skip to main content

Navigating financial uncertainty: Chart a course with your HRD at the helm

Navigating financial uncertainty: Chart a course with your HRD at the helm

HR and OD leaders play a vital role in driving positive transformation and addressing sector challenges. Find out how their expertise can provide stability during times of uncertainty.

Rachael Morris and Matthew Jones are Penna’s Local Government Human Resources (HR) and Organisational Development (OD) sector specialists, with a collective experience of 30 years in Local Government and Local Government recruitment and resourcing. They have a passion and commitment to bringing diverse talent forward and firmly believe in the value HR and OD adds to making legacy change.

The role of the HR and OD leader is to delicately balance a blend of strategy and operations, owing to their role as the senior strategic advisor. They play a vital part in driving organisations through change and transformation, ensuring the employee experience is positive. There is a reason why many organisations are making sure this leader has a firm seat at the top table influencing strategy – does your HR Director (HRD) have an invite?

In 2023 the sector faced the gloomiest backdrop of financial uncertainty, with the confirmation from Central Government that there is no cavalry. On the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) front, we have seen a shift in hate crime in communities since Brexit, and as a nation, we have lived through the murders of George Floyd and Sarah Everard and Brianna Ghey. Despite how difficult this has been, we must remember that Local Government is leading the way in the public sector with a huge emphasis on community cohesion, employee engagement, allyship, Windrush and PRIDE celebrations to name a few.

HR and OD leaders have also had to grapple with a significant shift in immigration law post-Brexit, which has added to the talent crisis. Add equal pay risks, commercial venture risks, the Mental Health pandemic and ‘future ways of working’ into the mix and it’s the perfect storm that HR and OD leaders must navigate safely through.

There is no doubt that there is a demand for HR and OD leaders to bring all the above and more. The rise in demand doesn’t necessarily correlate with the current availability of HRD’s in the market, putting pressure on those already in the role.

There needs to be a shift in thinking about succession planning to support Heads of Service, HR and OD Managers and Strategic Business Partners (BP’s) with exposure to politics. The HRD will need to delegate more strategic ownership to the tiers below to aid with exposure.

We often hear that organisations need a transformation and change-making expert with the OD skillset, but that they need to have a solid grounding in HR. While these are two sides of the same coin, this ‘ask’ can be demanding of professionals in this field as it’s rare for candidates to have earned their stripes in both disciplines operationally and strategically.

Organisations recruiting for a permanent vacancy should reflect on their openness to step-up candidates with the acceptance of growth into the role. There is an abundance of diverse talent coming through pipelines such as the PPMA Rising Star and Peer into the Future programmes, and more needs to be done to open career progression doors to colleagues holding their first leadership positions in HR and OD, more on that later this year.

The interim market continues to be tricky, with a rise in the demand for senior professionals to provide stability and assurance in times of change. This has come in the form of adding capacity to various transformation programmes or supporting organisations during a restructuring.

Statistically, we have seen a forty-five per cent reduction in the requirement of permanent and interim HR and OD roles from 2022 to 2023. Despite this, Penna’s permanent market share has grown by twelve per cent, and we have honed our expertise and credibility when finding, exciting, and securing our clients’ next HR and OD permanent or interim leader. Through our Candidate Sourcing team, we also work to support the resourcing of the entire HR and OD service, including recruiting HR advisors, Learning and Development professionals, and Business Partners.

Looking ahead to 2024, the prospects of a General Election will impact recruitment and retention at the senior levels in organisations, and it will be essential for HR and OD to show their true strategic value.

We will be shining the light on HR and OD topics throughout the year to start the critical conversations that need to take place regarding talent, recruitment, retention, safe spaces and wellbeing, flexible working, and the scary but exciting digital revolution.

Rachael Morris and Matt Jones are Senior Consultants in our Executive Search and our Executive Interim team at Penna.

Contact Rachael:

Rachael Morris

LinkedIn: Rachael Morris



Contact Matt:

Matt Jones

LinkedIn: Matt Jones


Go to previous article

Place Making – The Talent Demand for Local Government

Go to next article

Penna Announces Shelter as Designated Charity for 2024