By Accountable Care Journal-
Arms-Length Bodies (‘ALBs’) have come under significant scrutiny in recent years due to the pressures of austerity and frequent changes in the legal and political landscape. This seems likely to continue in the near future alongside the Public Bodies Reform Programme. Browne Jacobson set out to identify examples of best practice in maintaining upwards influence, managing risk and engendering employee engagement in it's latest report: 'Leadership in Turbulent Times: The importance of influence, risk management and engagement'
- As we navigate the struggles of austerity and the increasing uncertainty of Brexit, strong relationships between ALBs and their partner departments have never been so important. An increasing agenda towards productivity and balanced relationships is emerging, however, there are still nuances and inconsistencies faced by both parties in these relationships.
- Seeking out the right relationships can be a difficult challenge but constant changes in the political agenda and personnel are a well-understood problem faced by ALBs. There is strong emphasis on the importance of forming relationships with policymakers, civil servants and those who have the potential to span numerous changes in leadership.
- As society moves towards championing social autonomy and an increase in publicly available information, trust in experts and leadership is deteriorating. The risk of misinformation and media attention are problems increasingly faced by central government and there is need for ALBs to acknowledge and address these pressures. Wherever possible, risk should be managed with clear statements, strategy and the preservation of important relationships through ongoing communication and dialogue.
- Individual incidents, such as the case of John Worboys or Grenfell, have the power to dominate an entire department’s agenda. Managing the media fall-out and PR can often evidence a substantial area of risk. The increased use of social media by public bodies has aided in the control of crisis management as it enables accurate information to be fed to the public as it is available. This can seek to avoid misinformation filtering through other media outlets.
- Risk management is a potential area where layers of policies and procedures can lull organisations into a false sense of security. However, risk management requires a human aspect and instilling beneficial risk management procedures can often be a top-down exercise. Unfortunately, major risk incidents often precede or result in a high turnover of senior level staff in both ALBs and their partner departments which can have a detrimental impact on risk management and employee culture moving forward.
- In times of austerity employee engagement is one of the first areas to suffer. It can become a tick box exercise with resource seen as better spent elsewhere. However, there was both evidence and opinion that investment in employees remains essential, even in tough times, to seek to have a substantial impact on productivity of the workforce.
- Fostering the right culture and gaining the right people can frequently be the most important factor in ensuring employee engagement. However, there are increasing innovations in the workplace which seek to improve the experience employees have on a day to day basis, prioritising a work life balance, including wellness hours and flexible working arrangements. Many had seen that introducing new working policies had increased productivity and actually resulted in people wanting to work harder and longer to support the organisation in difficult times.
Read the full report and find out more.