I can only whisper it this year, but I would like to wish you, your colleagues, and your families a Happy New Year. The year 2021 is now in the past, and what a year it has been!
Bringing all your skill, your experience, your knowledge, and your influence to help the NHS navigate its greatest ever challenge. I know you are humble, working behind the scenes, unseen but essential, keeping our staff safe and vaccinated, and ensuring they have been deployed, supported, and valued as they have gone above and beyond what anyone could reasonably have expected.
You have deployed and redeployed people, introduced massive health and wellbeing programmes, attended bronze, silver, and gold meetings, worked with trade unions – in partnership- to introduce new policies, procedures, and protocols. Rolled out vaccination programmes, set up and stood down and set back up vaccination hubs, developed, introduced, reviewed, and refined risk assessments, and provided more data, spreadsheets, templates, and intelligence that you ever imagined possible!
And I know that this challenge hasn’t just been an organisational one. It has been personal. Very personal. Many of you have carried on despite the personal impact covid has had on you on your families, on juggling household illness, children, and family isolation, as well as the sadness and grief from the loss of friends and loved ones that were taken too soon.
Despite this, you have also ensured the day job has continued, recruiting, training, and developing thousands of staff, online inductions and onboarding, initiated OD programmes, processed pay awards, sickness absence reviews, and more. What you do, day in and day out, has never been more important, more high profile, and more appreciated.
And I wish I could tell you it’s all over that we will all have a happy new year, but we know it isn’t, and we now face a winter like no other. With increased demand on secondary, primary, and social care, managing backlogs, a tired and stretched workforce, vaccination booster programmes, the prospect of managing mandatory vaccines for staff, respiratory illness and snow, continued high levels of infection, and the spectre of new variants.
It truly is a winter like no other, but I know you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we have learned so much over the last year. We know the difference we can make; you can see and feel our added value. You have been tested in a very public arena and have not been found wanting. You should be incredibly proud of your personal and collective contribution. Vince Lombardi, the former American football coach, said, ‘The measure of who we are, is what we do with what we have,’ and he was right. On that measure, you are absolute giants.
As the HPMA, we will do all we can to champion what you do, to make your voice and your views heard, and to support you whenever and wherever we can. We have some fantastic events coming up, so please check out our events page leading up to our – all being well – annual in-person conference later this year. These events run by our branches throughout the UK in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England are a great way to learn, share, and network.
Moving away from covid, it has also been a year that has seen massive changes in the nature of work and the workplace as organisations have responded to a changing labour market and introducing more hybrid and agile working. The world of work has changed, and there is no going back. It will take all our skill and experience to establish a new workplace norm where agile working is the mainstay of what we do
And we have seen societal change as movements like black lives matter following the murder of George Floyd and increased focus on violence against women following the murder of Sarah Everard, has featured heavily in the media and in our conversations as we develop our understanding and deepen our awareness.
And we know that these societal changes and new norms impact on the workplace, affecting our leadership, our cultures, and our policies and procedures. Equality, Diversity, and inclusion are at the core of great people management, and it has been inspiring to see the impact people like Chery Samuels have had with the work she has done around #inclusiveHR. It is an agenda that is becoming ever more important and increasingly complex as we encounter conflict and differing views in concepts like privilege, the rights of trans colleagues who have fought so hard for recognition and sex-based rights, between gender and religion, and in disability and neurodiversity.
It can feel uncomfortable for many, and I know it can feel easier to take a step back or be silent, but EDI is core to what we do and at the core of who we are. It is a space we must confidently occupy. Our duty is to immerse ourselves in the debate, challenge ourselves, and continue learning and developing – enhancing our knowledge and understanding. Good leadership requires us to surround ourselves with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with us without fear.
This is a remarkable time for our profession where the nature of work, the nature of the workplace, and the workforce are all changing rapidly, almost perceptibly.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmentation, and robotics are no longer the domain of science fiction; they are with us now and changing and improving daily. We are also seeing massive generational changes in the policy landscape with the health and care bill, social care, and integrated care systems. And the department of health has also announced a review into NHS leadership by the retired Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Gordon Messenger. You and your colleagues have led your organisations – and the country – through one of the most significant challenges in generations, and I have seen and heard numerous examples of amazing leadership practice.
It is in our nature as HR and OD professionals to always want to learn and improve, and as we move to more systematic and integrated ways of working, it is right that we understand new skills and approaches. However, I would urge the review to look at how this profession, this people profession, has behaved and led over the last couple of years, with care and with compassion, with true humility, and in partnership. It is servant leadership at its very best.
It has been the best of times and the worst of times. Yet, we have grown, developed, learned, and been tested like no time before, and we have come out stronger, more confident, more resilient, and more crucial to the success of our organisations and the systems they operate in. We are set well for the future. I know you are tired that the marathon we were promised feels more like a long-distance endurance race, but I also know you are passionate about the patients and service users we serve, and you know just what an incredible difference we can and do make.
Thanks once again for all you have done, all you are doing, and all you will do in 2022. Thank you.
Dean Royles President