We have an opportunity to radically reinvent ourselves

02 June 2020

Some are calling it recovery but I think it’s all about reinvention.

The coronavirus crisis changed the way we work overnight. And now we have an opportunity to radically reinvent ourselves. District and borough councils adapted at lightning speed and embraced digital technology like wildfire. We had to.

Now, with the vast majority of our staff working from home, we are delivering our frontline services while keeping our staff as safe as we can.

We have all developed long-term plans to transform and adopt digital strategies but I think the pandemic has given us the push we needed to truly embrace these.

Responding to coronavirus has made us question why we do things and why we do them in a certain way. Why do we need to have council meetings in an old-fashioned chamber? If it’s so people can see democracy in action, wouldn’t more people see it if it went online and they could watch it from the comfort of their sofa?

Now we’ve disrupted the status quo I think we need to keep going. Disruption is perhaps the secret to successful reinvention.

We’ve always, like many other councils, embraced flexible working but was it truly flexible? As part of our transformation, I want to give colleagues true flexibility to choose the way they work and I want us to change our management and HR practices to support this shift. I don’t see jobs as static any more – they need to be flexible as we evolve to become more agile.

I’d like us to empower colleagues to become the architects of their own jobs and customise what they are doing to align with our corporate strategy – but also with their interests and skills.

Researchers have found staff who were asked to think that their jobs were malleable were happier and performed better – they took the initiative to develop new capabilities that enabled them to create a job they wanted to get stuck into.

Our new coronavirus-shaped world has changed beyond recognition and we face huge issues which include rebooting our economies, massive financial pressures, mounting mental health issues and the threat of future waves of this pandemic. If we’re going to thrive, recovery will be key – but we simultaneously need to reinvent ourselves.

Gill Kneller is chief executive of Havant BC

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