My Practice – Giles Gardner

Job evaluation decisions gave some staff something of a nightmare before Christmas in Devon, writes Giles Gardner

Most of my colleagues in Devon Council received their much anticipated and perhaps dreaded “brown envelope” in mid-December. Did it make for a happy Christmas? For some, yes but for others, most definitely no.

The Greater London Provincial Council Job Evaluation scheme was developed in an effort to reconcile pay differences that were affecting the different boroughs of London. It includes a pay scale that deals with the relationship between evaluation points and pay. In practice, you complete a lengthy and complex questionnaire and the weighting and scoring system ultimately provides you with a score and points mean prizes.

I was told the job evaluation was carried out in London to tackle the rather thorny issue of “staff poaching”. Apparently it was not uncommon for qualified staff to be encouraged, through better pay, to leave existing jobs and join other boroughs able to pay more than their neighbours. In any case what began in London has migrated south west for the winter

Devon Council began the evaluation process by delivering the statement that it valued its staff and thus had a desire to ensure all employees were treated fairly, at the same time as ensuring good value for public money – a message that now might prove hard to swallow for some.

For managers, recent weeks have proved to be extremely demanding, having observed their staff open the envelope and deal with the consequences. Adding to this pressure, some managers have themselves experienced a salary reduction.

A social worker in our children’s and young person’s service whose salary will fall significantly in three years’ time told me that he was “deeply saddened by the outcome”. He believes that given the national shortage of social workers and the very demanding work that they are required to do, such news was bad for both staff morale and, ultimately, the service.

However, the process did bring good news for some staff. Overdue and well-deserved pay increases for some of the council’s lowest paid employees, for example, our home care assistants.

For managers the next few months will be especially tough as they grapple with the inherent difficulties of maintaining a high quality of service when some staff are naturally dejected, frustrated and angry.

Upon reflection one is left to ponder the true cost of the exercise. Will the affected staff now “go the extra mile” for the organisation? Will we lose valuable staff – a consequence we can ill afford? Or once the appeals have been heard will the dust settle and life return to what we consider to be normal for a local authority?

Giles Gardner is operations manager, adult and community services, Devon Council

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