Previous Article Next Article The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) isintroducing wide-ranging changes to HR policies to make better use of stafftalents and take on board lessons learned during the foot and mouth crisis. Richard Allen, corporate services director in charge of HR at thedepartment, said he hopes to encourage more flexibility in the use of staffthroughout the department to make the most of individual skills, an approachthat proved effective in the battle against the epidemic. At the forefront of the changes is new training for managers, the plannedintroduction of e-HR, as well as the use of on-the-spot bonuses to encouragestaff performance (as reported in Personnel Today last week). Allen joined Defra in September, midway through the foot and mouth outbreakand only two months after the department was formed when the Ministry ofAgriculture, Fisheries and Food combined with sections of the Department of theEnvironment, Transport and the Regions. He said that because Defra incorporated two departments with completelydifferent personnel systems, he had shied away from simply merging them, as hewanted to establish a more modern HR approach, in line with Customs and Excise– a department he had worked with previously. Allen is still developing thedepartment’s formal HR strategy because environment secretary Margaret Beckettis in the process of drawing up her overall aims for Defra. Allen, who hopes the HR strategy can be presented to the board by the summer,explained: “Though I have views on the sort of thing [the HR strategy]should look like, I need to be clear that it is going to deliver what thebusiness really wants.” He is planning to make the organisation less hierarchical to build onprogress made during the foot and mouth crisis when staff were given increasedflexibility in their job roles and skills were transferred more easily thoughthe department. The HR department is encouraging managers to make the best use of theirpeople’s skills, to be flexible and to give staff more responsibility whereappropriate. As part of this process Defra managers are being put through leadershipprogrammes, which aim to improve their people management by giving them theconfidence to act on their own initiative to match jobs with the staff bestequipped to do them. Senior managers will also be given greater powers to reward staff foroutstanding performance through the introduction of on-the-spot bonuses of upto £300, which will run in parallel with the annual bonus scheme. Directors and heads of department will have about 0.02 per cent of the totalsalary budget to give away for the bonuses, which Allen thinks will helpimprove morale and motivation. He stressed the awards will be monitoredcarefully and reviewed in conjunction with the unions. Allen is also keen to introduce e-HR because it will allow managers toassign employees more efficiently to areas where they are most needed. “What I would like is something where people are encouraged to enterwhat skills they have and what areas they would like to work in, so they aremuch more part of an open market,” he said. Allen said Defra is working with consultants to develop a suitable e-HRsystem, which can also be used to provide online training and development. By Quentin Reade Defra set for policy change in wake of foot and mouthOn 19 Mar 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.