Agenda item

Introducing the West Suffolk Workforce Strategy 2022 to 2028 (attached)

The Council’s Workforce Strategy focuses on five key workstreams: Skills and Behaviours; Recruitment and Retention; Pay, Reward and Recognition, Health and Wellbeing and Future Planning.  These workstreams are the pillars to the Strategy setting out the Council’s priorities in each area and its approach to delivering on those priorities.




Councillor Gerald Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Governance and Regulatory introduced the West Suffolk Workforce Strategy 2022 to 2028.  The Panel also received a presentation from the Director (HR, Governance & Regulatory) who explained that the Strategy had five workstreams and priorities which underpinned the ambitions of the Council in becoming an agile employer.  The Council would continue to transform the way in which it worked in the coming period, together with its commitment to attract, train and retain a workforce which embraced equality, diversity and inclusion.


The five workstreams and priorities within the Strategy centred around:

1.           Skills and behaviours to continue to provide opportunities for staff to engage and learn new skills. To invest in continuous professional and personal development for all staff by offering in-house and externally commissioned development programmes.


2.           Recruitment and retention– to focus on flexible and timely approaches to recruitment, embedding career pathways for succession planning, and continue to seek flexible opportunities in the way people want to work with a focus on service delivery.


3.           Health and wellbeing to continue to offer a range of health and wellbeing initiatives made available to staff and online health and wellbeing resources that can be accessed at any time. Wellbeing levels across the organisation continue to be positive and the results from the wellbeing pulse surveys have consistently shown that there was great team support and positive working relationships across the organisation and high confidence that people can get help when they need it, as well as high levels of interest in work.


The warning signs that need to continue to consider were personal resilience, workloads, stress management, opening communication or connectivity with others to support these risk areas and physical health while working at home.


4.           Pay, reward and recognition Continue to find creative ways to support the employer offer, with the introduction of additional non-financial rewards such as staff recognition awards.


5.           Future planning - With the continued commitment to apprenticeships, career pathways and promotion opportunities, now need to move forward into an exciting new phase of the Council’s journey, capturing learning from its previous achievements, the pandemic and post COVID-19, to transform the way it delivers services in a new agile way.


The Strategy had also captured the learning from the Council’s collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recognised the opportunities that this had provided to move towards an agile organisation, valuing new ways of working and enabling its staff to deliver their best work in different ways, with a strong focus on supporting health and wellbeing.


The Strategy also focused on how the Council would continue to reform the way that it worked to enhance the capabilities of its staff, development of an inclusive culture where leaders, at all levels, promoted a culture of personal responsibility and accountability and empowered an engaged workforce, where its staff could be creative, flexible and had the right skills to respond positively to any challenges ahead.


The Director also explained that to support managers at all levels to assist in coaching and supporting their staff and help delivery this Strategy, ‘Leading Together’ was the Council’s overall leadership committee to ‘building an engaged and energised workforce where different ideas were valued, ensuring that the Council supported, empowered and trusted staff to effectively deliver.


A key part of any successful strategy was its execution and everyone had a part to play in translating this Workforce Strategy into reality and, in the process, enhancing the Council’s culture, including Strategic managers, all people managers, all staff and the Human Resources (HR) Team.


The measurement of the effectiveness/success of the Strategy would also be undertaken by various measures, including regular discussions with the Portfolio Holder for Governance and Regulatory and with the Staff Consultative Panel, along with the undertaking of staff surveys and other engagement methods.


The Panel then had a detailed discussion on the content of the Strategy and the following comments/observations were made within the following specific areas:


Agile working and Health and Wellbeing of staff

-      Ensuring that the organisation remained connected, whilst allowing the supporting of agile working to enable staff to maintain a work life balance and empowering them to have more autonomy over their work, where and when it was done.  However, some concerns were raised around agile working and the impact which this could continue to have on some staff.  It was acknowledged, that since COVID, the workplace environment and interactions with colleagues had changed.  The Council’s agile working framework had been developed alongside other local authorities and it was important that the Council remained being an employer of choice.  Agile working was not being imposed within the Council and it remained an option of choice as to how staff wished to work, as long as it was compatible with service requirements. 


The Staff Representatives explained that the current system of having to book a desk to work in the Council offices could prove to be a barrier for some staff wanting to come into the office to work.  Officers explained that the desk floor plate at West Suffolk House had been re-arranged and that booking desks was part of that system.  It was acknowledged that, of course, there was a balance to be struck and that it may be decided to review this process in the future to assess its overall effectiveness.  It was also suggested as to whether it was possible to monitor the desk booking system to see how people were working and where from.  Officers agreed that this was a good suggestion to look at the data to see how people had been working and that Officers would liaise with the Portfolio Holder for Governance and Regulatory accordingly.


In terms of ensuring the wellbeing of staff, the Council had various mechanisms in place, including Wellbeing Champions; the Employee Assistance Programme and Learning and Development Programmes.  It was also asked whether it would be possible to promote the Council’s volunteering scheme with the workforce and this course of action was supported.  Also, the Council operated ‘West Suffolk We Save’ Employee Benefit Scheme.  Further information on this Scheme was available on the Council’s Intranet, but if required, further information could also be provided to the Panel, for their information.  Reference was also made to the recent Clean Air Walk Day and that these types of initiatives could assist with interaction with colleagues.  Officers agreed with this and stated that they would look to take this type of initiative forward.


Engagement/Inclusivity of Staff

-      Ensuring that there continued to be an inclusive culture/workforce where everyone was respected.


-      To ensure that staff continued to be engaged, particularly with the undertaking of staff/pulse surveys.  Officers explained that it was acknowledged that the surveys could be seen to be aimed primarily at the office based staff, rather than with the operational staff and acknowledged the particular challenges with being able to engage directly with the operational staff.  Therefore, it was proposed that Officers would liaise with UNISON, prior to the circulation of the next staff survey, to ensure that an appropriate approach was supported to allow engagement with the operational staff.


(Penny Mills (Employees’ Side) joined the meeting at 3.48pm, during the discussion on this item)


Supporting documents: