skip to main content

The PPMA: supporting the people taking our public services into the future

We’ve been helping find, excite and secure the very best people for the public sector for 50 years. In fact, it’s been the cornerstone to our success. We’re proud to be part of recruiting the people that will represent and impact communities across the nation. But we’re also committed to supporting those who take on such important positions. And so is The Public Services People Managers Association (PPMA). That’s why we have such a great partnership.

As part of a the celebrations for our 50th year, Penna’s Senior Consultant and lead for HR Rachael Morris spoke with the PPMA’s current President, Gordon McFarlane, about the brilliant work they do, and his hopes for the future of the organisation as he gets ready to hand over the baton to Pam Parkes in April.

Supporting the Human Resources (HR) and Organisational Development (OD) community, the PPMA plays a critical role in influencing key decision-makers and stakeholders involved in people management and workforce issues. In Gordon’s words, they champion great people practices.

Having spent 10 years on the board, Gordon took on the role as President in 2022 to see how he could further help evolve the organisation. And he’s done just that:

“It feels like the PPMA as an association is absolutely thriving. And that’s been through the work of the entire board. We’ve increased people and organisational memberships, and we’ve been able to put the PPMA back on the map as a go-to voice. That was a key goal and I think we’ve been quite successful with it.”

Gordon already has vast experience. He’s spent over 30 years working in the public sector, his most recent position being Assistant Director of Corporate Services at Leicestershire County Council. But his role as President brought opportunities that have helped him develop even further:

“The day job is always busy. There’s never a right time to take on a significant role like this, but I was looking to really stretch myself in new ways. It’s been a fantastic opportunity, but more importantly, a real privilege.

I’ve been able to see the range of talent and commitment we’ve got in HR and OD teams and the creativity people have. And it’s proven how important it is that we keep our focus on networking and being ‘the glue’ that ensures people in these teams continue to support each other.”

Becoming President of The PPMA comes with specific challenges. But in an era when public services are stretched more than ever, Gordon’s had to overcome many more:

“There’s no sugar-coating it. We’ve spent the last two years adapting to the challenges created by COVID, the cost-of-living crisis, and the latest raft of financial challenges ­– which are deeper for so many than they’ve ever been. We’ve been forced to focus on short-term reactive solutions. Being adaptable comes with working in political organisations, but even more when you face crises.

Right now, we have some real gaps in some services and that has a knock-on effect not just to service delivery but to what people are able to do. The demands on local government are constant and increasing. There are vacancies we’re unable to fill and difficulties in finding agency cover. And what’s been clear is how stretched individuals are. So, there’s a huge amount of work being done, up and down the country, around wellbeing.”

But there are loads of exciting things happening too. Bringing back the PPMA’s annual conference has highlighted the importance of networking, and it’s helped renew engagement and interest within the HR and OD community. And continuing to build on the Talent Development Programme, something Penna champions, has been a highlight of Gordon’s career:

“Whether they’re for people starting their HR careers, apprentices, or people aspiring to be HR directors, the talent programs we run are inspiring, impactful, and they stay with those that take part long after they finish. It’s an important part of what we do.

We couldn’t exist without our sponsors. We have many, but I’d class Penna as a partner as well as a sponsor. We’ve done some great work together. They’ve always been supportive and active with our talent programmes, and generous with time.”

And throughout all this, Gordon’s keen to ensure long-term strategies aren’t left by the wayside:

“Funding needs to be tackled nationally. There are growing demands particularly around adult’s and children’s social care. There are uncertainties with potential change of government. At the same time, we must stay future focused and find ways to work smarter and use technology to make processes simpler.

Training budgets tend to be a bit of soft target, so we need to prioritise and keep our focus on learning and development. And there’s some great innovative work going on in the EDI space, which is crucial to ensuring the people in public services represent our communities.”

Now, Gordon’s getting ready for the annual PPMA conference and to hand over the reins to Pam Parkes, who’ll be stepping into the role as President in April:

“I’ll stay involved on the senior board – it’s not something I want to walk away from. And I want to be a support to Pam with the handover too. She’s going to be an epic President and I look forward to seeing how she continues to grow the PPMA. I know it’ll be in safe hands.”

This year, we’re proud to be celebrating 50 years of delivering creative recruitment solutions for our clients and matching our candidates with impactful careers. Thank you Gordon for an insightful discussion and for sharing your experience. At Penna that’s something we do every day.


Go to previous article

Meet the team: Introducing Jess, joining our team as Head of Comms Strategy

Go to next article

The Persistent March Forward for Diversity and Inclusion