Business School research under the spotlight at Westminster


Survey highlights calls for improvement in leadership and management skills

Date posted

22 May 2019

12:12

University research on workforce development and skills has been presented to an audience of business and public sector leaders at the Houses of Parliament.

Dr Kirsteen Grant and Professor Maura Sheehan from the Business School worked in partnership with The Workforce Development Trust on the UK-wide survey.

The report focuses on leadership and management and the challenges faced in the delivery of modern public services. One striking statistic to emerge was that 81 per cent of respondents cited a need for improvement in leadership and management skills.

The findings were launched at a high-profile knowledge exchange event entitled “Room for Improvement? A Briefing on Leadership and Management in Public Services”, at which Dr Grant represented the Business School.

- left to right - John Rogers, Chief Executive, The Workforce Development Trust; Rachel Williams, Chief Superintendent, Avon and Somerset Police; Pauline Crellin, Director of External Affairs, Strategic Design and Planning (Universal Credit Programme), Department for Work and Pensions; Jon Parry, Head of Research, The Workforce Development Trust; and Dr Kirsteen Grant, Associate Professor, Edinburgh Napier University.

Guests also heard case study insights from Rachel Williams, Chief Superintendent of Avon and Somerset Police, and Pauline Crellin, Director of External Affairs, Strategic Design and Planning (Universal Credit Programme), Department for Work and Pensions.

Throughout the report and within the data, the impact of ineffective leadership and management was a consistent theme. This is acknowledged as contributing to increased workloads, increased costs, reduced funding, reduced quality and, by causality, increased churn in the workforce.

Commenting on the changing nature and delivery of UK public services, Dr Grant commented: “Public service leaders need to be cognisant of changing leadership and skills needs and gaps.

“In the context of shrinking budgets and resource constraints, there also needs to be greater recognition of the imperative for increased cooperation and collaboration between organisations and services in order to deliver public sector reform.”

Professor Sheehan expressed concerns about a lack of diversity found in the data. She said: “There remains a chronic under-representation of women, and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME), especially at senior levels within the public sector.

“Not only are there obvious ethical and justice issues here, but research shows that workforce diversity significantly contributes to innovation, organisation performance and trust in public organisations.

“Moreover, there is growing evidence that suggests there is a strong relationship between understanding the needs of different groups in society and delivering improved public services.”

The picture shows - left to right - John Rogers, Chief Executive, The Workforce Development Trust; Rachel Williams, Chief Superintendent, Avon and Somerset Police; Pauline Crellin, Director of External Affairs, Strategic Design and Planning (Universal Credit Programme), Department for Work and Pensions; Jon Parry, Head of Research, The Workforce Development Trust; and Dr Kirsteen Grant, Associate Professor, Edinburgh Napier University.

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