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Our rising stars point to a bright future

Written by: Dawn Faulkner is a Partner in the local government practice at GatenbySanderson
Published on: 25 Jul 2019

When your work revolves around identifying and developing top talent within local government, as mine does, there is nothing more rewarding than spotting the rising stars of the future. I was very proud to represent GatenbySanderson as part of the judging panel in our sponsorship of the ‘Rising Star’ category at the annual The MJ Awards event. We never cease to be surprised by the extent of talent in local government and this year was no exception.

The challenges facing local government are so well referenced, they almost trip off the tongue – the impact of a decade of reduced funding, combined with the need to ‘do more for less’ via service transformation. What can be taken for granted is the exceptional skills, resilience and behaviours required to pioneer a local government for tomorrow.

It was especially rewarding, within this landscape, to have received applications from more than 30 individuals, all nominated by local authority managers from departments across their organisations in the UK and Ireland. Each was eager to detail the outstanding contributions that had been made right across service areas. Some organisations nominated one, others more, of their aspiring staff whom they felt showed exceptional ability, dedication and promise. Submissions were of a great standard and the bar was set incredibly high.

Our first challenge as part of the judging panel was to read all applications and select seven finalists for the final stage: the interview. The dedication, motivation, creativity and, in many cases, impressive outcomes was evident from the impassioned written submissions from line managers and testimonials from colleagues supporting the nominations. All of these nominees have gone out of their way to add value to their own service areas, driven by a strong work ethic and overarching customer focus. After much careful deliberation, the final nominees were selected and invited, with their line manager, to join the judging panel for a face-to-face interview. Nominees were asked to give a short presentation based on their submissions and formal questions followed from the panel.

The panel was blown away by the genuine passion the nominees displayed for end users, their enthusiasm for their organisations and the innovative way they approached their day to day task. This quality we saw reflects the growing investment local authorities are making to nurture the talent that will accelerate change and introduce more creative thinking. By managing this talent more strategically, organisations build a high performance workplace; encourage a learning environment; add value to their branding agenda; and contribute to diversity management. This then creates a talent pipeline where the organisation becomes a magnet in attracting and retaining talented people to meet immediate and future strategic objectives and business needs. Developing and signposting career opportunities for all employees while promoting more creative strategies unleashes greater employee potential.

Talent development is central to workforce motivation and engagement and a critical tool in aligning individuals to company culture as well as building knowledge and ability. Too often, the latter is the only goal and the opportunity is missed to increase collaboration, promote more positive behaviours and imbue greater wellbeing across the organisation. This symbiotic relationship should be used as a catalyst for broader and lasting organisational change.

Seek to create a development culture where development needs are viewed across the whole organisation and identify how each piece of training fits into the bigger picture. Employees should understand what value they add and why, and the same goes for the training they receive. Investing in employees right from the start; apprentices, school leavers and graduates right through to senior management, is key to its success. Development doesn’t stop at very senior leaders; increasingly, it is shifting away from more skills based learning to a more behavioural approach. Behavioural patterns, across a team, department or whole organisation, by their nature, are much harder to define or quantify, creating a dynamic that is not necessarily well served with traditional talent development.

To isolate what good behaviours look like for leaders in public services, we have developed the only validated public sector leadership benchmarking model, Altitude, which defines those characteristics that differentiate outstanding leaders across all walks of public life. We use this model as the basis to assess not only new talent coming into organisation but those preparing for outstanding leadership roles. This unique psychological lens focuses on Self, People and Outcomes, assessing the future readiness of organisations in terms of their leadership talent to tackle tomorrow’s challenges and shift the whole organisation forward.

So too for our finalists, who will clearly create future momentum for both the organisations they represent and the sector. Through their impressive pitches, we were given a glimpse into subject matter expertise; innovative approaches to everyday matters; contributions to strategy; collaborative approaches with internal and external stakeholders; continuous savings while driving improvements for service users; the development of initiatives which have been adopted nationally; potential leadership skills, novel training initiatives and commercial aptitude.

All of this talent was driven by an overarching commitment to making a real difference to peoples’ lives through community engagement, effective outcomes and genuine improvements for residents.

These compelling stories reflect the exceptional work being undertaken by local authorities across the UK and Ireland in defining, identifying, supporting and retaining talent in their organisations and the ongoing commitment to developing the capability that exists in today’s rising stars – the future leaders of local government.

Dawn Faulkner is a Partner in the local government practice at GatenbySanderson

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