PPMA/Ways HR Consulting: Career management best practice workshop

Ways HR Consulting are pleased to report on the great success of their recent best practice workshop that was hosted in partnership with their colleagues from the North West branch of the PPMA.

Paul Robertson, Head of Practice, welcomed clients, colleagues and new associates to Manchester for the afternoon’s event. Sue Stanhope, Director of HR & OD for Sunderland City Council, presented a case study on her organisation’s radical redeployment initiative, designed to fulfil a commitment to ‘no redundancies’.

Sunderland City Council – Reducing headcount and limiting redundancies

Sue explained some contextual detail behind the SCC policy, which stemmed from the stark financial savings faced by many of the organisations who attended the seminar. Sunderland needed to radically reconsider workforce costs and the Council’s ability to maintain them.

This realisation occurred two years ago and allowed a window in which to consider all available options. Given the political and historical significance of the Public Sector in Sunderland, the Council agreed a primary mandate to achieve their objectives without mass redundancies. Large scale job losses would have a particularly devastating impact on the City and its community. Instead, the Chief Executive provided HR with time and resource to find a viable alternative. The result was a large scale redeployment programme known as SWITCH (Sunderland Working in Transition and Change).

SWITCH was the product of a number of factor considerations. Spending, working hours and resource deployment were all analysed, before development work began in November 2009. Preparation for SWITCH’s integration came in January 2010 with an external recruitment freeze, ushering a focus towards the ‘Sunderland Way of Working’ and the Council’s Internal Jobs Market.

Internal Jobs Market (IJM)

Sue proceeded to explain that members of the SWITCH team are required to complete a web based questionnaire to access the IJM. A profile is then generated for each individual based on their abilities and personality. This profile is used to stimulate internal recruitment by automatically ‘matching’ individuals to available Council jobs. Managers shortlist ‘matched’ candidates and subsequently invite them to interview.

Career Sage – Sunderland’s Career Management partner

A key part of the SWITCH process is Career Sage: a web based career management tool available to all members of the SWITCH team. Sue referred to the importance of Career Sage in giving staff an online resource which offers ongoing support, information about SWITCH and the IJM, opportunities through the IJM and details of other alternatives outside the Council.

Amanda Gee (Senior Consultant, Ways HR Consulting) provided further detail. Career Sage has been made available to everyone in SWITCH. In addition to the bespoke details around the Sunderland redeployment programme, Career Sage utilises an impressive array of career management tools and technology. Chief amongst these is a business intelligence tool, Mandis and Jobhunt4me, a job search tool which aggregates every available vacancy on UK job sites, jobs boards and company websites.

Sunderland have created a bespoke version of the core Career Sage product. Additions such as localised content, links to regional information sources and downloadable Council documents ensure that it is a worthwhile and constant resource for SWITCH staff. Career Sage is available for the duration of a person’s inclusion in SWITCH. It is one of a number of innovative measures that the Council has employed to maintain levels of engagement and participation with the project.


Following the presentations, delegates were invited to raise their questions. An important discussion area was whether Councils could adopt a similar programme without the preparatory lead time. Sue acknowledged that this would be more difficult but strongly encouraged her Public Sector colleagues to take ‘leaps of faith’ and avoid conservative thinking. Sunderland City Council are confident that their approach will protect the long term future of the workforce. Mass redundancies would undoubtedly cultivate widespread disillusionment both now and in the future.

Other attendees enquired as to the cost of SWITCH. Sunderland have set aside a budget of up to £8 million for the transformation programme. They consider this to be a huge saving considering the high financial outlays made by other organisations who have taken the redundancy route.

Over 500 jobs have been recruited through the Internal Jobs Market as of January 1st 2011. PPMA, Ways HR Consulting and Sunderland City Council were pleased to report on the programme’s continuing success and to discuss with colleagues the different approaches available to local authorities when faced with budget cuts.

Following the demand for the workshop, Ways HR Consulting will be hosting similar events with their partners across the UK such as PPMA North East and Glasgow City Council. We look forward to the debates, ideas and approaches these events will certainly stimulate.