CCN Blogs | 06 December 2021
At the County Council Network conference in November everyone agreed with one thing: Covid-19 has put a lot of things into perspective for many of us. But there is one constant. We have to put the end users first. Organisations like ours and the clients we serve have to focus on outcomes and for the public sector those outcomes are all about delivering services to citizens, tax payers, residents, the older people, families and children.
So, whilst a detailed discussion about smarter working definitely has to address issues such as value for money, reducing an estate portfolio by 30% and yes, even checking how furniture, fixture and fittings are procured as well as embedding strong policies and guidance around decarbonisation, everything comes back to people.
Driven by the context of what Lincolnshire is doing, explained by its CEO Debbie Barnes and clarified in a short film, our discussion provoked strong opinions. But the workshop was also about sharing ideas and best practice. It was clear also that some councils are at various stages of the smart working journey. A key theme relating to people was managing staff expectations – providing clear messaging about where and when to come to work, how to behave in relation to social distancing but also how to adjust to shared working spaces and the concept of flexible working. And whilst the conversation touched on details of wellbeing, managing stress and the importance of leadership it always returned to how smart working policies will reflect on service users.
Everything that we do and that a county council like Lincolnshire (or Derbyshire – and thanks to Emma Alexander for being one of our panellists) delivers is relationship based and we need to make sure that the smarter working principles enable relationships to thrive – amongst employees and by consequence, right through to the public we serve. Our third panellist, Steve Brewer, from Burtt-Jones & Brewer agreed and in a conversation with a small group after our workshop stressed that ‘why’ we look to improve how we work must be about the user. But not in terms of the staff, but us, the public, who the County Councils and their service providers are there to support.
Great service on the outside often starts on the inside. Tesco’s “Every little helps” slogan began as a rallying cry to engage its staff. So, to get smart working right we have to focus on the culture we create and how our people engage with it. We have to emphasise the idea that work is what you do, not where you do it.
This is really important from a resident, or end user perspective as well. So often buildings are seen by residents as the “service,” which is why a proposal to close a care home, a library or a children’s centre will provoke a strong public reaction. However, the service – what we do – goes beyond bricks and mortar. Our services continue regardless of what walls surround us. So, effective smart working has to be about driving culture change with employees and at the same time drive a relationship with our customers which is not about where the service is delivered but how it is delivered.
Whether you work in FM or within the County Councils Network, or any other part of local government there has to be real, identifiable connection between service demand and outcomes. What we do is about people. It starts with engaging employees then spreads out to the public we serve. That’s smarter working. Our buildings, estates and the places are part of the smart working equation – but they are not the answer or the product. Work is about what we do, not where we go.
Customer Director, VINCI Facilities