Condensing Insight: Exploring the research landscape – Local Government & Artificial Intelligence

One of the ways we support our learning partners and customers is by sharing insight. Much of this comes from our experience and subject matter expertise in all areas of professional learning and organisational development, but plenty also comes from the invaluable research that various organisations do to illuminate the reality of the professional skills landscape and make recommendations for best practice and future success.

As part of that process, and because the time to sit down and read through whitepapers and research reports is not always easy to protect, we are pleased to share our concise summaries of some recent publications.

Local heroes? Assessing leadership and management in local government

Published by The Social Market Foundation in partnership with the Chartered Management Institute, written by Richard Hyde & Niamh O Regan. Link to full report.

Key points

  • Insight and evidence was sourced from:
    • An ‘expert roundtable’ on leadership and management in local government
    • A sub-sample of 133 local government leaders and managers from a poll of 1,000 public sector leaders and managers
    • Qualitative research into four ‘case study’ local government organisations where “where best leadership and management practices have been implemented” – Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, Norfolk County Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council, Rutland County Council.
  • ‘Good’ public leadership and management is hard to quantify, but the characteristics below were identified as the key ingredients of success:
    • Identifying a clear vision
    • Effective communication
    • Strategic planning
    • Recruiting (and retaining) good quality staff
    • Building strong networks
    • Good performance management
  • Many mid-level managers and leaders in local government doubt the effectiveness of their senior leaders. This is despite ‘leadership quality’ being cited as the most influential factor on organisational success, ahead of both motivation/morale and having a clear/appropriate strategy.
  • The quality and quantity of leadership and management training was rising – particularly those in junior and middle management positions. A majority of surveyed managers had taken part in some leadership and management training in the preceding 12 months, but it was overwhelmingly unaccredited.

Three key recommendations:

  1. The new Office for Local Government (Oflog) must make leadership and management quality a key focus of its work, enabling both a picture of the current state of local government leadership and management and the ability to spread best practice in a targeted, cost-effective way.
  2. The Department for Levelling-Up Housing & Communities (DLUHC) should design a comprehensive 10-year workforce strategy for local government
  3. CLUHC should establish a leadership academy, enabling all levels of management in local government to access consistent, high quality leadership and management training

Two key statistics:

  1. 40% of leaders and managers reported that the senior leadership in their local authority were poor at motivating staff, or failed to do it at all.
  2. Of the 69% of local government leaders and managers who reported obstacles to doing their jobs more effectively, one third reported “internal bureaucracy” as one of them.

One key quote:

“Leadership and management best practices need to be more prevalent if local government leaders and managers are to improve service delivery, tackle place-based cross-cutting problems and be more proactive in dealing with future issues. To that end, measures to spread best practice, upskill leaders and managers, and reduce the obstacles standing in the way of them doing their best are required.”


Future of work: Shaping the workforce of the future with AI

Published by KPMG. Link to full report.

As workforce development specialists, we pay close attention to the factors that will impact and shape the world of work in the near and distant future – factors which don’t get much bigger than the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI). From our perspective, the most interesting thing highlighted by KPMG (for whom we are proud to be a senior supplier supporting the UK Civil Service as part of their consortium of learning specialists) is the vital role that middle managers will play in ensuring that AI is being deployed successfully and in ways that are operationally practical and beneficial, not just cosmetic. Middle manager support is a trending topic in our work with many long-term learning partners, including Middlesex University and the Office for National Statistics.

Key points

A survey of 4,197 employees in Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK and the USA intending to inform a ‘roadmap’ for embracing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), shaping workforces to use it and where the focus needs to be considering AI is likely to ‘touch’ every role throughout any given organisation.

  • Breaks this roadmap down into four areas:
    • Embrace the power of AI in a way that keeps human beings at the core of the increasingly digital world of work
    • Shape the workforce that can make the most of AI, using it to augment their roles and work within a hybrid environment
    • Weave learning into the flow of work, so that the pace and dynamism of technology and AI-related change doesn’t leave organisations or employees behind  
    • Focus on middle managers, who’s role in translating strategy into action and who’s awareness of the workforce and operational environment makes them the key players in deploying AI in the right places.

Three key recommendations

  1. Hold up a mirror to the organisation and ask “are middle managers the best they can be? If not, why?” This will raise a number of potentially thorny issues such as skills gaps, a lack of motivation, incorrect performance targets, overwhelming workloads, wrong role fits and more, but will enable the delivery of effective support and solutions, e.g. coaching, mentoring, empowerment, learning, resources, incentives and more. This will underpin middle management effectiveness which, in turn, will underpin all efforts to embrace and deploy AI and new technologies.
  2. Make the most of AI via careful experimentation rather than reckless rollout. Within this these, five possible approaches are suggested: letting all levels of the workforce be the primary source of ideas, testing and developing ideas through business cases, implementing robust monitoring and evaluation processes from the outset, fully engaging HR and IT functions and extreme mindfulness of potential harms.
  3. Shape the workforce by making clear, informed and agile plans to address three key aspects: redesigning work (see if roles need to change), deciding on workforce location (consider factors like cost, talent and operation needs) and optimising the workforce mix (weigh the costs and benefits of hiring new employees against upskilling existing ones).

Two key statistics

  1. 66% of employees expect technology to enhance their productivity over the next 3 years but 38% technology-enabled productivity improvements are outweighed by the effect on their wellbeing and mental health
  2. 31% of workers believe that new technologies like AI will render their jobs obsolete

One key quote

“As technology advances, the traditional workforce is at a critical juncture. Business leaders can influence the course of our collective future by choosing wisely when investing in and implementing technology. Their thoughtful planning that balances the synergies between artificial and human intelligence can define much more than a company’s prosperity. It can also set the future trajectory for the role of humans in the workforce, and how organisations enable the wider society to thrive.”

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