some thoughts on their progress: “We’re ready for parts of our workforce to work not just in a hybrid way but in a way that focuses on outcomes, on what they’re putting into their work That means people have far more autonomy, but it also means you need trust.”

Reimagining spaces. Redesigned jobs will take place in different kinds of spaces. Many of our participating councils have been focusing on creating shared spaces that allow employees to collaborate with partners or community groups, while others have created activity-based workspaces and hub offices.

Redefining performance. What does performance measurement look like in a more autonomous work environment? Pam Parkes shared her view: “It’s not just about measuring performance, but really understanding what types of work people can deliver.”

Building trust. With so much autonomy of time, space and activity comes the risk of disconnection – which can easily lead to mistrust. The public sector can mitigate this by creating inclusive cultures where employees feel seen and acknowledged. Pam Parkes said: “Something that’s going to be key going forward is psychological safety. That is a really important facet of the future of work, and of the roles and environments we design – especially because those environments will be digital as well as physical.”

Communicating purpose. One way to promote psychological safety favoured by many councils is creating a clear, visible connection between the work employees do and the impact it has on communities. This shared purpose helps strengthen bonds between colleagues and increases job satisfaction.

While the public sector does have its unique challenges – including a complex web of partners, political administrators, and communities – many of the strategies shared by the councils we talked to apply to any industry with diverse job roles. The key is to understand what your people and your organisation need – and to use these insights to work smarter.

Find out more by reading the HSM Advisory and Essex County Council report here.