Our response to the NAO's report exploring pressures on children’s social care
One of the factors that drew me to the public sector is that I want to do work that makes a difference to peoples’ lives. And I’ve met a lot of people working in the public sector who feel the same. There is something special about the public sector ethos. So when it comes to considering outsourcing or being ‘outsourced’, losing this and a fear that it will cause a shift to the prioritisation of profit over people is often a key concern.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. Firstly, with TUPE regulations, it will principally be the same people delivering the service after the transition. People whose value set does not change overnight when they have a different sign on the door. Secondly, a person-focused culture and drive for quality isn’t just the preserve of the public sector. It is the people who count. Personal motivation and how staff work with and relate to others is a big factor in the myriad of elements that constitute an organisation and its resultant performance. Get the people right and add in the rigour and expertise that can be brought by a private sector partner and you could have something even better. That said, I’m always an advocate of taking steps to maximise your chances of a positive outcome.
So when running a tender exercise, how do you boost your chances of ending up with an organisation that fits with your value set and continues to put the people at the heart of what it does?
To an extent it depends on the process you use; but a good place to start is simply asking them. Include a question on values, culture or relationships; how they answer and even how they interpret the question can give you some insight. Make these ‘softer’ factors part of your award criteria and evaluate them. Then get the performance metrics right. Measuring how many times a phone rings before it is answered doesn’t tell you anything about whether the reason for the call gets dealt with. Be clear on what you want and measure successful performance by having solid outcome focused Key Performance Indicators that make sure people are aligned with what you want to achieve.
My final piece of advice, and something that can get overlooked in the stresses of a tender exercise, is to spend the time and effort engaging with the staff who are going to be transferred to a new provider. It is likely they will be anxious about the unknown and concerned about losing the culture, environment and expectations they are used to. Take the time to help them through this and encourage the new organisation to work with you to do the same. As, ultimately, it is them who will make the new endeavour a success or failure.