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Let’s de-CODE the sector

The purpose and value of HR and organisational development can often be lost in the busy day to day of service delivery and the quest to problem solve – but at the heart of it, what we need our teams to do is to create an environment in which organisations can succeed. We need to lead, to be culture makers, shapers and innovators and harness the collective skills of our leaders and managers across all levels of the organisation – in short, we need to become ‘influencers’. 

There is a distinct parallel to the Instagram Generation – that our HR and OD teams need to demystify culture and organisation development and make it accessible to all; our ‘likes’ come in the shape of a happy and engaged workforce, high retention rates, high recruitment fill rates and high performance.

To help create the OD influencers of the future, we are proud to launch the new national Culture and Organisational Development Exchange (CODE).

The CODE network is sponsored by the Local Government Association (LGA) and delivered in partnership with West Midlands Employers and regional employers organisations across the UK. Nigel Carruthers, senior advisor at the LGA, wants to grow and evolve this network: ‘Our intent and ambition is to raise the profile and the importance of OD in local government, which has long been talked about in forums in the sector.’

We recognise as a local government sector we can do more to support our ‘people professionals’ to ensure the very best practice is shared, and that there is a supported network to help mentor and develop each other as we face unprecedented challenges. It is becoming increasingly challenging to recruit into senior OD and HR roles within the sector and many organisations have devolved the specialism to third or fourth tier roles, rather than being at the ‘top table’.

We hope offering development opportunities and an energised and supportive national network will not only raise the profile of the work of OD and HR within the sector but also  develop those that will lead the next generation of professionals that will lead it into the future.  A few years ago, a national ‘virtual’ network would have been unthinkable, due to the technology constraints, but now we have a real opportunity post-COVID to make the technology work for us.

Looking to our colleagues in the NHS they established a successful national movement – ‘Do OD’ – that helped to establish the profession and what it can bring to organisations. 

Dr Paul Taylor-Pitt, previously co-lead of the NHS Do OD resource, said: ‘Doing OD can sometimes be a lonely and isolating role. As OD professionals, it’s vital we create spaces to connect with others, learn about new approaches and sharpen our practice. Investing in the development of those who do so much to develop others is no longer optional.

‘We have to show our OD colleagues the same level of attention and investment afforded to our friends in HR. My own research into the future of OD revealed a need for us to be deliberate and discerning in our development so that we may be more agile, mobile, confident and authentic.

‘The challenges facing our organisations are complex and demanding. OD professionals can enable change through the application of behavioural science to these difficult issues. It’s important we make time to keep building our capability so we can be of best use to our organisations and systems.’ 

We are pleased Dr Paul Taylor-Pitt will be supporting CODE and he reflects that ‘the new national OD network for local government will no doubt see powerful and impactful work come out of this important new space’.

The network will offer three main areas of engagement:

1. Collaboration platform

This will happen through Basecamp and a website where there will be regular engagement and user-led dialogue, as well as a place to share and create a documented library of best practice. This is the main gateway to the network and colleagues can join this at

2. Development workshops

These will take place over 12 months starting in September in the format of six two-hour virtual workshops with guest speakers aligned to the priorities of the network. There will also be six 45-minute virtual unstructured open drop-in sessions for network members to discuss key issues raised.

3. Research

A key aspect of the CODE network will be a sector specific national research project for the network to add new context and thinking to themes relevant to the local government sector.

The network launches in September and colleagues can register now. Membership is free for any HR or OD professional working within the sector. Lets take this opportunity to support each other and work to shape and prepare our profession to respond to current and future challenges in local government. 

Rebecca Davis is chief executive of West Midlands Employers and facilitator of the national CODE network