Baskers World

The Exodus begins….


My desk....


I’ve not had the best of starts today.

The first email of the day was to inform me that I’m losing a highly valued member of my team. You see, she’s a contractor. One of those contractors that have been painted in the press as being highly paid, a drain on the pubilc purse strings.

I don’t see that.

I see a wonderful team member. A member of my team who’s been a shining light through dark days, bubbling with enthusiasm, going out of her way to get things done. To connect up with people, to ensure that everyone knew what was going on and what was expected of them.

She will be sorely missed.

And I will be left with a void that I’m not quite sure how to fill, or to try and rebalance the skills sets within what’s left of my dwindling team.

I had been battling for weeks to try and secure the funding and agreement to keep at least 2 of my contractors on until end September, filling out HR form after HR form, piles and piles of paperwork and approvals processes to go through like a vast set of hurdles. But it’s all in vain. I can’t give any of my contractors within my team any assurances about how long I can keep them on. We’ve got to reduce costs, and that means that with the recruitment freeze and contract renewals, it’s the contractors that are the first to go. So with that level of uncertainty I can’t blame my contractors for looking elsewhere, whether that be elsewhere in the Public Sector (highly unlikely given the current set of circumstances) or the Private Sector. However it leaves me with great big voids in my team, with very little handover time – but these are the consequences of the politcal decisions made higher up.

Contract staff will walk, and team leaders across Whitehall will be left trying to absorb what work they can but we are already stretched. And next year when the full weight of the cuts start kicking in from the Spending Review, the cuts are aimed at the permanent staff.

It’s a slow process trying to retrain staff in Finance Systems, SQL Server 2005, SQL Intergation, SQL Reporting Service, Visual Basic, Financial Frameworks, Project & Change management disciplines, Contract and SLA management, Security Accreditation process… Sooner or later something’s going to break. Something is going to fall over, something will slip through the cracks as we’ll be struggling to keep our heads above water and trying to learn whole new skills sets at the same time as trying to deliver “more with less”.

These aren’t the sort of skills you learn within a ‘couple of months’, which has been quoted to me when trying to pull together an exit strategy for the contractors. Finance, IT & Project skills take many months, and years to learn. Once you’ve learnt the basics i.e. done the courses you are still very green. It takes experience on the job over time to bring you up to the necessary skills level and experience that’s required. Which is why some teams tend to have contractors in the first place. Those skills and experience aren’t readily availble within the civil service, and they aren’t financially recognised – with only “Accounting” qualifications being eligble for a salary increase, thus it makes it all the harder to fill the posts with permanent staff because they wont get financially rewarded for gaining these skills sets.

Whilst I wish my contractor all the best in her new job, already I can feel my stress levels rising and that sickening knot of stress tugging away like a lead ball inside my stomach. The exodus begins and I suspect it will be the first of many.

Knowing her as I do, I know she’ll be successful where ever she ends up – she’s that kind of person. It will be a sad day for the team, and a loss to the Public Sector when she leaves, but I wish her all the best and good luck to her!

This entry was published on July 15, 2010 at 11:17 am. It’s filed under Civil Service, Finance, Government, Training and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “The Exodus begins….

  1. Pingback: The Exodus begins…. « Baskers World « flakes of nuisance

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  3. A great summary of a massively frustrating situation. I’ve been a civil servant and a contractor in a number of departments so I know both sides of this one. Sadly I can’t see a happy ending for any of us.

  4. Stephen on said:

    I think that you’re expressing the frustration that many of us feel, and the worry that in losing the contractor, the ultimate cost to the taxpayer may be even higher. I know that there’s dead wood – as much in the contract side as the permanent – but losing people with skills that are not easily, quickly or cheaply replaced is a false economy.

  5. An accurate and provocative assessment of the tip of the iceberg that’s emerging. Contractors vary in skill, just like permanent staff, but given the ‘lifetime-cost’ of a Civil Servant, engaging focussed, professional individual contractors for specific projects, with defined end dates – rather than the cash-consuming outsource leviathans – is an extremely cost-effective way of delivering real results.

  6. Big FT on said:

    I happen to know the contractor in question. And I can say, if I where a few years younger, I would! Good contractor with a great rack. 😉

  7. Sarah, I think your blog half-answers your question.

    “…filling out HR form after HR form, piles and piles of paperwork and approvals processes to go through like a vast set of hurdles.”

    This suggests that the back-office is too intrusive, onerous and not only isn’t mission-critical (sorry, cliche), but is actually mission-obstructing.

    All those people who make you do those tasks, and who process the resulting paperwork, are being paid, pensioned, trained etc. As we speak, they are using scarce resources which could be used better in delivering better public services.

    Removing those hurdles means sacking people, some of whom might make similar cases to the one you make in your blog.

    The question is – How does government become leaner? How can the hurdles of which you speak be removed? Which of those forms can just be scrapped? Can you make any positive suggestions along these lines? I’m sure you can, and we are going to need them form people like you.

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