Improving the HR and OD capability in shared councils, for the Local Government Association

At the time of this project 43 district councils in England shared a chief executive with one or more other councils, and displayed various levels of service integration. Such activity is vital to delivering the government's aims of greater efficiency and improved services in local government.

But experiences to date had been that the existing HR policies and organisation design (OD) or change management approaches had not always best facilitated the integration of, nor supported the alignment of staff behaviours with, the future goals of the councils. Evidence of similar integration in the private sector shows success is highly variable at best, and that the intended business objectives are often not fully delivered by mergers and partnering.

The Local Government Association already provided quality information and advice to authorities, and asked IES to extend this by carrying out a piece of research focusing on the experiences of ten council partnerships.

The aims of this project were to:

  • investigate the extent to which the current HR and OD practices were fit for purpose and supported future business goals and employee needs;
  • highlight external practice and learning in similar settings;
  • indicate practical measures that the ten councils could take and improvements they could make;
  • summarise the research and learning on behalf of LGA in a way that could be applicable and disseminated across the sector and more widely.

The work was carried out in phases, with an initial ‘diagnosis’, desk research and survey phase to document existing practice in the partner councils and summarise relevant external research; and a second more in-depth qualitative research phase, involving visits to the partners, interviews and case write ups.