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JIS News

The Government is putting systems in place to manage the human resource concerns that may arise as a result of the re-organisation of the public service.
A team of senior public sector human resource (HR) practitioners, under the direction of the Public Sector Transformation Unit (PSTU), has developed a Change Management Plan, which sets out guidelines and procedures to effectively manage the transformation process.
Human Resource Specialist at the PSTU, Ward Mills, tells JIS News that the plan addresses the concerns and fears “and helps to strengthen people in terms of coping with everything”.
“It helps to reduce resistance and basically helps to make change as smooth as possible, and people as comfortable as they can with the changes that are going to happen around them,” he adds.
Deputy Financial Secretary, Cheryl Watson, who was part of the 22-member Change Management Team, notes that the aim is to set out ways to make the transformation process as “pain free” as possible and develop a HR plan, which would be uniformed, equitable and consistent.
“The idea really is to make sure that staff is treated in a sort of consistent, standardised and humane way. because we recognise that you have different levels of experience in the public sector in handling human resource issues in times of restructuring and transformation in particular,” she explains.
The group, which comprises professionals from the Office of the Services Commission, the Public Sector Modernisation Division, the Public Sector Establishment Division and the various ministries, who were already au fait with the inner workings of the public service, developed several best practice templates to deal with all human resource issues that might arise.
Among the areas addressed is training and how to identify persons in need of training and retraining.
The team has also developed a template to address issues relating to redeployment, redundancy and mergers, however, Mr. Mills says there could be some revision, especially as it relates to mergers, based on the feedback from HR professionals, who were not a part of the core group.
Mr. Mills adds that the group has also set out a plan for how the HR managers and the PSTU will relate to the trade unions during the process. “There are many trade unions and staff associations in the public sector and we have decided that we are going to work in partnership with the trade unions and we have met with them several times to talk about the transformation process,” he informs.
A key part of the plan is communication, which Mr. Mills says is already being implemented along with the counselling aspect.
Change Management Specialist at the Cabinet Office, Candace Smikle, who was also part of the team, which developed the guidelines, agrees that communication will be one of the critical pillars of the process as it is her view that people “prefer to hear negative information than no information at all”.
She points out that business and psychosocial counselling are also very important. “People are affected by change in different ways and it’s very important that we talk to people and give them advice as to what’s the next step to take,” she explains.
Mr. Mills agrees that the counselling aspect of the plan is also one which requires early implementation. He tells JIS News that the PSTU has already started therapy for the core HR team working with the unit and that this will be expanded to cover all HR managers across the public sector. He says the team has also worked out a plan for how the counselling will be delivered to the wider public sector.
He tells JIS News that the recommendation is that all workers should receive group therapy ahead of any change, and then individual counselling can take place in the later stages based on individual requests.
Mr. Mills also discloses that interdisciplinary transformation teams, comprised of workers from all levels, are to be set up within the various ministries, agencies and departments.
“This would be the teams on the ground that we will relate to and help. They will (identify) what are the issues and the problems. They will be the ones communicating with the people. They will be the ones making suggestions about the issues that we need to iron out and solve before we can make the change, and they will help in the transition process,” Mr. Mills explains.
He says the teams will also ensure that there is wide representation and informs that it has been recommended that a union representative be part of these teams.
Mr. Mills tells JIS News that the HR managers have expressed their commitment to ensuring that the transition is as smooth as possible. He says they have also shown appreciation for the PSTU’s efforts to engage them in the process.
For her part, Ms. Smikle says she is fully behind the project given the systematic approach that is being taken in comparison to some past restructuring exercises.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to look back and see what we have done wrong and use this instrument to approach it in a more effective way so that this time, we’ll get it right,” she says.
The PSTU, headed by Patricia Sinclair-McCalla, was established in November last year, to devise a plan for streamlining the public service, making it more efficient and cost-effective.
The unit’s Draft Master Rationalisation Plan is now being considered by Cabinet and the Change Management Plan will ensure its smooth implementation.