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LEARNING LOG - YEAR THREE My Current Situation I am currently in a temporary full time role as a Corporate Policy Officer with

Oldham Council. I have a varied task list - strategy formulation, responding to government consultations, summarising new legislation and assessing its impact on the Council, strategic business planning and refreshing the corporate business plans which drive the organisation forward. I am not currently in a managerial role but work quite closely with the Assistant Executive Director of Corporate Policy and Research and work in his team alongside six others. I hope to able to apply for the managerial vacancies when they are advertised in April. I moved out of the HR world at the beginning of last year and have to say that as things currently stand I cannot see myself taking up HR again unless the right opportunity came along or I was made redundant and had to fall back on it. I have come to the conclusion in this my final year that the everyday operational side of HR is not for me. The thought of dealing with disciplinaries, recruitment and sick visits day in and day out does not fill me with enthusiasm. Since being involved in the corporate policy and strategy environment, I have realised that this is where I am most comfortable and feel I contribute best. Therefore, if I was to move back into HR, it would have to be in a strategic role. I felt it important to continue my studies though as the skills you gain in HR and the skills you develop through the course are transferable and equally valid in other professions and indeed the professional environment. Also it shows I have the capability to work at degree level, which is a regular ‘essential’ on person specs in the public sector. Throughout this learning log I will identify these transferable skills and ways in which I can and have used them in my new profession of policy and strategy development. BLOCK DAY - CUSTOMER SERVICE The block day on Customer Service was extremely thought provoking and came at an interesting time for me. My new line manager , Ben, and I were both new to the Council, as is the Corporate Policy division, and were keen to get to grips with the workload and raise the profile of the work of the division. The day gave me the opportunity to think about where my new department fitted in and where I fitted into the department. The first activity asked us to consider where we were on the customer service scale. At one end you had the completely reactive and at the other was the pro-active. You had to consider yourself/ department and where you were on the scale. Before I could answer this the first thing I had to establish was who were our customers? Corporate policy is located in the new Assistant Chief Executive’s directorate and, like most of the divisions within the directorate, cross cuts the Council. We deal with every other directorate internally, we work with elected members, external partners, like the NHS, police and third sector and we are the voice of the Council in the regional and national government arena. This is very different to the internal nature of HR generally. HR at the Council, for example, would not normally engage with partners as part of their everyday work. I concluded that anybody had the potential to be a customer but some

were more ‘regular’ than others. The next thing to consider was whether we were reactive or proactive. We are reactive in some circumstances, for example when we respond to a consultation or implement legislation within the Council. The Council’s research arm sits within our division and the data that they provide informs our priorities and directs our work. I placed myself in the ‘convince the customer’ bracket, as I think I am as an employee always looking for opportunities to the raise the profile of my department/ service. I placed the Council and the Council’s HR service in the ‘Answers customer request’ bracket, as the Council knows that the customer cannot go eslsewhere and has to pay for the service whether or not they think it is any good. The HR team at Oldham Council are very low profile and are definitley in the respond to requests bracket. Unfrtunately I cannot even say that they respond quickly or effectively!! The next set of exercises were around the seven V’s of customer service: Values, Vision, Visage, Vibes, Venture, VIP, Validate Following the block day I wrote a summary of how we could use them to “Make the best use of policy”. It is at APPENDIX 1. I have jotted down a few more points below. VALUES - This section looked at your values and how you might recognise values at work. Oldham Council has TRUST Oldham values which define ‘the way we do things round here’. They are new and are in the process of being bedded in. Ben and I am keen to embed them into our division and hope to run a specific workshop on them once we have recruited to some of our empty posts - we are currently 45% staffed. It is often the little details that show our values. We are currently trying to improve our office environment to ensure that small things are right such as having things on the wall to remind us that it is all about the people of Oldham. For example we have a map of the borough, TRUST Oldham values and our corporate objectives. Additionally I have been put in charge of little details and hope to introduce little things like a fruit bowl, plants and a communal notice board to help embed values. VISION - In this exercise you had to write a vision, business or personal, into a text message (so only approx. 149 characters). Mine was a combination of both. It was useful to consider a vision and is something that was pertinent again to my situation being in a newly established division. Vision is something that has to be communicated exactly or it is only effective at certain levels. For example because I work with Ben directly on projects I get the vision first hand , but how do those who don’t report directly get the message and when they do is it accurate? I liked the idea of a text message vision, as it is short, simple and to the point and can be kept on the phone for a long time, therefore being with the recipient as a constant reminder. VENTURE – The venture section was extremely thought provoking from the point of view of asking whether things really have value to the business. A development point I have learned since being in this division is that sometimes you have to look at the value to the business and spend time on it accordingly. For example, a Government consultation that is released three weeks before the general election has no chance of

being turned into legislation before the elelciton and therefore could be viewed as pie in the sky – so why put all our energy in. It is much more effective to respond to something generally and become more specific when the bill has a better chance of being enacted. A point I learnt from the block day was that it is worth getting as much as possible out of one piece of work. The anti-poverty startegy was a good example of this. The main purpose was to create a strategy that was a partnership response to tackliong poverty. We also saw it as an opportunity to show how we work in policy – quickly and collaboratively, as well as the opportunity to try something new in tackling poverty. This has really set the tone in the organisaiton for how we do things. VIPs – This was a good exercise in considering who my customer is as identified within the first tem minutes of the course. I put my top four down as: Partner, problem passer, ona mission, stealth / undercover customer (which was my custom customer). This customer basically comes into the department for some reason and ends up having something we can help with or something that can help us or ties in with our work. VIBES – The vibes section was very amusing as my new trade is very much as unique as my old one (HR). My choice of proverb was ‘Every man to his trade’ and this is certainly the impression I get when people ask what I do and say I work in corpropate policy! The effect is quite unique. Also I think it says something about the challenge we have in making corproate policy accessible and understandable. My boss was recently described as Head of policy – brain on a stick which made me laugh a lot, but it is the impression people have, and it can have a negative and positive impact. VISAGE - This section made me laugh a lot as it was funny to think of my visage and that of others at work. It reminded me of the Johari window in thinking of how I may be perceived by others. I always think it is important to be positive and supportive at work. I also think there is a degree of honesty as well in that if you need help say so, if you can’t do something say so. This goes back to values again, in honesty being a key value. The exercise asked which behaviour we found easiest to manage and for me this would have to be happy and positive people who are open - liike me! The question around – which behaviour do you find it hardest to manage would definitely be moaners, those who are self-defeatist and disconnected – psychological contract smashed to smitherines!! What aggravates me most is that I usually end up empathising with them when really I should be trying to pick tehm – changing their visage!! VALIDATE – Being new to the division and the sector it was a difficult exercise to think how our success is measured. Other than against plans and targets. In saying this it is surely about making Oldham a place of choice, and seeing the difference you make on the outside. So watching the anti-poverty strategy actions roll out and become reality will enable us to say, ‘Hey,that worked,’ or ‘We could have done that better’. SECOND HALF OF THE DAY – PROBLEM SOLVING I didn’t find this half of the day as useful as the first half and would have preferred to have spent more time on the V’s. We had to get into groups and talk about a problem that we had at work. We then had to do some action learning and help eachother solve the problem using the V’s. The unhelpful part was that you couldn’t take the solutions home. So having spent all morning looking at the V’s, you were prevented from being able to reflect on how they might be applied in a real situation.

This was a shame as they were actually very useful and the exercise worked well as an action learning exeericse and some of the solution suggested by the cards we couldn’t keep were excellent. OUTCOMES FROM THE DAY The ratings session at the end was helpful to pull together your thoughts for the day, and I recognised the work I needed to do as being centred around VIP’s Vibes and validation. Hopefully the ‘Making best use of policy’ sheet goes someway towards achieveing that. These thoughts are additional to the ones I compiled in my ‘Making the best use of policy’ paper. I felt sure there was additional scope for corporate policy to be proactive in our activities. I considered how we could provide a more pro-active service and came up with a couple of ideas. Firstly we could use news update emails and feeds such as and to identify legislation or areas where there may be the possibility of an impact upon the Council - horizon scanning. This would give us more time to react and more time to assess the likely impact and take steps accordingly. Secondly, we could produce our own news feed making internal customers and partners aware of upcoming areas of work, giving them the opportunity to be involved with the work. For example our work on poverty has been a joint effort with Oldham Partnership which has given the opportunity for partners to get involved. It was initially a research led piece of work and then it was transformed into policy by a cross partnership steering group. If we issued an all user email it could have led to establishing an anti-poverty network because people may have got in touch to say that they were doing something similar or offered to assist. OPERATIONAL OUTCOMES AND CIPD COMPETENCIES October 2009 The operational outcomes in L & M standards sheet was an odd self-evaluation to carry out. I have undertaken a range of different roles in my 13 years of work and from those experiences I have been able to forge a range of skills (see Appendix 3). The role I currently occupy is a secondment and not HR based. For this reason I didn’t feel very well able to self evaluate against the Leadership and Management standards from the viewpoint of my current role. For eample, managing different groups of employees is no longer a requirement of my job role, but was a large part of my role as a retail manager as well as HR Trainer and HR Advisor in my previous role. Similarly there were some elements such as analyzing the corporate environment of a company that are a much larger part of my role now then in previous roles. It is my observation that you cannot judge anyone’s capabilities going off their current role alone, it takes layers of experience to build any sound foundation. I think it is more important to be aware of what the key skills are for Leadership and Management and be aware of those skills that you can practice everyday and those that you may need to be more focused on because they do not form part of your current role. There may be a

time when they are needed again and CPD is an excellent way of keeping them sharp. The assessment is therefore useful if used to acknowledge which elements may be getting rusty and certainly from a CPD point of view is a good way of identifying future objectives. In order to get the best use out of the self evaluation I checked myself against the standards in my current role and then against my previous roles. This showed I was very strong past and present on managing the strategic business context. My current role is not honing my financial planning and monitoring skills, and I think I would honestly reflect that this particular area has been missing from my repertoire for some time, probably since I moved out of the retail shopfloor environment. My current role currently provides little scope for managing groups of employees as well as planning and implementing change. LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT SKILLS ACTION In order to address these weaknesses I plan to do the following: Apply for the senior policy posts as and when they become available which would boost my skills in both financial and people management. APRIL 2010 The vacancies for the senior roles are currently around three weeks away, but I have done a lot to improve my people management skills where I can. I have an extremely supportive line manager who has given me lots of responsibility for leading projects within the Council. A good example of this is being responsible for the development of the directorate business plan. Within our directorate there are five divisions and we have to produce a plan on a yearly basis which sets out our work for the coming 12-18 months. The areas of the plan that are developed include: our operating context; review of last year; key priorities for next year; action plans; risk analysis; budget information. As the lead officer on this project I had to do the following: ⇒ bring a working group together with a representative from each division ⇒ draw up a timeline for the project, including building in time for governance processes (very slow wheels) ⇒ identify priority areas to develop first and those that could or needed to be done later e.g., the budget information isn’t approved until the end of February which meant it had to be done last ⇒ ensure the team submitted information on time so I could meet my deadlines ⇒ interact with a wide range of people at different levels of seniority within the Council to draw together the information for the plan ⇒ finally, deliver the plan on time and intact The plan was delivered and I had positive feedback from the working group as well as the Assistant Chief Executive, which has given me no end of confidence in my ability to get one of the senior jobs when it comes along. CIPD COMPETENCIES OCTOBER 2009 The self-assessment against the CIPD Competencies at graduate level left me

pleasantly surprised at how many four or fives I was able to allot myself (see appendix 4). I say surprised because not working in HR means I often feel disparate from it and its core elements. But it may be that I demonstrate these things as part of my personal and professional character. In particular 1,3,4,6,8 and 10 were strong. In others there were a couple of descriptors that were weak. For example in competency 7 I couldn’t rate ‘provides professional advice in area of expertise very highly, as I am still new to my current area of work, local government and the public sector. For this reason I am not overly concerned about this low rating and expect it to pick up with experience. The two competencies I have decided to focus on descriptors within competencies 5 and 7, continuing learning and analytical / intuitive creative thinking. Continuing learning - ACTION I will specifically look to develop the following descriptors for continuing learning: a) conscientiously maintain CPD records, particularly related to work b) sets self-learning objectives and achieve them through action planning Ideas I have to improve these ratings are: to ensure that on appraisal at work I will include future learning opportunities; create a CPD form for key projects I am involved with at work in order to continually assess strengths and weaknesses; use my appraisal objectives as self-learning objectives as well as those I identify myself and create action plans for them. I will specifically look to develop the following descriptors for analytical / intuitive creative thinking: a) provides professional advice on area of expertise Ideas I have to improve these are: to improve my knowledge of the workings of local government; read and familiarize myself with national targets and indicators, key internal strategies; external forces that impact on the Council. The original learning contracts for both of these actions are within the appendix. April 2010 The action learning that was supposed to accompany these learning contracts did not take place, so it is difficult to assess how this worked. I think though a lot of action learning takes place informally within my group of friends anyway. For example, one of my friends had a problem in the first term with how she felt about her job and struggled with aspects of the work such as dealing with telephone enquiries from managers about HR issues. We sat for quite some time discussing how she could handle it and what she could do to reduce the anxiety she had when the phone rang. Things we suggested were: keeping a log of calls and the solutions to them so that she had a reference lookup for future calls of a similar nature; saying to managers she would get back to them if the query could not be cleared up straight away (the thing here being to ensure you call them back with the advice within a decent timeframe); checking the advice with a senior advisor before ringing back to ensure it is sound. Other issues that came to light was that the person in question was not having regular 1-1 with their manager and had not had an appraisal for some time. This pointed towards the person having confidence issues as well because to not know how you are performing against what is required is

very frustrating and can lead to lack of confidence in how you are doing the job and a feeling that inevitably you will get it wrong a some point and the issue won’t be picked up. With no action learning support it was down to me to get these done and have been met with differing levels of success. Provides professional advice on area of expertise This has been an area where I have been quite successful. Some of the knowledge I have gained has been by osmosis. This just means that I have picked up familiarity with some documents and areas of work through the work I have been involved with. For example I have been involved in developing Oldham’s anti poverty strategy which is designed to address a set of key priorties for tackling poverty in Oldham. This was a partnership piece of work which means that I had to liaise with other partners in Oldham such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Voluntary Action Oldham, GMP etc. I have also taken direct steps to address this such as subscribing to information updates from particular local government sources such as Local Government Association (LGA), Local Government INofrmation unit (LGiU) and Info4local. These help me keep my finger on the pulse. In addition I have been reading the key documents that underpin the Council’s work, as well as partnership documents. I have gained much practical experience of policy and feel that I am best suited to business / corporate policy. This includes areas such as preparing strategic planning documents, responding to government consultations, providing briefings for chief officers on areas such as the budget and the impact of new legislation on the Council. I would now rate this at 4 on the matrix. Conscientiously maintain CPD records, particularly related to work, and; This area has not gone as planned. I am not a natural record keeper and due to my role not requiring official CPD I have found even less motivation to get it done. I have done more in the way of recording my learning from university, but from a work point of view it has not happened. I have undoubtedly been on a vertical learning curve for the last 9 months and I feel I have risen to each challenge. I have had very positive feedback about my performance from my line manager and his line manager which is great. It has been more important to perform to a high standard at work than to record the detail of that work and my learning. I do however want to try and put this right and as such I intend to keep a spreadsheet of my key projects and development opportunities in order to keep a simple commentary about them. I think this would be simple enough for me to be able to keep up to date as well as being a reliable record of my progress. I would rate this descriptor the same as last time on the matrix. Sets self-learning objectives and achieves them through action planning I feel this has been a success through the action plan I developed to address the specialist issue above. I decided what I was going to do about it and just did it! I have also had an appraisal in November which gave me the opportunity to identify

skills and knowledge that I felt were particularly lacking. I enclose the action page of my appraisal which contains my objectives that have been derived from my identification of my weaknesses. I am also in the process of setting up review panels to look at key business planning stages and strategy development to see whether there are opportunities to improve the way we do things, and particularly to take form this key self-learning points for me to work on. Michelle Mohne Case Study I worked with Jennie, Neeta and Sally on this case study. The brief is included in the appendix. We were to prepare a briefing paper for a merchant bank on MJM the company of Michelle Mone. The main elements were: 1. To produce a SWOT analysis for MJM 2. To identify how this case highlights the problems faced by entrepeneurs, particularly women 3. Detail what advice you would give about the HR priorities at MJM The initial SWOT analysis is in the appendix and was quite straightforward to carry out. Most of the research was carried out on the Internet, but there was not much to be found as question two was more general about entrepeneurs and the third question was HR based so was again quite straight forward. The execution of the whole session did not work as we were supposed to pull the brifing together and present back to the group. This would then enable us to use a wide range of skills collected thruohout the course, asuch as, research, working to tight deadlines, report writing etc. In reality we were directed to particular websites for information, given the timescale of the end of the session, and we were not required to to present back to the group. Therefore the use of the skills highlighted on the exercise brief was limited. We emailed the brifefing paper to the tutor at the end of the lesson and are still to receive feedback so it is difficult to say what I learned and how I could improve this next time. Creativity exercises